We return to Kayak Angler fave Flying Fish TV to watch our host Dan haul in another monster catch in Hawaii. His biggest fish of the day is a mystery species until it is later identified as an oilfish. The 50-pound beast, armed with “gnarly teeth” and prickly scales, is also called walu or Hawaiian butterfish locally. However, despite the mouthwatering name it has a nasty reputation as a counterfeit seafood in Asia, where oilfish has earned the nickname of “diarrhea fish.”
Dan and crew hit the ocean before dawn, squeezing in a few hours of fishing during a brief lull in the winds that have dogged them for a week. As he describes, “My main plan was to deep drop before sunrise and then go for pelagic.” Before long Dan is reeling in his biggest bottom catch ever in the form of an oilfish.
Exploding the Myths About “Diarrhea Fish”
So, why the bad reputation for oilfish? Along with their relatives, escolar, these widely-distributed tropical fish have a rich and buttery taste thanks to their very high oil content. They also contain wax esters, non-digestible oils that commonly lead to a laxative effect in humans. Oilfish can cause nausea and vomiting when eaten in larger quantities, but the U.S. FDA has found no broader health risks associated with its consumption.
The real problem with these fish is their ability to stand in for other, more expensive dishes like butterfish and cod. In 2007, unsuspecting consumers in Hong Kong found themselves sick after purchasing mislabelled oilfish at a local supermarket chain. Japan and Italy have banned imports of oilfish for the same reason. These fish can grow to nearly 10 feet long and weigh up to 140 pounds, making them a tempting target for seafood counterfeiters.
Incidentally, Dan isn’t the very first to catch an oilfish by kayak. You can find other examples on YouTube, including this 2018 video from Japan.
Thankfully, There are Other Fish in the Sea
Not so adventurous with your seafood choices? Maybe a diarrhea fish isn’t really your thing? Check out the full video for more cool catches, including a deep sea moi or “beard fish” Dan pulls up before dawn, and a nice little shibi at the very end.