Friday 27 August 2010

Nessie award and Lake Norman monster stories

Nessie nominated for tourism award
Published:  24 August, 2010
THE world famous Loch Ness monster has been nominated for a top tourism accolade.
Advertising. Usually the shortlist for the Highlands and Islands Tourism Awards is kept secret but the team behind this year's event have decided to release the unusual nomination to spark debate.The legend has been nominated for the honour of Highland Ambassador of the Year - an entry submitted last month under the pseudonym "The Snitch".Awards chairwoman Elizabeth Mackintosh said: "Nessie has made a major impact on the positive profile of the Highlands and Islands worldwide over the years and perhaps we should seriously consider this nomination for HITA's Highland Ambassador of the Year 2010."Two months ago, at a tourism meeting held in Inverness, Councillor Thomas Prag criticised Inverness for not embracing the monster legend to increase visitor numbers.He claimed Inverness had a "snooty" attitude towards Nessie and the city's long-term reluctance to being identified with the monster had not helped when trying to attract more tourists.Yesterday, the Inverness South ward member said the nomination was a lovely idea but added: "I think they may find it a bit difficult to present the award if Nessie were to win!"In nominating Nessie, "The Snitch" said the monster had been an unstinting supporter of tourism for over 1500 years, attracting tourists and sustaining communities across the north of Scotland."Her timely appearances have been carefully measured to tempt many visitors and researchers to come to Loch Ness."The board is welcoming further nominations and entries are accepted at     

A scary fish story
With tales of piranhas, snakeheads and the Lake Norman Monster, is it safe to go back into the water?
By Théoden Janes  Friday, Aug. 27, 2010
There's really no reason to be afraid to swim in Lake Norman or Lake Wylie. Or ... is there? On the one hand, the wildlife swimming in our lakes isn't nearly as wild as the man-eating piranhas terrorizing spring breakers on fictional Lake Victoria in "Piranha 3D," the campy gore-fest that made $10 million at the box office last weekend.On the other, toothy fish do lurk beneath the surface of our lakes. And some locals are afraid to get their feet wet."I'll go to about my ankles, but that's it," says Stephanie Sawyer, 35, of Matthews, who has been petrified of lake swimming since her childhood. "(It) definitely has to do with the 'creatures' in the water. Absolutely."Lake Norman resident Whitney Dainko's fear cropped up more recently.
"I was running about a month ago near my house when I noticed an animal lying in the sand trap," she recalls. "As I got closer, I realized it was a turtle. It was huge ... probably 2 feet. When it saw me, it freaked and ran a lot faster than I thought a turtle could move and jumped in the lake. I have to say, I'm not that psyched about swimming in Lake Norman anymore."
It is against state law to own piranhas and several other species of exotic fish. But people occasionally get their hands on them, and in rare cases, release them into the wild because they can no longer keep them.In 2007, state wildlife officials identified a fish caught in the Catawba River as a piranha ... but later they determined it was a pacu - also illegal, but not as menacing-sounding. In recent years, two other predatory nonnative fish have turned up: In 2007, a man caught a snakehead in Lake Wylie; another was caught there in 2009.Chris Wood of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission says that even if a piranha got into a lake, a single one could cause little harm. The problem with snakeheads? "They are indiscriminate fish eaters and can have deleterious effects on native fish" - but they aren't aggressive toward humans."Sorry," Wood says, "but (our) fish fauna is pretty benign." Still, there are a couple of types of local fish that would be scary to run into while swimming.One is a gar, which has an elongated jaw filled with sharp teeth. They can grow 2 to 3 feet long and weigh 6 to 7 pounds. The other is a bowfin, which also has sharp teeth and can grow to more than 3 feet long and as much as 20 pounds. Both might bite anglers as they unhook them, but they're otherwise docile.Nope, experts say, there's not a fish around that will attack a human."No man-eaters in the lakes," says Ken Manuel, Duke Power's head aquatic biologist. "But watch out for alligators."Manuel is kidding, of course.
But a handful of people are convinced there's a beast of some sort in Lake Norman. Most of them can be found trolling LakeNormanMonster .com , which features a cartoon dinosaur as its mascot and hawks T-shirts, key chains and a "monster hunting call."  The site includes reader "sightings" like this one, from "Jacob" of Denver: "Me and my dad were on our boat and ... we saw a 30-foot fish. It swam away as fast as lightning."Gus Gustafson, a longtime Lake Norman fishing guide and Observer columnist, spins the Lake Norman Monster story as well as anyone: It's a tale about a genetically engineered superfish that escaped from a fishing farm in the '60s.Asked if it's true, he laughs, then says - with tongue in cheek - "Uh, I'm not sure."Ultimately, though, he gets serious: "I don't wanna frighten anybody. ... Your bigger concern really should be the boat traffic and the jet skis. That's a real danger. It's not what these fish are gonna do to you."  

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