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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.
- Frogs Small species only, reaching 4" or 10cm.
- Newts Small species only, reaching 3" or 7.5cm.
- Toads Small species only, reaching 5" or 12.5cm.
- 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.
- 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.
- Herons Often seen around Loch Dochfour, the
River Ness and
other major rivers.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Minnows Small shoaling fish living close to the shoreline.
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.
- Sticklebacks A small bony fish living in large numbers in the
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- 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