Out there, somewhere, in the silted depths of the Netherlands watery abodes, there do indeed exist large swimming forms dredged out of folklore and into the minds of the general public. One such beastie was ‘Big Mama’, a huge European catfish that had tourists fleeing from their skinny-dipping escapades. The terror of Centreparcs made big news in 2006 with website Ananova reporting:
‘The 2.3 metre European catfish eats two or three ducks a day and has even taken a few small dogs, reports Hetlaatste News.
Dutch divers reckon 'Big Mama', in the lake of a Centerparcs at Kempervennen, could be the world's biggest. Remco Visser, head of a Dutch diving school which uses the lake for practice dives, said the fish had scared a number of divers.
"They don't have to worry because catfish don't eat humans. Most of the ducks have moved to another lake but visiting ducks, who don't know there is a catfish in the water, get caught." He commented. Centerparcs guards patrol the lake to keep away fishermen who have been trying to climb over the fences at night to catch Big Mama. Biologist Jean Henkes, of Centerparcs, added: "The catfish has grown so big because of the excellent water quality, enough food and rest."
The world record European catfish weighs in at 226 lbs, caught in Spain’s Ebro River in 2007.
There are several legends pertaining to monster pike in the Netherlands. One such giant was hooked by Rotterdam man Ewout Blom in 2004. After a good day of fishing with friends, one of whom caught a 35 lb specimen, Ewout caught a big one, weighing in at 42.9 lbs (almost 20 kg), and measuring some 127 cm (approx 50 inches). Bizarrely, one of the photos of Ewout and his prize fish, began doing the rounds on the internet with anglers far and wide claiming they’d caught the fish, or been there when it had been hooked, and the legend spread worldwide. This amazing freshwater shark, as pike are known, became a true ‘friend of a friend’ tale in fishing circles and there were even statements of it being a world record, but this was false information. The world record pike stands at 55.1 lbs, caught in 1986 at Lake of Grefeern, in Germany by Lothar Louis. One particular giant pike, rumoured to inhabit the IJ, is said to measure 1.60 metres in length but because no-one has ever photographed it, and rarely caught it, it has taken on mythical status. The fish is said to haunt the depths behind Central Station and pike fishing is illegal in the area. In 1998 a rumour also circulated of a monster fish living in the Oosthaven in Dordrecht and another monster pike at Lith.
In Kralingse Plas, Rotterdam, a person walking their dog filmed an unusual form in the water. Upon viewing the footage it’s likely that the ‘monster’ in question could be anything ranging from a dog, to a log, or something being dragged by a boat. In 2007 something very large was seen swimming at Moordrecht in the river Hollandse Ijssel. Witnesses claimed a freshwater shark was lurking in the twenty-nine mile stretch of water and the story made national news. Although it was believed to be a hoax, sharks have been known to turn up around the Netherlands. De Telegraaf reported in 2006 that a blue shark was the latest specimen to be added to Rotterdam’s Natural History Museum after it was found dead at Oosterschelde near Tholen. The shark was a young female measuring just over a metre and a half in length. Such creatures are considered very rare along the Belgian and Dutch coast line.
FOK!Weblog of March 2007 commented on an investigation into a sighting of a monster inhabiting a small lake called Oldambtmeer in Groningen but no beast was forthcoming. On the 16th August 2004 Patrick Scholte hooked a strange fish whilst angling at a canal in Rampur. The silvery fish with razor teeth turned out to be a piranha but at first Mr Scholte thought he hooked a Rock Bass due to its red belly. After photographing the fish, Patrick released it back into the water.
In the May of 1966 a white whale appeared in Dutch folklore. The creature, whilst en route to a zoo park in England, was aboard a boat which capsized during a severe storm, releasing the mammal into the north Atlantic. From here, and via the Rhine in Rotterdam, the whale would take in Berlin, Germany, and then travel back to the Netherlands, capturing the hearts of many who began to campaign against local pollution. In 2002 a documentary-film entitled ‘The Tale Of The White Whale’, directed by Stephen Koester was made about the incident, the promotional website stating:
‘This story of a white whale could have arisen from the fantasy of writers for Disney. However, it is a true story: On the 18th of May 1966, a huge animal appears from the dirty tides of the Rhine, near Duisburg-Neuenkamp and about 300 kilometres away from the open sea, to take a breath: the white whale. For one month this strange visitor will move the people and the media: it will raise conflicts between animal-rights activists and zoologists, between Germans and Dutch, between the political factions. In the meantime, the white whale swims further inland.’