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THE FISH AND OTHER VERTEBRATES IN LOCH NESS


This section lists, as completely as possible, the fish and other vertebrate animals which live in or occasionally swim in Loch Ness today. Please make contact if you believe there are omissions.

1. Amphibians

2. Birds

3. Fish

4. Mammals

5. Reptiles


1. Amphibians

  1. Frogs Small species only, reaching 4" or 10cm.
  2. Newts Small species only, reaching 3" or 7.5cm.
  3. Toads Small species only, reaching 5" or 12.5cm.

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2. Birds

  1. Cormorant These large birds have a long neck and, at distance, have been the cause of head and neck sightings. One of Alec Campbell's famous plesiosaur sightings he later claimed was caused by a cormorant distorted by mirage.
  2. Merganser Ducks These small black ducks are, amazingly, often the cause of Loch Ness monster sightings. This tends to happen in three ways. Firstly they create fast moving narrow V-wakes which are often misinterpreted as something large swimming under the water. When they then dive or fly off, at great distance from the observer, the wake subsides and the impression is given that whatever was at the surface has dived. The duck appearing again much later some distance from where it submerged is not noticed. If flying from the wake the ducks are often lost to sight in the darkness of the land. Secondly they are misinterpreted as being the head of a larger animal, particularly if swimming in pairs when the necks can even be thought to be horns. The third, and most impressive cause of misinterpretation is when they swim in a group of four or more. This has been misinterpreted as a black hump if viewed from above at long range. When the group then breaks up, unless the water is calm, it can appear as if the hump has submerged.
  3. Herons Often seen around Loch Dochfour, the River Ness and other major rivers.

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3. Fish

  1. Atlantic Salmon The rivers feeding Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy are the autumn spawning grounds for the Atlantic salmon. After hatching in the spring, once the young fish have devoured their eggs sacs they are known as parr. They continue to grow to about 8" or 20cm after two years when bodily changes prepare them for saltwater and they become known as smolts. At sea they grow rapidly, returning as adults two or more years later weighing between 8lbs (3.5Kg) and 40 lbs (17.5Kg). While they do not represent a year round food supply they do add substantially to the loch's biomass each autumn. Unlike the Pacific salmon, Atlantic salmon do not expire after spawning and may return several times increasing in weight on each visit. In recent years salmon populations have been shrinking owing to over-fishing in the North Sea.
  2. Charr or Arctic Charr Charr are small fish relict in Loch Ness (and other Scottish lochs) since the last ice age. They are rarely caught larger than 10" or 25cm in length, but are known to spawn in the loch and its feeding rivers and burns and are quite numerous. Three specimens caught by the Loch Ness Project in the eighties are the deepest fish ever caught in British freshwater.
  3. Eels Anguilla anguilla live in Loch Ness in large numbers. When ready to spawn they leave Loch Ness for the Sargasso Sea. The young arrive in the loch as elvers. The common European eel grows to a maximum length of about six feet or 1.8 metres in length although none have been caught at this size in Loch Ness. There have been unconfirmed reports of eels with manes in the loch and divers have reported eels thicker than a man's leg, but these may be exaggerations.
  4. Minnows Small shoaling fish living close to the shoreline.
  5. PikePike These carnivorous fish can grow to a considerable size and there are many reports in the order of 1 metre long. Being at the top of the food chain, however, means that they do not exist in large numbers in Loch Ness as they are limited by the available food supply. Pike have a large swim bladder and could therefore produce a sonar contact of significant strength. A substantial pike is shown to the right.
  6. Sticklebacks A small bony fish living in large numbers in the shallow water.
  7. Trout Brown trout exist in large numbers in the loch and are regularly caught at lengths between 6" and 10" or 15cm to 25cm. Some turn cannibal and grow much larger, easily attaining weights of 12 lbs (5.3Kg). These are known as ferrox trout and produce a substantial sonar contact. In 2000 a trout was caught weighing 18lbs (7.5Kg) a new Loch Ness record.
  8. Other Coarse Fish Introduced by man or as eggs on the legs of wading birds, a number of other coarse fish now live in the loch and the Caledonian Canal. These include, perch, roach, dace, rudd and carp etc.

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4. Mammals

  1. Deer The Loch Ness Project have accumulated a number of photographs of deer swimming in Loch Ness. They are mentioned here not because of any effect they may have on the food chain, but in order to be included as one of the causes for mistaken identity when researching Loch Ness Monsters. There are three species seen regularly around the loch - red deer, sika deer and roe deer.
  2. Otters Otters do live at Loch Ness, but are rarely seen. The author has never seen a live otter in the loch despite living overlooking Loch Ness for twenty years. It is possible, however, that otters cause some cases of mistaken identity.

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5. Reptiles

  1. Adder or Viper All Scottish snakes are poisonous! Fortunately there is only one, the adder or viper. They have been seen on the shoreline, but I know of no sightings of them swimming in the water. The adder normally frequents the heather covered hillsides and is seen most often in dry sunny weather. The adder's bite can often prove fatal and, if bitten, you should seek medical advice immediately.
  2. Lizard Small (4", 10cm) lizards are seen on the rocks around the shores of the loch occasionally but do not enter the water as far as is known.
  3. Slow Worm A legless lizard found frequently around Loch Ness. The vestiges of legs can be seen under the silvery body and the tail detaches if grasped. It is very rare to find both slow worms and adders living in close proximity.

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