We’ve been going about this monster hunting all the wrong way, at least if one researcher’s assumptions are correct. While most people are studying sonar bleeps, photographs, and searching the waters for the famed Loch Ness Monster, we should’ve been rolling up our sleeves and dipping our hands in the water. Steve Feltham, whose been investigating the Loch Ness mystery full-time for over 24 years has come to the conclusion that the culprit of many of the sightings, lore, and the occasional photo is likely a catfish. That’s right, a freaking catfish, something a good ‘ole noodling session could produce.
Alright, maybe not. Noodling is traditionally a method used by crazy people to catch flathead catfish which usually range from 2-4 feet in length and can weigh up to 123 pounds. While that may sound like a mighty big fish, it pales in comparison to the Wels catfish. The notorious fish, which was placed in the Loch artificially for fishing purposes, can exceed lengths of 13 feet and break the scales at a massive 880 pounds. That’s a big fish, but is it Nessie big?
Scott Feltham at home on Dores Beach credit: Steve Feltham
If Feltham thinks so, there may be a reason to consider it. He dates his initial fascination with the creature to 1970, but it wasn’t until 1991 that he gave up his girlfriend, dream house, and his lucrative job so he could properly investigate the Loch, and it’s monster mystery full-time. Since then, Matt Foley, er, Steve Feltham, lives in a van down by the river, er, the Loch.
His quest was/is two-fold: first to spot the legendary creature for himself, and secondly to make the public aware when sightings occur. His efforts earned him the title of the “Longest Continuous Vigil Hunting for The Loch Ness Monster” by the Guinness Book Of World Records. That’s a mouthful of a title.
Back to the fishy part of the story, the diet of a Wels catfish consists of pretty much anything alive or dead, that they can fit into their enormous mouths. Recently, there have even been cases of the slimy beasts jumping out of their fishbowls to catch pigeons on land and rumored attacks on humans. It wasn’t until a pseudo attack was caught on camera during an episode of River Monsters that there was clear evidence of this aggression towards humans, but to be fair Jeremy Wade was asking for it. He should have pulled a Mick Fanning and punched Nessie’s brother in the back.
Jeremy Wade with a Wels Catfish credit: Animal Planet
It shouldn’t be surprising that this latest explanation has surfaced. The long list of contenders over the years has included everything from dinosaurs, logs, waves, to seals and hoaxes. Unfortunately, for those of us who’re dinosaur loving fiends, he doesn’t think that lake creatures are prehistoric plesiosaurs (though technically, a plesiosaur isn’t quite a dinosaur, more of a marine reptile). "I have to be honest. I just don't think that Nessie is a prehistoric monster," Feltham was quoted as saying. "What a lot of people have reported seeing would fit in with the description of the catfish with its long curved back.” Don’t get too depressed, though, another fossil of a Plesiosaur, known as an Elasmosaur and bearing a striking resemblance to Nessie, was just discovered in Alaska's Talkeetna Mountains, so there’s still hope.
Feltham is justifiably irked at the finality displayed by a few media outlets. After watching him thwart off a somewhat ignorant reporter’s comments regarding not only his life’s mission but the surprisingly objective and rational outlook he has, it’s clear this dude has prehistoric sized balls. In all honesty, I think she was thrown for a loop that despite choosing lore and adventure over love, he wasn’t as bat shit crazy as she was expecting.
I, much like most of the world probably wonder, how does he fund this passionate search? Apparently, selling clay models to tourists, along with donations, are the only income this guy has coming in. “Film crews and journalists from all over the world turn up on a regular basis, and I answer all their questions, but they are invariably focused on one subject: is there a monster, or isn't there? Which is perfectly understandable, but it frustrates me that I never have the chance to get an equally important point across: that if you have a dream, no matter how harebrained others think it is, then it is worth trying to make it come true. I'm living proof that it might just work.”
Catfish or not, don’t think Feltham traded in a life of comfort, booty, and money in vain. He certainly doesn’t regret it and has no plans on giving up the investigation any time soon. "It's still a massive world-class mystery," Feltham told the London Times. "It's been a life-long passion for me and I'm dedicated to being here and being fully involved in this whole hunt. I couldn't be more content doing anything else.”
After all, Nessie is just one of many alleged water monsters around the globe and Steve wants to be an international monster hunter when he grows up. This sounds like a job for the likes of the Strange Times crew . . .