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Another Strange Catch in Cabo

On the heels of Halloween and just in time for the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos, another mysterious denizen of the deep was landed aboard the Marina of the Pisces fleet.

According to Tracy Ehrenberg, Capt. José Moreno, of the 28-foot cruiser Marina, thought he had just another routine half-day dorado trip on his hands and was on his way out to an area where the fleet was catching dorado six miles off the old lighthouse at Cabo Falso. Spotting something huge floating on the surface, he brought the boat closer, and decided it was either a red snapper or a tuna.

“It was this weird-looking pinkish creature, like nothing I had ever seen before,” Captain Moreno said. “It was still alive… barely and struggling to breathe. When we gaffed it, it was very heavy and difficult to lift onto the swim step.”

They continued fishing and caught a few fish before returning to Los Cabos Marina. On the way back in, the clients on the boat kept asking what the big mystery fish was, but no one had a clue.

The last time one of these had been caught was reported by well-known Baja reporter and good friend, Gene Kira, in April, 2003.

The 2003 fish was identified as a Louvar or Luvarus imperialis. Benjamin Gomez of Cabo Magic brought in the 35-pound louvar, caught during a fishing trip with Capt. Lino Verdugo on the boat Quien Sabe. The unusual catch was made 10 miles off Punta Palmilla.

According to Gene, “The Louvar is a very unique, oddball species that is metallic blue to grey in overall appearance, with a silver belly with pink reflections and dark spots on the upper two-thirds of the body.”

“The Louvar has a very deep head with a convex profile and eyes very low on the body and directly behind the small horizontal mouth. The body tapers to a very slender caudal peduncle. The anal and dorsal fins are long and low, with both originating at mid-body in a similar position.”

“The Louvar has a large concave circular caudal fin, long pointed pectoral fins, and tiny pelvic fins. The anal and caudal fins are red, the pectoral fins red to yellow, and the dorsal fin is red in the front and black at the rear.”

(Species identification and description courtesy of John Snow. Photo courtesy Tommy Garcia.)

The Louvar is an oceanic pelagic fish species that reaches a maximum length of 6.5 feet and is found up to 500 feet deep in the water column. It is found in all Mexican fishing waters, including the oceanic islands, with the exception of the Sea of Cortez where they are absent.

The fish-cleaning crew recognized Moreno’s mystery fish, remembering the one from years ago and knew the correct species name to add to the photo board for the picture.

After doing a bit of research, we see that this 300-pound specimen is about as big as they get and we learned that the flesh is delicious, often compared to halibut and even swordfish. This species spends its entire life in the open ocean with jellyfish being its main diet.

“The big fish is a louvar. Current thinking is that it’s a pre-courser for the modern tunas. We used to see a few each year when the Southern California purse seiner fleet was active along with the shark/swordfish fleet. They are extremely tasty to eat, but hardly ever found in fish markets — and only as a bycatch,” according to DFG retired Senior Marine Biologist Steve Crooke.

My first personal encounter with louvar was in the late 1990s at Puerto San Carlos. Ed Brennan, owner of Brennan Hotel in Puerto San Carlos, offered me a chunk that he had been given from a commercial swordfish boat. He explained the flesh had the consistency of jelly and should be cooked when only partially thawed. We broiled the piece he gave us basted in butter and garlic — the white meat was delicious.

So the Baja weird fish brigade continues as October’s oarfish (read about that catch in the article Cabo Oar Fish) is joined by November’s louvar.

Can’t wait to see what weirdness December may bring.

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Gary Graham, the BD Outdoors Baja Editor, has more than five decades fishing experience off of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula. From light tackle and fly up to offshore marlin fishing, Gary has experienced all facets of this fishery. He’s set several fly-fishing world records and in his first year as a member of the Tuna Club of Avalon, he received more angling awards than any other first-year member in the club’s 109-year history. He’s been involved with many California angling clubs and is the Baja California Representative for the International Game Fish Association. 
Gary’s a conservationist as well as a writer and photographer. In addition to two books on saltwater fly-fishing, hundreds of his articles and photographs have appeared in publications around the world. Graham has devoted his life to finding new fisheries and developing new techniques — all of which he shares through his guiding, speaking, photography and writing.