Illustration by Richard Svensson
A map of Lake Myllesjon
A Wel's catfish
Lake Myllesjön is a tiny lake in the Skåne province in southern Sweden said to be inhabited by an unknown species of large fish.
The first sighting of the whale-fish was in the 1920s when a man riding a bike around Lake Myllesjön spotted what he thought was a log floating in the middle of the lake. He then was surprised to see it briefly thrash around in the water and dive under. Shortly after, another witness claimed to have seen the creature’s back on the surface of the lake, which had a large fin. This witness believed it to be an enormous pike.
A local fisherman named Sven Johan claimed that his fishing nets were torn apart when he hauled them out of the lake. Another sighting occurred when a man claimed to have seen a creature he likened to a “whale” frolicking in the water just offshore. At one point, three girls playing in the lake ran away in fear when they spotted a whale-like creature basking in the shallows near the shore.
After these sightings, Locals began to attempt to catch the creature and set up a trap. A blacksmith made an anchor-sized hook, while others made a wooden board for a platform and a large steel wire as a line which they tied to a small oak tree. A butcher donated a dead pig which they put on the platform. The next day, after the platform was set up, they found the small tree with the wire uprooted, and floating in the centre of the lake.
After the trap was set up, the whale-fish was believed to have died, but 30 years later, more sightings started appearing. In November of 1963, a witness claimed to have seen what he originally thought was a log, until it quickly submerged. Shortly after this sighting, there was a fishing competition, where whoever would catch the whale-fish would win 10,000 Swedish Krona or almost $13,000 in 2021 dollars, but no one took the reward.
A handful of sightings continued as recently as the 1970s but was generally believed to have gone extinct. The most common theory as to the origin of the whale-fish is an unusually large Wels catfish, which can reach 10 to 15 feet in length. Wels catfish also match the description of the whale-fish, and are surprisingly hardy, as it would be unlikely an entirely unknown species could inhabit a lake as small as Lake Myllesjön.