On Water All Things Paddle

Cabo San Lucas ‘mystery fish’ turns out to be quite the bizarre (and poisonous) specimen

Pacific stargazer, seldom seen by humans, is electric and venomous

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Mario Bañaga has fished Cabo San Lucas waters for 18 years, and some of his friends have even more experience. But Bañaga and his friends had never seen the type of denizen reeled in Thursday off the Baja California resort destination.

The “mystery fish,” caught aboard a skiff called Gloria, had a face like that of a bulldog.

fish1It boasted an upturned face, as though it had run into a wall, and an enormous gaping mouth.

Bañaga, who charters boats via the Cabo San Lucas Marlin Club, on Thursday posted photos of the 7-pound fish on Facebook, and the ID guessing game began.

“Dang, that’s out of ‘Star Wars,’” one comment read.

Ratfish, frog fish, and sculpin were among the guesses.

Another commenter quipped, “Angry hungover fish saying, ‘Leave me in peace.’”

Finally, Eric Brictson, who runs Gordo Banks Pangas north of Cabo San Lucas, correctly identified the fish as a Pacific stargazer. It’s a species that is seldom encountered by humans, truly bizarre and, it turns out, not to be messed with.

Bañaga and his friends were not aware that these bottom-dwelling lie-in-wait predators, which are found at depths of 50 feet or more, are capable of delivering an electrical shock of about 50 volts—not enough to harm a human but a jolt nonetheless.

(If you look closely at the top photo, you can see the electric organs bulging behind the eyes.)

More worrisome, had Bañaga and his friends known, is that Pacific stargazers possess Poisonous spines above the pectoral fins and behind the gill cover.

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Reads a passage in a species profile on Mexfish.com: “Caution! Venom from this fish has been reported to cause death in humans and therefore it should not be handled.”

Bañaga was not aware of this, but said, “Something told me to handle this fish very carefully.”

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