What began as an incredibly unlikely capture of one of the world’s rarest fish just kept getting weirder for angler Joe Estrada of San Antonio, with whom I caught up via phone recently.
Just after sunup on Thursday, November 1, not far off Cabo’s famed arch, Estrada and two buddies — Wayne Tauer and Greg Graham, also from San Antonio — were headed offshore on Dr. Pescado II, when something not right caught their eye.
As they drew near to something at the surface, they began to make out what seemed an impossible shape -- longer than a man, a fish shaped remotely like a mahi but looking far different was swimming in circles. The bright red/orange/pink fish was like nothing they had ever seen.
The anglers learned later that their prize was a louvar. Louvars inhabit warm seas around the world, generally living in deep ocean waters near the surface where they feed on jellyfish. They’re known to grow quite large, and Estrada says they figured this one to be in the vicinity of 300 pounds. (A much smaller louvar was caught off Cabo in the mid-90s.)
They managed to gaff their fish and secure it to the boat’s swim platform to take back to Cabo. (The capture of this fish, by the way, is recorded on video.)
“These boats don’t carry ice!” Estrada says, with a tone of amazement. He didn’t want their catch sitting in the sun all day.
They had started in when — of course — they ran into fish. A major dorado bite and their skipper persuaded them stay out to catch some dodos. The captain said he’d find a boat to take the mysterious monster to Cabo for them and have it put on ice there.
And so he did: Another charter boat, the Marina II, came by, and the big fish was transferred via a buoy, all shown on the anglers’ video. “Our skipper, Oscar, told the other skipper to take it back for us and put it on ice. You can hear him saying that on our video,” says Estrada.
So the anglers stayed out to spend a few hours fishing for dorado.
Meanwhile back in Cabo, the scenario unfolding was very different indeed from what the group had assumed. The amazing fish (having lost its small scales off the front so it was now half brilliant chrome and half pink) was hung up and reported caught by the Marina II.
A photo quickly began circulating that showed the fish and next to it (considerably smaller) a man holding a chalk brag board listing the fish by its Latin name, slightly misspelled, with a weight as 300 pounds, and the angler as Josue Moreno (also listed as captain).
That photo and the story quickly went up on various websites. The erroneous report on a Pisces Sportfishing blog was subsequently corrected when Tracy Ehrenberg of the Pisces Fleet learned what really happened.
A while after that, Estrada and his group returned to the dock, anxious to see their mystery fish, get photos and start packaging up filets. They were shown the photo I mention above — and that was all that remained of the louvar.
“They had filleted the fish and divided it up among everyone at the marina! The crew of the Marina II claimed they had caught the fish, so it was theirs to give away.
“But what could we do?” laments Estrada. “We were in another country. The fish was gone.”
Could the other skipper have thought somehow he caught it? Estrada says maybe, but he’s very audible on the video made during the transfer referring to their fish.
It might have been less galling had it turned out that louvars are nasty as table fare, but “I found out that they are really good eating. And I love to cook fish,” Estrada says. “That was heartbreaking.”
But when all is said and done, the angler ends on an upbeat note. Regarding their week of fishing out of Cabo: “We had a blast!”