Look out for the Lake Monster

This week’s competition will, no doubt, see plenty of Lake Champlain’s big green residents. But, while hefty largemouth bass could make or break some anglers’ performances, we’ll be watching closely and listening intently for any reports of this beautiful lake’s most famous green resident.

His name is “Champ” — the Champlain Lake Monster.

Sometimes called “Champy” and broadly known as the American Loch Ness monster, this elusive creature of serpentine form is generally described as having a long neck, a thick body of 15-50 feet long, four fins and a long tail. Sounds familiar? That’s the basic profile of a plesiosaur — the long-extinct marine reptile upon which the original Loch Ness monster legend is based.

Some link “Nessie’s” longstanding story to a lineage of plesiosaurs that have survived in the narrow Scottish lake’s dim depths, which connect via the River Ness and other waters to the North Sea. Compare this to Champlain’s narrow, deep form and its Atlantic Ocean connection via the Champlain Canal-Hudson River and the Nessie-Champy resemblances draw a collective “Hmmm.”

A history of mystery

Think what you want, but Champ has existed, albeit more in lore than evidence, for several centuries. Samuel de Champlain, the French cartographer/explorer who founded Quebec (1608) and discovered his namesake waters (1609), is said to have made the first non-indigenous lake monster report.

The Abenaki and Iroquois cultures both include legends of a large snakelike creature inhabiting Champlain. The former were said to have cautioned early 18th century French explorers that disturbing lake waters could irritate what they called Gitaskog.

Since then, Champ sightings have run the gamut from tourists and local anglers to an 1873 railroad crew that caught a glimpse of what they described as an enormous serpent. In that same year, Clinton County Sheriff Nathan H. Mooney reported a similar creature that he estimated at 25 to 35 feet.

Also in 1873, the steamship W.B. Eddy reportedly ran into Champ. Passengers said the collision nearly capsized the vessel. Apparently, Champ survived the incident, as sightings continue to this day.