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October 25, 2001

Bizarre Louvar

Learn some the basics of Baja's louvar.

Q: In your August 1995 news section you showed a bizarre Baja catch, a louvar. It's an interesting fish and I've never caught one in all the years I've been fishing. Please tell me where they hang out and something about their history. - Wayne Zurita, Concord, California

A: The 110-pound louvar (Luvarus imperialis) you refer to was caught over Baja's Gordo Bank by angler Pat McNellis while striped marlin fishing.
Louvars, the only member of the family Luvaridae, occur worldwide in temperate, pelagic habitats, either near the surface or in deep water, but never commonly. On the West Coast, they are found from Oregon to Chile, but usually from Monterey Bay south. On the East Coast, sporadic records document louvars from Connecticut to south Florida and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
The louvar is a strange fish, oval like a tuna but compressed from side to side like a dolphin. The body is pinkish with dark spots on the side and reddish fins. It has a slender, keeled caudal peduncle and a large, curved tail. The head is blunt with a tiny mouth and low-set eye. The louvar's digestive tract is specially designed to digest its primary food - jellyfish and other gelatinous planktonic animals.
Scientists know little about the louvar. Some claim it is related to tunas and marlins. Others say its peculiar prejuvenile stage more closely resembles that of puffers (Tetraodontiformes) or surgeonfishes (Acanthuridae). Though it grows to more than 6 feet long and 300 pounds, the louvar is a weak-boned, delicate fish, usually found washed ashore or dying at the surface. To catch a louvar on hook and line is truly a rare experience.

Send your questions about fish and the oceans to Fish Facts, Sport Fishing magazine, 330 W. Canton Ave., Winter Park, FL 32789.