Sunfish at the wharf in Digby

Jonathan Riley, Digby Courier
Published on August 6, 2014

Cobbie Burns and Cody Sloan were fishing for mackerel off the Digby wharf when they saw a big fish with a big fin sticking up out of the water.

“I thought it was a shark,” said Burns on Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 6. “I saw that big fin swimming around and it looked like a black shark.”

Burns and Sloan tried to interest the fish in some mackerel, and then in some squid, they had caught, but it wouldn’t bite.

At one point Sloan actually had his jigger hooked in the big floppy fin but the fish was too strong.

Several other onlookers also shouted out “shark” when they saw the big black fin come out of the water.

But then they noticed it had no tail or body at all behind its fins.

The people on the wharf were actually looking at a Sunfish, about three or four feet across and probably weighing more than a tonne.

Sunfish are the heaviest bony fish in the world with some individuals nearing 2.5 tonnes.

In German the fish is called Schwimmenderkopf or “swimming head”. While many cultures refer to it as a “moonfish” for its round white appearance, the English name comes from its habit of lieing flat near the surface of the ocean apparently sunning itself.

Check out the photo gallery for photos of several sunfish spotted around Digby over the years.

They eat primarily jellyfish and other soft-bodied sea creatures.

Sunfish visit Nova Scotian waters seasonally, usually swimming up the eastern seaboard, sometimes as far north as Newfoundland but generally staying in warmer waters.

[Sunfish stranded on mudflats of Moose River, Aug. 2011]

[More sunfish sightings from Aug. 2011]