When Con Fowler went for one of his regular walks on Baylys Beach on the first day of spring, he did not expect to encounter a rare fish that normally lives at depths between 100 and 2000m.
But on September 1, his walk saw him come foot-to-face with a ferocious-looking fish that he initially thought was a gem fish (a close relation to barracuda), but a closer examination revealed it was something else, that he had not seen in more than 45 years of going on the water.
"It washed up alive. I didn't realise it was alive until I poked it and it snapped at me. I pulled it back into water and it swam off," Fowler said.
He took some photos and put it on Facebook and it was son revealed that the fish was in fact a lancet fish that normally lives deep in the ocean.
They are often caught as bycatch by tuna long-liners and are often considered pests, taking bait intended for more valuable species.
"It washed up about 50m from some people pulling in a longline from the beach, so may have followed them in. When I put it back in water, the large back iridescent fin came up as it swam away, and looked like a sailfish," Fowler said.
He had lived near the beach for 10 years and had been surfing there for 45 and is used to seeing plenty of sea life, but he had not seen a lancet fish before.
"I often see seals this time of year, as it is when the pups are weaned, so people driving along beach need to be careful this time of year not to go too close and scare them. I have found the rare paper nautilus shells (on the beach), and two years ago of course the two humpbacks stranded, and there was the shark attack last year, so there is a lot of sealife on this side," Fowler said.
He said here have been people losing fish and getting shredded traces off longline a few times lately, and local rumour was that sharks were to blame.
"But it may possibly have been this fish or another similar one. There was a reply on the Facebook page that someone had purportedly caught one on a surfcaster."
Fowler is on the beach most days walking and collecting rubbish and walking his dog and he's sure there will be plenty more strange marine life washed up in the future.
• Lancet fish are generally considered solitary fishes occupying depths between 100 and 2000m. They possess a long and very high dorsal fin, soft-rayed from end to end, with an adipose fin behind it. The dorsal fin has 41 to 44 rays and occupies the greater length of the back.
• Lancet fish grow up to 2m (6.6 ft) in length. Very little is known about their biology and extremely little is known of lancet fish reproductive habits. While they are known to be simultaneous hermaphrodites, spawning has never been observed.
• Lancet fish have large mouths and sharp teeth, indicating a predatory mode of life. Their watery muscle is not suited to fast swimming and long pursuit, so they likely are ambush predators, using their narrow body profile and silvery colouration to conceal their presence.
• They're not considered a good fish for human consumption, because their muscles contain large amounts of water, making their flesh somewhat mushy. Fishermen, in fact, consider the lancet fish a "trash" fish that sometimes takes bait intended for more profitable catches such as tuna.