Rare catch on Calif. boat could signal El Nino

LA JOLLA, Calif. - A photo of a rare catch on a San Diego boat is sparking a lot of attention online, along with speculation of some major changes in weather in the area.

In the photo, three fishermen are posing on the locally based Excel, holding a rare catch. The fish are moonfish, or opahs, and the largest one weighed in at 180 pounds.

Research biologist Owyn Snodgrass talked to one of the fisherman at the dock.

"He was blown away. You don't expect a catch like this. They caught a fish of a lifetime; it's a rare opportunity," said Snodgrass, a biologist at the National Marine Fisheries Service.

The catch is rare because the fish live at lower depths and don't swim in schools, making them harder to catch.

The fish were caught halfway through a seven-day trip, about 130 miles south of San Diego in Mexican waters.

Catching one is hard enough, but three? 10News was told five fish were actually hooked before three were brought in.

Some say the rarity of the catch is a sign.

"There's lot of chatter of El Nino," said Snodgrass.

In the past, yellowfin tuna and other migratory fish, like moonfish, follow the warm El Nino waters -- along with the food sources.

Many believe this season's abundant catch off San Diego could signal El Nino.

Could the photo also foretell the rains of El Nino?

10News meteorologist Megan Parry said El Nino is still expected to arrive.

"The climate prediction is calling for a 70 percent chance for it to develop by the end of summer and 80 percent chance for it to develop by the fall or winter months," said Parry.

Even if the area gets an El Nino, there's no guarantee that will translate into drought relief. The San Diego region sees an average of 12 inches of rain in an El Nino season, but sometimes it's a much lower amount.

Snodgrass said El Nino may not be the cause of the rare catch because the boat was fishing near an underwater mountain, which can attract a large amount of fish.

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