Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Guest Blogger time for Richard Freeman again. It almost seems silly introducing Richard to you all once again when he makes an appearance as guest blogger several times a week. However, our viewing audience/ readers (whatever you like to call yourselves) is growing so fast that it is certain that some of you missed the last time I introduced him.


The recent story of a zander attacking people in a Swiss lake (see above) seems a bit of a letdown when you hear this freshwater Jaws was only a little over 2 feet long.

Monster fish in freshwater do exist however. Back in the late 1990s Jon started the Big Fish Project to collect and investigate stories of outsize fish in freshwater. I admit that I was very sceptical about the whole idea at first. I thought all it would elicit would be twice-told anglers' tales and the odd trout a few pounds larger than average. The one exception in my mind was the eel that I thought (and still think) can reach fantastic sizes under certain circumstances and is probably responsible for a number of lake monster stories.

However the Big Fish Project led to the CFZ’s most successful expedition to date; not to some remote jungle or dessert but to a small lake in Lancashire. The CFZ were called in to investigate claims of a monster the size of a car lurking in Martin Mere, a wildfowl reserve. The creature was reported to be attacking full-grown swans.

At first I found the whole idea unlikely. This view was reinforced when I saw the lake. It was no more than 2 acres in size and only 5 feet deep at its maximum. I said to Jon that it was highly unlikely that a large predator could live in here. Half an hour later I saw the monster of Martin Mere. It surfaced only six feet from where I was standing on the bank. It was around 8 feet long and thicker around than me. It was an oily blackish-green with a texture like wet rubber and a shape like a huge sausage. The creature bore no scales but had a small fin on its back.

I instantly knew what the monster of Martin Mere was: a wells catfish Silurus glanis. Imported from Russia by the Acclimatisation Society in Victorian days, this is the biggest catfish in the world, reaching 16 feet long in its native range.

I saw the beast twice and we later tracked it on sonar. Since then we have visited Loch Ness and Loch Morar in search of giant eels. Recently we have acquired 6 European eels to study their growth.

Mutant eels aside, the question of what is the largest freshwater fish is a difficult one. The current leaders are the Chinese paddlefish Psephurus gladius with a length of 23 feet and a weight of 1,100 pounds. This giant may be on its way to extinction as none have been seen since 2003 and no baby fish have been seen since 1996.

Gehzouba hydroelectric dam divided the Yangtze River into two sections, cutting off the migratory route of the paddlefish in 1983. It separated the spawning grounds from the feeding grounds and has probably sentenced this fish to extinction.

Another contender is the Mekong giant stingray Himantura chaophraya with a total length of 23 feet (including the long tail) and a weight of 1,100-1,300 lbs. Deforestation and dam construction has caused this species to become critically endangered in Thailand.


Jon Downes said...

SYD WRITES: Hi guys,
On Wednesday, Richard wrote about some large fish, so how about this one caught by an 11 year old British girl.



Markus B├╝hler said...

The problem is that the wels does NOT reach 16 feet. This are only old big-fish-stories, nothing more. The largest ones with confirmed data (i.e. photos and / or conserved bodies) were only around 3 m, and they were extreme exceptions. And the english waters are a very bad place for Silurus glanis to grow big, because the climate is too cold. For this reason the british record is far below the records of countries with lesser cold climates. The two photos on the left side for example show specimens from the Po delta, and the one of the left is from a lake at Greece (actually this was one of the largest ones ever recorded). The chance that anywhere in GB a wels would reach monster size is zero.
The actual size of the chinese paddlefish is also quite dubious. The often quoted 7 m are most probably wrong, and come only from a single old source, which is not very reliable. This species can undoubtly reach huge sizes, perhaps more than 4,5 m, but there are no confirmed records of really bigger fish. As usual the weights given for alleged monster-sized specimens well bigger than everything confirmed doesn´t work with realistic proportions for the chinese paddlefish as well as for the wels. The claim of 23 feet for the giant freshwater stingray is also very questionable - it´s a huge species, but the actual record sizes are probably much lesser.