A massive six-foot sturgeon that was pulled from the waters off Manhattan Beach on Wednesday afternoon will always be fondly remembered as the one that got away — or, more accurately, carried away.
But that doesn’t mean that the bony, bottom-feeding caviar maker didn’t make an impression — albeit a brief one — when a swimmer dragged the deceased fish onto the private beach belonging to Kingsborough Community College at 4 pm.
“It was huge, I’d never seen anything like that,” said Councilman Mike Nelson (D–Mill Basin), one of more than two dozen beach-goers who grabbed a look at the fish’s remains. “It looked almost pre-historic. It had a strange face like a golden retriever. It looked like it could come alive and eat us all.”
The vacationing Nelson said he and his girlfriend were taking in some sun when another swimmer found the sturgeon snagged on some rocks. He immediately pulled the fish into shore so everybody could revel in his discovery.
“There were about 30 people around it,” Nelson said. “Everyone was mystified.”
But — right in the middle of its 15 minutes of fame — a crew of college employees showed up and carted the fish off for disposal. Not a thought was given to having students from either their biology or marine technology school perform a necropsy.
College spokeswoman Ruby Ryles said her ground staff removed the fish “for health and safety reasons.” Workers were told that the fish was already in an advance stage of decay when it was pulled onto the beach.
“I thought they were going to put it on a stretcher, but they just picked it up and carried it off,” Nelson remembered. “I don’t even think they used gloves.”
Though gawkers gaped, a sturgeon sighting is not so rare in Jamaica Bay.
Martin Schreibman, a biology professor at Brooklyn College, said that salt water-habitating sturgeons often move to fresh water before spawning.
“They’re old fish and they’re quite valuable,” he said. “They can usually be found moving up the Hudson [River] during their spawning season.”
Yet even Schreibman could only guess as to how this fish tale began.
“It may have been hit by a boat,” he said.