Seeker Archives

Loch Ness Monster Hunter Hooked on Catfish Theory

Nessie is a giant catfish, says a man who has hunted it for 24 years, though he hopes it's something more exciting.

A man who has spent 24 years scanning Scotland's Loch Ness for its legendary mysterious monster reckons Nessie is most likely a giant catfish - although he is not prepared to give up looking just yet.

Steve Feltham, who holds a Guinness World Record for the longest continuous Nessie vigil, says it is the most probable explanation for the enigmatic beast that has captivated people's imaginations the world over.

"The current frontrunner is the Wels catfish. It's the most likely explanation," the 52-year-old told AFP.

"I'm not saying it's the final explanation. It ticks most of the boxes with sightings - but it doesn't tick them all."

New Nessie Photo: Proof of Loch Ness Monster?

Feltham left his home and girlfriend in 1991 to go looking for Nessie and has spent the years since in a caravan on the lake shore, scanning the waters.

Media reports this week suggested Feltham had given up his vigil after favouring the catfish theory, but he insisted he would keep searching for the definitive conclusion.

"We still have this world-class mystery and for the next several decades I hope to carry on trying to find the answer," he said.

Photos: Sea Monsters Real and Imagined

Catfish are native to central and eastern Europe but Feltham believes the Victorians might have introduced them to the deep freshwater lake so they could catch them for sport.

Wels catfish can group up to four meters (13 feet) long and weigh more than 400 kilogrammes (800 pounds) - though they are rarely more than half this size. The scaleless fish can live for at least 30 years.

Sightings dwindling Feltham concedes there is no record of Wels catfish being released into Loch Ness, Scotland's largest at 37 kilometers long and over 200 meters deep in some places.

Photos: Six Mysterious and Famous Cryptids

But he said: "Given the number of hunting estates that there are around here, it's plausible they (the Victorians) may have put a few in, giving themselves some good sport of catching one of the biggest freshwater fish in the world.

"If they did that here in the (late) Victorian era, they would have reached maturity in the 1930s" - the time when the Nessie craze took off.

He said in the early years of his vigil, there would be up to a dozen good sightings per year, but now there might only be one.

"Whatever Nessie turns out to be, it is dwindling. We are looking for the last one or two now," he said.

North America's Lake Monsters

The reduced good sightings might be explained by technology - with the pixel resolution on digital cameras, modern amateur Nessie hunters' pictures could be shown to be boat waves.

Feltham said other hardened Nessie hunters have reached different conclusions from the same available evidence.

"Others say sturgeon, giant eels, plesiosaurs. A couple believe there's a spaceship on the bottom of the loch; one woman thinks there's a porthole to a hollow Earth," he said.

"Many people think it's a non-physical phenomena."

He added: "I hope it turns out to be something far more exciting than a catfish. It's a mundane creature, even though it's massive.

"I'm certainly not going to give up searching."

This is one of the most famous photos of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

We all enjoy a tall tale. Cultures with seafaring traditions are especially ripe in what seem like the tallest sea monster tales of all: hydra, kraken, sirens, scylla, leviathans, assorted serpents and mermaids. Usually the stories are never confirmed and deemed baseless. Then again, some of the tales are based on something. With our skeptical hats on, let's have a look at sea monsters both real and fanciful. We begin with a story that went viral just this week, about a supposed monster that revealed itself during a swim in the Thames River. A

Nessie-like

bump in the water, filmed from overhead, started it all. But you'll have to judge for yourself: Real or fake? Watch the video and read

Ben Radford's take

on the tale.

'Thames Monster' Video: Hoax Or Mammal?

In keeping with our subject of monsters of the deep, we also learned this week that at least

some whales

really can, and will, use their heads for ramming -- just as the fictional Moby Dick did, in the Herman Melville classic of the same name. Did whales perfect the head-butt long before people started banging heads?

Real Moby Dick: Some Whales Ram With Their Heads

Sea monsters are truly global, of course. This one from Japan serves as the villain for the classic maiden in distress, who awaits rescue by her hero. The poor monsters are almost always cast as the bad guys. And so they usually end hacked to pieces; fish food. But is there any truth behind these sea serpent tales?

Ancient Sea Monsters Were Black

Maybe it's the oarfish. It looks too monstrous to be true. It can grow many meters long, has strikingly bright silver scales, scarlet fins and some ornate headgear that more than explains why some call it a roosterfish. If only it were a reptile, it'd be a true sea serpent. Alas. It is a fish. A very weird and beautiful fish, but still a fish.

Is the Loch Ness Monster Dead?

There are also other, newfound "sea serpents" our sea-going ancestors never imagined. This one was spotted by a satellite coiling off the south coast of Japan's Hokkaido island. What do we know about it? 1) It's arguably one of the largest organisms on Earth, 2) It swallows ships, engulfs islands and generally does what it wants, and 3) We're darned lucky it's made of plankton.

Monster Goldfish Found in Lake Tahoe

Research into such massive blooms and the individual plankton cells that comprise them has revealed surprising cooperation among the microorganisms. They appear to operate like more than just floating individual cells. They live and die for the greater good, it seems. So they may be, in fact, a gigantic watery superorganism. Now that's a cool monster for you: You can swim in it and never know you've been in the belly of a beast.

VIDEO: Why Squid Are Terror Monsters Of The Sea

Mermaids and mermen have always been the stuff of fantasy. Where did the fantasies come from? There are some standard answers to this question, which have always seemed rather inadequate. For instance ... (next slide, if you please) ...

Mermaids Exist! And They Are Seismically Sensitive

The manatee has often been called the source of mermaid myths. It's a mammal, so it breathes air. But who would ever mistake a manatee for a sleek and beautiful mermaid? Could it be love-starved sailors with poor eyesight? There was no shortage of these fellows in the days before optometrists.

Make Way For Manatees Month: Photos

Another possibility is that merfolk were inspired by fish with roughly human-looking faces, like this fellow. Some fish can look humanoid. That would be enough to get superstitious sailors started.

First Face? Prehistoric Fish Was a Jaw-Dropper

How about giant, ship-destroying squid and octopi? These monsters were old hat even to the easily freaked-out. Most folks figured they were historical exaggerations. That's until some very large and unusual squids started washing up or being hauled in by marine biologists in recent years. Colossal squid are meters long, pretty amazing beasts. Still, they have never been known to lift ships out of the water. And since were on the topic of squids ...

Giant Squid Photos

Do you remember when this one hit the headlines? It's not so gigantic, at four meters long, but it was observed 3,380 meters down in the Pacific Ocean near Oahu. It's pretty big to have gone unseen before its May 2001 discovery. So what else is out there? It's pretty clear marine biologists have only just begun discovering what lives in the deep sea. The more time they spend searching, the more they will find. But none would dispute that the nastiest sea monster to ever rise out of the sea is ... (drum roll please) ...

You might have guessed it: Human garbage. Yep. It's the ugliest, most alien-looking, fatal and pervasive monster in the seas. Garbage patches have been getting a lot of attention lately. These are areas on the seas where currents and winds tend to concentrate floating garbage.

Life On The Ocean Floor Garbage Patch: Photos