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Date of Issue: June 08, 2006

A shower of fish hits Islander

"It's the first time in my 91 years I've ever had a fish shower," said Arthur Bussey after a salvo of small fish rained down on him in his Holmes Beach back yard.

The fish storm lasted only seconds, he said, but it was long enough to attract flocks of laughing gulls that snapped up the free lunch.

"It was weird," Bussey said. "It's not something you can prepare for, even on Anna Maria Island."

As last week's heavy thunderstorm subsided after dumping up to four inches of rain on parts of the Gulf Coast, Bussey strolled through the drizzle to the rain gauge in his back yard at his canalfront home on 67th Street.

He barely had time to glimpse the inch of water accumulated in the gauge when a fish storm inundated him.

"Fish were pelting down on me and my yard and maybe 50 feet out from shore," he said. "Not big ones, just up to four inches or so at most."

He watched in wonder as the fish fell for a few seconds and as the gulls swooped in and gobbled them up.

It's a natural wonder, he said, and he's heard of it happening elsewhere - a strong thunderstorm and its strong air currents catch a school of fish, raise them very briefly, and dump them as the updraft subsides.

"Logical, sure. But you just don't ever expect to see it, let alone get caught out in it."

He is a longtime sailboat man, coming here in 1972 after retiring as an architect for the U.S. Navy in Washington, D.C.

He and his wife of 66 years said they at first expected to settle in the West Palm Beach area, where both grew up, but were put off by the "condo canyons" of the east coast. The looked for a more desirable sailboat area and eventually bought a canalside lot on a sandspit here in Holmes Beach.

The found it everything they ever hoped for and more - they hadn't figured on the dividend of fish storms.