Best Lures for Opah: The Complete Guide

April 2, 2021

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Hooking into an Opah is a very rare occurrence, mainly because there is very little known about how they live. Due to this, targeting Opah can be particularly tricky. They can occasionally be found schooling with Tuna, but the majority of non-commercial Opah are bi-catches. So what are the best lures for Opah?

Glad you asked! In this article, we’ll go over our top 5 best lures for Opah and how to fish them. Opah are usually found in deeper water below 100 feet and down to depths of 2000 feet or more. There are depth restrictions in different areas, which can add another hurdle to targeting Opah. Make sure you stay legal with local restrictions.

Opah are very tasty and provide several cuts that range in flavor. These prized fish can be sold commercially to restaurants that can pay $1000 or more for a single fish. 

Commercial vessels catch between 50,000 lbs and 100,000 lbs of Opah in Californian waters every year. But among sporting anglers, even those who “have a friend that got one once” are few and far between.

In a Hurry? Here’s Our Favorites…

Best Lures for Opah Fishing


Ocean Cat Jigging Lure


The 150g (approximately 5 ½ ounce) version of this Ocean Cat vertical jig has a few color options. Silver and red gold are the go-to options. This jig has great weight and a streamlined design to help it to fall quickly to the required depth.

Any of the colors might serve better at different times of the day due to how water and light interact. The highly reflective options are great at catching and reflecting light which these large-eyed fish lookout for.


Goture Tuna Jigging Lure


These tuna lures from Goture are another option that should be considered. They are shiny and colorful lures, which also glow in the dark to give the best of both worlds.

This 100 gram (approximately 3 ½ oz) lure is a little bit light. But, their design will still allow them to sink quickly, and they are an ideal size for the hatch.


Goture Vertical Falling Lure


These Goture lures are heavier and larger, with a design to produce even less drag. The 150g lure is better suited to larger fish and should be used at the greatest depths. This version is narrower and more slender and will fall very quickly through the water. This makes them especially effective for jigging for Mutton Snapper as well.

This design is well suited to more windy and rough conditions. The Goture vertical lure’s sleek shape means it will stay deep regardless of how much the current is pushing.


F7 Squid Skirt Lure 


This squid skirt lure is quite an eye-catching design with various colors to suit the time of day. At four inches in length, they are an excellent size for Opah and imitate their favorite food.

Skirt lures are not great in deep water unless the conditions are calm or you are using a huge sinker. These lures are easy to use and cheap to replace, and fishermen can use them with attractant liquid too.


Goolark Deep Drop Squid Rig


These deep drop squid rigs from Goolark come in a pack of three. The four-inch glow-in-the-dark lure is molded around a 13/0 hook with a 400lb mainline to ensure nothing gets away. These rigs seem to sink a bit quicker than a standard skirt-type lure.

It may seem like overkill with such a heavyweight line, but catching an Opah is usually a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You really don’t want this unique opportunity to turn into a “one that got away” story. 


Deep-sea tip: Be aware of the claim “reflects UV rays” for deepwater lures. UV spectrums of light are blocked more effectively by water than light in other frequencies.

The Best Lures for Opah: Fishing for Opah

It is believed that Opah live almost their entire lives in the open ocean. They range in depths from 100 feet down to about 2000 feet. They can be quite easy to identify on the fish finder. Their round bodies sometimes make target shapes on the view screen.

Almost all of the people who catch Opah are fishing for other things. Often a rod is delegated with an extra-long line to entice Opah that are deeper than the targeted species. Those seeking swordfish use appropriate tackle and fish at depths which makes hooking an Opah more likely. This is where you’ll want to use one of the best lures for Opah.

What Do Opah Eat?

The main diet of Opah is squid and krill, but they are known to take small baitfish as well. Their enormous eyes are well adapted to see in the low light of the deep waters where they reside. Bright and flashy, or glow-in-the-dark jigs take advantage of low light and excellent eyesight.  

Shiny jigs seem to be more successful than squid lures. This is probably more to do with how quickly they sink than their appearance. As mentioned, Opahs prefer deeper water, so it is essential to get the lure down to where they are.

A squid lure is more affected by currents, and as such, will not sink as fast as a streamlined vertical jig. Using squid-style lures are better suited to calmer seas. Opah have giant toothless mouths. Because they have no teeth, they are not put off by biting down onto the hard metal. 

Opah most often suck in their prey in a single gulp. Usually, this morsel does not even touch the sides of its mouth. Once the fish has struck, the bait is entirely in its mouth, and setting the hook is relatively easy.

Once the hook is set, you are in for a big fight. Opah, like Tuna, are constantly swimming and have powerful fins. They use the flapping of their large, strong pectoral fins in conjunction with their tail to propel them through the water.

Once hooked, they will align themselves side onto the boat to make sure their largest area is presented. This makes it feel like you are attempting to reel in a satellite dish while they are just resting. 

When they start to fight again, your reel starts to scream, just like the muscles in your forearms. Pulling these fish from such depths can mean an hour-long fight before you even see color.

Identifying Opah

Opah are beautiful, almost circular fish. With a silver-gold belly that darkens to darker red gold towards the ridge of the back. The high flanks are speckled with bright white spots. The spots are sometimes contained within a larger but more faint, white ring.

The fins of Opah are a stunning bright scarlet, and the large eyes are an even darker shade of red. The dorsal, pelvic, and pectoral fins are long and narrow, terminating in rounded tips. The adipose and anal fins, which are also bright red, extend around almost the fish’s entire rear half.

Opah are the only fish in the ocean that is fully warm-blooded. There are some species of shark and fish that can warm the blood around certain vital organs. Opahs maintain a constant body temperature, approximately nine Fahrenheit warmer than the surrounding water. 

The way they do this is with their strong pectoral fins and muscles. The pectoral muscles work very hard in augmenting the power from the tail. This work produces friction within the muscle, which generates heat. 

Amazingly the pectoral muscles of an Opah can work to generate heat without actually moving the pectoral fins. Think of it a bit like Terry Crews or The Rock; Most of us need to move our arms or shoulders to tense our pectoral regions. 

Why Are Opah Warm-Blooded?

In addition to maintaining a higher body temperature, Opah can also warm the blood around specific organs. Opah keep their brains and eyes even warmer than their average body temperature. This helps them to survive in the cold depths they inhabit.

Opahs have an amazing heat exchanger system that helps them retain heat. Most of the heat of a fish is lost through the blood flowing through the fins. Opah have a complex system of blood vessels and capillaries leading to their fins to combat heat loss.

The blood vessels entering the fins run alongside the capillaries running away from the fins. This allows the warm blood to exchange its heat with the cold blood returning to the body from the extremities. So the blood in the fins is always cool, while the blood in the body stays warm. 

This same heat exchange system is utilized around the brain and eyes to ensure an even warmer blood supply to these areas. Opah actually have additional fat layers, which help to insulate the eyes and brain. They also have an insinuating layer of fat beneath the skin.

Can You Eat Opah?

The fat of the Opah is one of the reasons it is such a great-tasting fish. But there are several cuts which cater to a variety of tastes. There are two backstrap cuts above the main steak. The top one is great for deep frying.

When deep-frying the top back strap, you don’t need to prepare any kind of batter for the fish. As the cooking meat contracts, it squeezes the fat from the fish. As it cooks, these fats coat the fish in its own pork crackling type coating.  

The second backstrap is the ‘fillet mignon’ of the fish. It has a bit less fat and more of a meaty flavor. This is excellent shallow fried in butter or olive oil with garlic and herbs.

How to Prepare Opah

The main steak has more pronounced flakes in the muscle. It is perfect when prepared more traditionally. Cook it over an open flame with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon. 

The pectoral muscles provide a very different texture and flavor. This part of the fish is where most of its energy comes from. These cuts are much more dense, well-toned muscles, with much less fat. The pectoral cuts are very similar to Tuna and make fantastic sushi.

So much of this fish provides great plate fare. The flesh at the top of the head is another tasty, high-fat location. The fat can even be cut from beneath the skin and deep-fried to make a crackling similar to pork.

Mercury poisoning is a possibility with Opah. They are so rarely caught and consumed by sporting anglers that the danger is often ignored. But pregnant or breastfeeding mothers should avoid eating it.

Mercury is more likely to be found in deeper dwelling fish, like Opah.

Conclusion

Catching an Opah is a story that you will tell your grandkids. These huge, beautiful, and incredible-tasting fish make brilliant memories. You might need a few days off work to get over the intense strain of getting it out of the water, though.

Despite the numbers that are caught commercially, these fish are deemed to have a low population resilience. But so little is known about them that this cannot be reliably confirmed. We hope you enjoyed this article on the best lures for Opah.

Happy Hunting!

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