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Groundbreaking study secures monster catch in Loch Ness

By Louise Glen

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Chris Conroy with 'Brutus'.
Chris Conroy with 'Brutus'.

A ‘Loch Ness Monster’ has been found as part of a pioneering acoustic tracking study on the loch’s population of large fish-eating predator the brown trout.

A 16llb 84cm-long ferox trout, nicknamed Brutus, has been found as part of an investigation into the depths of the loch by the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board and Glasgow University’s centre for ecology and the natural environment.

‘Ferox’ trout – who live for more than two decades – are found mainly in deep glacier-formed lakes in in Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia and Western Russia.

Ferox trout living in Loch Ness have been fitted with an acoustic tag that emits a series of high frequency 'pings’ on a regular basis.

This signal contains a unique ID, together with information relating to water temperature and depth.

In addition to a mobile receiver, the project team have 20 acoustic listening devices at fixed points around the loch to track the movements of the fish.

The project team have already detected 70 per cent of the tagged fish in Loch Ness.

‘Brutus’ has been tracked travelling six kilometres in Loch Ness. He is one of the largest trout identified in the loch in recent times. Research found that a female ferox travelled more than 25 kilometres in one week.

Chris Conroy, river director of the Ness Board, said: “Cutting edge technology is being used in this acoustic telemetry project, which aims to provide valuable information on the space use by ferox trout within the loch.

“Ferox are an elusive fish that spend most of their time living in the depths of Loch Ness, feeding primarily on Arctic charr and only appearing at spawning time.

“Over the last few years, we have used underwater cameras to identify an important ferox spawning area. This has allowed us to get up-close and personal with these impressive animals.

“Ferox are a fantastic example of the genetic diversity which exists within wild brown trout. They can dive down to depths well in excess of 30 metres in search of their prey and really are a spectacular form of trout, for whom Loch Ness is an ideal home.”

He stressed: “Brutus is easily the largest example we’ve found, he’s a real monster of a fish, about 12-years old and in his prime.”

Dr Matt Newton from the University of Glasgow explained: “This technology allows us to observe the unseen, and allows us to have a glimpse of what the fish are doing beneath the waters of our lochs.

“These fish are fairly rare, getting an initial understanding of their behaviour is a vital step in progressing future research.”

The study will continue through to March 2021.

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