Baja California Sur is paradise for anglers. Whether on the Pacific side of the peninsula, or in the Sea of Cortez, beautiful marlin, tuna, and other game fish abound. But Baja waters also serve up more than their share of peculiar, bizarre-looking, or downright otherworldly denizens. Some fairly recent examples are provided below.
Five truly weird fish caught off Baja:
Speckled roosterfish (pictured above)
This is atop the list only because it’s the most recent example. Roosterfish are among the most photogenic game fish caught off Baja, but last week the crew of Jen Wren Sportfishing reeled in a rooster that was blotchy instead of striped, and with an odd-shaped head, and a worn tail. Mark Rayor, who with his wife, Jennifer, owns the Jen Wren fleet at the East Cape, said he had never seen anything like it. Another roosterfish with similar markings was caught in the same area a few years ago. A prominent La Paz-based scientist could not immediately offer a theory as to what might have caused the odd coloration, but locals guess that it could have something to do with the spawning season. (Click on the link posted above see what a roosterfish ought to look like.)
Albino one-eyed cyclops shark
Nothing is likely to top this freakish 2011 discovery. Commercial fishermen pulled the albino fetus from a pregnant dusky shark (originally believed to be a bull shark) they caught off La Paz in late June. It was among nine pups inside the mother shark, which was found dead on a hook set the previous day. The fetus looked so unreal that many cried hoax after seeing the photo. Even scientists were skeptical at first; one researcher jokingly referred to the fetus as “Cycloptomus.” Scientist Felipe Galván-Magana authored a paper in which he described cyclopia as “a rare congenital malformation, resulting from the division of the embryonic brain that leads to fusion of the eyes to form a single, central eye.” Folks in the region are still talking about this bizarre find.
These serpent-like deep-sea creatures rarely but occasionally wash or swim ashore on Baja beaches, either dead or near-death. Anglers have no chance of catching one on hook-and-line, and little chance of seeing one. But when one is spotted, it becomes a spectacle. The 15-foot oarfish in the photo washed ashore, barely alive, on bustling Medano Beach in October 2012. An attempt to revive the oarfish failed, and after it died, marine park officials dumped its carcass at sea, rather than collect it for scientific study. Oarfish, with their slender, ribbon-like bodies and mane-like dorsal fins, are believed to have spawned sea monster myths in the times of ancient mariners. They can reach lengths of about 35 feet.
Dorado, or mahi-mahi, are generally a brilliant greenish-gold when swimming after bait or fighting on the hook. (The term dorado translates to “golden one.”) However, they sometimes they come aboard in odd colors. The fish in the photo was caught last October by Dave Maynard, host of “Fish the Baja.” His group was fishing near La Paz in the Sea of Cortez, and landed 154 dorado in four days. At least six were blue, Maynard said. Added Mark Rayor of Jen Wren Sportfishing: “Once in a while, we get a silver one that looks really cool.
Rare (and ugly) ratfish
The fish in the photo was caught off Cabo San Lucas in 2009, prompting Tracy Ehrenbergh, manager of Pisces Sportfishing, to remark that the mysterious denizen looks “like a seal, crossed with a baby marlin, that swallowed a chicken … it has feet.” It was such a rare catch that most of the captains, who spent most of their lives at sea, had no idea what had surfaced. It was ultimately identified as a ratfish, or a type of chimaera, and considered initially to be a type that was new to science. A smaller ratfish, though a different type, was caught off Cabo in 2011. Both of these denizens, which bottom feed at lightless depths on invertebrates, were turned over to scientists.