Think the legendary fur-bearing trout is an old-timey hoax perpetrated by taxidermists with too much time on their hands? Well, a fisherman in Wisconsin claims to have actually caught one.
Fur-bearing trout caught in Wisconsin? Photo credit: George Weber
In the Great Lakes, according to legend, trout grew coats of fur to stay warm in the cold depths. Folklore says fish in the Colorado River developed luscious locks because hair tonic was being dumped in the water. In Iceland, fish with hair are a scourge sent to punish humankind for their wicked ways.
As fantastic as it sounds, the mythical fur-bearing trout may not be as closely related to the jackalope as one would assume. In May 2015 a fisherman in Wisconsin posting under the name George Weber claimed to catch one.
But, Weber says, it’s not actually fur that makes the fish look furry.
He shared his story on the website of a local news outlet:
Wanted to share a rather remarkable catch I had this afternoon. I was fishing the Menomonee River where some trout were packed into a bottleneck. I caught a few and nothing was out of the ordinary until I reeled this one in. I have never seen anything like it. I contacted a local wildlife official and they referred to it as a rare fur-bearing trout. They went on to explain that this was an extreme case of Saprolegnia, or cotton mold. Apparently old Great Lakes legends spoke of these as a uniquely evolved trout species that existed only in the deepest, coldest parts of the lakes and needed the fur to stay warm.
A friend of mine has a saying: “In Wisconsin we have nine months of winter and three months of crappy sledding.”
While it does seem likely that every living creature here in the North will eventually evolve thick coats of fur to stay warm, this trout is probably not a fuzzy, rather awkward punishment from God sent to snuggle you for your sins. It’s either cellular necrosis due to a mould that lives in the water and grows on fish, as Weber’s dubious claim suggests, or someone actually put in the effort to cover a dead trout in thick white hair.
The news outlet must have thought the story was fishy, as well, as they eventually removed the post from their website.
Was Weber’s furry trout real? Well…I want to believe. In the end, though, we are left with only speculation. Whether his curious catch was played for laughs, or it truly was a furry abomination from the frigid depths, the legend of the fur-bearing trout lives on.
Vintage postcard of a fur-bearing trout taxidermy mount
Hoax or not, anyone who spends enough time here in Wisconsin is sure to have a story or two about something strange they spotted in the water.
What do you think: Did Weber catch a fur-bearing trout?