Recently, a large sea creature measuring 7 feet (215 centimeters) washed ashore in Southern California. The creature was identified as a hoodwinker sunfish, a rare species usually found in the Southern Hemisphere. This discovery was made by an intern from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) at Sands Beach, within the university’s Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve. The intern notified a conservation specialist named Jessica Nielsen. Initially, Nielsen believed the fish to be a local sunfish and shared photos on social media. This caught the attention of Thomas Turner, an associate professor at UCSB, who then shared the images with the iNaturalist community. Marianne Nyegaard, who named the species in 2017, saw the photos and consulted with ichthyologist Ralph Foster.

Despite initial doubts due to unclear photos and the unusual location of the fish, Nyegaard provided detailed instructions for additional photographs and tissue samples. Turner and Nielsen located the fish, moved by the tide, and took the required photos. Based on these clearer images, Nyegaard confirmed the identification. Hoodwinker sunfish are flat, oval-shaped with wing-like fins. The measured fish was over 7 feet long, 227 centimeters wide from fin tip to fin tip, and had a dorsal fin length of about 2.5 feet (75 centimeters). Its weight was not recorded. This discovery is significant as it marks a rare appearance of this species in the Northern Hemisphere.