More than 75 million years ago the state of Montana was covered by a vast inland sea inhabited by various shark species and aquatic reptiles. Although all thought to have died out long ago, Flathead Lake, Montana is the reported home of a large marine animal known as the Flathead Lake Monster. The first reported sighting of the creature took place in 1889 by passengers and crew member of the steamer U.S. Grant, including Captain James C. Kerr. Since then more than 100 accounts of a large object swimming in the waters of Flathead Lake have been documented, 92% of those sightings have between the months of April and September. The creature is most frequently described as a large eel shaped creature that reaches lengths of 20 to 40 feet and is described as being round, brown to blue – black in color, with black eyes and swimming with an undulating motion.
Many credible eye witnesses of have stepped forward over the years to describe encounters with the creature. Witnesses such as mothers, doctors, lawyers, biologists, engineers, anglers and policemen have all reported being witness to unusual happenings in the lake. Such credible eye witnesses would have no reason to make up stories of a lake monster, this fact alone puts validity to the tales of an unknown creature living in the lake. As with most lake monsters, skeptics suggest that these sightings are caused by nothing more than large sturgeon, which are able to reach weights of 1500 pounds. The majority of reports, as previously stated, would suggest that the creature looks nothing like a sturgeon, but more like a large eel, leaving the mystery of the Lake Flathead Monster alive and well. So popular are the stories of the monster that the area has started “The Monsterwatch Program” which gives people the ability to report sightings of the creature online, one local company even made its own line of Lake Flathead Monster clothing and beverages.
- In 1889 the creature was viewed from the lake steamer U.S. Grant, skippered by Capt. James C. Kerr. At first the whale-like object was thought be an approaching boat, as the object came into view it was clear that it was a living creature, a rifle toting passenger reportedly shot at the beast but missed.
- On July 13 1949, off Woods Bay - a Seattle bank officer and a district sales manager managed to snap off a few seconds of video footage. Although inconclusive, the video showed a dark shape near the surface. The sales manager before he got the film rolling said he saw the eyes and sturgeon-like head, but that the body seemed to be more like that of a large eel - at least 12 feet long.
- On July 29 1949, at about 1:30 p.m., a vacationing Illinois policeman, his wife and their three kids all witnessed a strange animal as it surfaced about 50 yards away from their boat in calm waters off the north side of Wild Horse Island. The creature appeared amid an apparent school of bait-sized fish. It swam past their boat about a hundred yards away but was easy to follow visually because of the wake. The policeman described the object as shiny with a bowling ball-sized head, shiny humps, about 15-20 feet long.
- In 1993, 13 separate reports where filed of the creature including the only sighting of two creatures together which was reported on May 24 in Big Arm Bay. One of the creatures was considerably larger than the other. Both were swimming in the same direction and suddenly separated, each going off in its own direction.
- September 6, 1998, Yup, it was spotted again - the Flathead Lake Monster. After no sightings for five years, this some-would-say-mythical creature was spotted on Aug. 18 in the vicinity of Gravel Bay, just north of Skidoo Bay, on the northwestern Montana lake's eastern shore.
Jeff Herman, at the Missoulian, reported on the sighting in his fishing report for the newspaper last week. He quoted Jim Vashro, regional fisheries manager for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Kalispell, who received the report from an angler whose name remains anonymous.
In this report, an angler was reeling in a small lake trout that had been hooked about 120 feet down. As the fish was coming up toward the boat, a large form - judged to be several feet long - was observed for several seconds tracking the hooked fish as it neared the surface. Vashro said, the "shape...and the tail fin were characteristic of a sturgeon."