Meet the "coddock," the latest catch for two dragger fishermen out of Rockport.
Paul Theriault, captain and owner of the day boat dragger Terminator, based in Pigeon Cove Harbor, and crewman Joe Roderick have landed a most bizarre haddock.
Last Thursday, the Terminator's groundfish net scooped the coddock from the 300-foot muddy bottom east of Thacher's Island during its first tow of the day, which ended around 10:30 a.m. when Theriault and Roderick hauled back the fishing gear, then emptied and reset it.
While sorting the cod, haddock and flounder catch on deck, Roderick threw any questionable-size fish needing measuring into a separate fish tote. Groundfishery regulations require haddock to be at least 19 inches long to be legally landed.
Theriault then noticed the strange fish as it lay back-to-back alongside a cod in the tote.
"The fish's spots caught my eye right away," he said. "I said to Joe, 'Look at this. I've never seen one of these before in my 25 years of groundfishing.'"
The 21-inch fish has a haddock body but also bears its close cousin cod's traditional upper sides and back, olive-brown background, speckled color and pattern.
Could this coddock possibly be the result of interbreeding between animal members of the same family - Gadidae in the case of the cod and haddock - like the mule and the Australian dingo? This specimen also possessed pairs of the normal haddock's devil's marks, or "God's fingerprints," as Theriault calls them, above its pectoral fins, and black lateral lines, a peaked first dorsal fin and a whitish-silver underside.
Regular haddock have unspeckled, blackish-purple topsides, while traditional cod have white lateral lines, no devil's marks, a more rounded first dorsal fin and also light-colored bellies.
"I'm going to freeze this one for a while just in case the scientists are interested in doing a DNA test on it to see if it bred with a cod," Theriault said.
Two weeks ago, John Greenleaf and Mike Interrante hooked a rare golden haddock off Cape Ann aboard their Gloucester longliner, David & Jenna II. Although there's mention of a golden haddock in "Bigelow & Schroeder's Fishes of the Gulf of Maine," there's no record of such a cod-colored haddock in the text, which is full of fish oddities.