ORTLEY BEACH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A fish tale has people on the Jersey Shore saying, “Holy mola!”
Just when they thought the excitement of the summer season had already died down, a fascinating fish brought an unexpected buzz back to Ortley Beach, CBS2’s Jessica Layton reports.
“My joke is there’s no fish in the bay and look who finds a 300-pound sunfish,” Ortley Beach resident Mark Napolitano said.
It was a windy day about a week ago when the 300-or-so-pound ocean sunfish, also known as a mola mola, ended up in the bay in Napolitano’s backyard, nearly getting caught under the sport port where they keep jet skis.
“I jumped in the water and I pulled it and we had a blast,” Napolitano said. “It just kept coming back to us. It was really weird. I lifted it up and actually had eye contact with it.”
Neighbors were in awe of the rare sight.
“I’ve been here my whole life, every summer, and we have never had a fish this large in the bay,” resident Gail Teese said.
Matt Teese says the fish’s features were unforgettable.
“It was like a big circle, like a giant stone, just floating, and it swims very slowly,” he said.
The mola mola has been called the weirdest fish in the ocean, but what’s even more bizarre is that the fish somehow found its way to Barnegat Bay.
“We’re, by boat ride, 45 minutes away from each inlet, you know, on a normal boat ride,” Napolitano said. “That fish took a hike, one way or another.”
Wildlife experts say it’s very unusual for the heaviest bony fish in the ocean to end up in the bay, but clearly not impossible.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever see that again,” Teese said.
Maybe not. Four years ago, it was put on a list for being at risk of extinction. While this mola has been spotted elsewhere in the bay a few times, nobody knows exactly how the tale of this fish ends.
“It’s once in a lifetime in the bay, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” Napolitano said.
The Ortley Beach residents are just glad to have been a part of its story.