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December 3, 2010

Rare local boarfish gets scientists' attention

The most unusual boarfish, or Antigonia sp., that Annisquam lobsterman Tony Gross trapped on Nov. 23 in one of his wire pots with shrimp twine nettings 60 feet down on the muddy bottom off Lanesville has already attracted the attention of scientists at Harvard University's Museum of Comparative Zoology and at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

Little did Gross know then that he would be in for another fish surprise the next day, when his daughter Alex returned home from the University of Massachusetts for the Thanksgiving holiday.

"Did someone release this from their aquarium? This looks like an aquarium fish," an astonished Gross thought to himself after he first picked up the approximately 11/2-inch long by 2-inch laterally compressed, rhomboid-shaped boarfish from the rear deck of his lobster boat, Sand Dollar.

The fish's silver color and orange bands atop the deck's black matting caught his eye while he was sliding a trap on the railing toward the stern.

"The fish hung up on something in a trap, and it fell out somehow," Gross added. "The creature looked like it had been on the deck for a while, since it displayed all of the signs of dying. I knew it was a goner after I placed it in a bucket of water, and there wasn't much activity.

"I've seen a lot of weird stuff offshore that came up in lobster traps from 600 feet down or hung around the buoys, especially little fish and swimming crabs," said Gross, who has fished inshore and offshore off and on since 1972. He has also trapped semi-rare triggerfish, sea horses and filefish in his pots inshore.

After identifying the boarfish at home, Gross refrigerated it in a plastic bag.

"I'll show it to my (two) daughters (both off at college at the time) and see where it goes from there," he said. "I may throw it in the freezer and keep it there until my wife tells me to get rid of it."

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