Lancashire Anomalous Phenomena Investigation Society
possibly a Wels Catfish?
In June 2022 several LAPIS members were enjoying a Summer Solstice break on the banks of Ullswater kayaking, swimming and visiting local points of interest. It was an enjoyable break but you can imagine our surprise and annoyance after returning home to find that, while we were there, an unusual event had occurred and the press were talking about lake monsters!
As Solstice 2023 approached, we headed back to the lake for another much needed break, and an opportunity to look into this story, a year on from when it started.
Once the team had all arrived and pitched camp, the obvious place to start was the pier house at Pooley Bridge, where a lucky break saw us talking to the partner of the primary witness, Wayne Owens. A quick introduction was made when the boat came in, and we arranged to meet up at the pier house the next day for a chat.
Ullswater steamers take visitors on a tour of the lake where they can view the surrounding hills and mountains. Wayne works onboard, and early one morning in June 2022 he was on the stern of the Western Belle leaving Howtown pier. The lake was flat calm, and as they left Howtown the boat skimmed a flock of grey lag geese, seperating a few of the birds on the opposite side of the boat. Wayne saw a full size goose, possibly 10-12lb (4.5-5.4kg) in weight try to take off, and then it appeared to get stuck and couldn't take off, and was dragged backwards under the water.
Concerned that there was something in the lake capable of harming visitors pet dogs Wayne reported the incident on the Facebook page "Ilovethelakedistrict" to warn people of the possible danger. He was met with a mixed reaction, some people taking it in the way it was intended, and some thinking it was a bit of a joke.
A day or two later, Wayne was on the bridge speaking to the skipper about the incident, and the way it appeared to occur after the flock was split up by the passage of the boat. On arriving at Howtown the same thing occurred again, this time the passage of the boat seperated off some younger, smaller (4-5lb, approx 2kg) geese and as they watched one of them disappeared downwards. After a few moments, within 10-15 metres of the boat's movement, a second goose was taken in the same way.
The story was picked up by a local news crew but then went national due to the interest caused. This led to quite a number of negative comments aimed at Wayne as people accused him of trying to drum up business for the boats and similar. As Wayne pointed out, he doesn't own the boats so there is no financial incentive for him. His motive was purely to warn people of a potential danger.
Wayne talked to some of the local fishing experts about what type of fish/animal could be to blame. Some people online had jumped to the conclusion it was a large Pike, but Wayne was told Pike roll their prey and would not be capable of the sudden downward pull that seemed to be the method in this case.
The most likely explanation at this point seems to be a Wels Catfish, which can grow very large and have been known in other cases (The Monster of the Mere, Martin Mere, 2002) to drag wildfowl below the surface in a similar way.
Wayne pointed out that he didn't see the animal/fish, so his thoughts regarding the Wels Catfish are based on advice from others and the best fit for what he saw. He is also keen to point out there is nothing paranormal in these events, and we are not talking about a "monster".
We intend to re-visit the area soon (once we return from the Gef the Talking Mongoose expedition to the Isle of Man) so there may well be an update soon...