A species of fish unseen for two decades in the waters near Cabo San Lucas in Mexico was caught at the beginning of the month. But just as the fish itself is rare, so too is the unusual story of how it was stolen from the men who purportedly caught it.

Here’s how the tale played out, according to Sport Fishing magazine. On Nov. 1, Joe Estrada of San Antonio, Texas, Wayne Tauer and Greg Graham set out on the “Dr. Pescado II” when they saw a fish acting strangely at the surface. Pulling up next to it, they saw how unusual the fish was but also that it was missing half of its tail, meaning it probably wouldn’t survive in nature. Gaffing the creature, they brought it on board.

How Fishermen Spotting a Rare Louvar Fish in Cabo Missed Out on Its Prized Meat After It Was Stolen

The fish was eventually identified as a louvar, a type known for being very good to eat. (Photo: Joe Estrada via Sport Fishing magazine)

“The fish was up on the surface and swimming in circles, it was missing a part of it’s tail and there was obviously something wrong with it,” Estrada said according to the blog Pisces Fleet Sportfishing. The blog has more pictures of the fish here.

Although they didn’t initially know what the red-orange, Mahi-shaped fish was, the captain of the boat reportedly said it was good eating.

Given that the boat wasn’t carrying ice, Estrada said he and his friends wanted to bring it back immediately, but the captain suggested they pass of the fish to another boat heading in to shore and that they stay out longer. This is what they did.

But when the group headed back to the docks after successfully bringing in other fish, going in search for their prior unusual catch, they found a person on the Marina II had claimed the catch.

How Fishermen Spotting a Rare Louvar Fish in Cabo Missed Out on Its Prized Meat After It Was Stolen

This photo shows the captain of the Marina II posing next to the Louvar, which was actually found by another boat. (Photo via Pisces Fleet Sportfishing)

Here’s how it went down according to Sport Fishing magazine:

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).

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A while after that, Estrada and his group returned to the dock, anxious to see their mystery fish, get photos and start packaging up fillets. 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.”

Estrada took footage showing the fish being connected to a buoy and sent to the boat that would take it in. In the footage, he says “Let it be known that we caught this fish”:

It turns out the fish was a Louvar imperialis, which Sport Fishing magazine calls “one of the world’s rarest fish.” It hasn’t been caught in Cabo since the 1990s. The California Department of Fish and Game described it in a 2001 handout as a solitary fish, which would mean few would be caught at one time. The handout says the flesh of the fish is a delicate, white meat with a mild flavor considered one of the most tasty fishes. Due to its rarity, it is generally not seen in fish markets.

To Pisces Fleet Sportfishing, Estrada said that he’s glad the fish didn’t go to waste and that many were fed by its 300 pounds, but he wishes he had trusted his instinct in the situation.

“I knew we should have headed back straight away with that fish and insisted upon it,” Estrada said. “All these guys work hard for a living and you can’t put everybody in same category, just because of one bad apple.”

(H/T: Grind TV)

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