Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Tuesday 30 November 2010


Lake Iliamna monsters, based upon eyewitness descriptions (William Rebsamen)

Earlier tonight, I watched with great interest on ITV the episode of Jeremy Wade's 'River Monsters' series in which he investigates - and even tries (albeit unsuccessfully) to catch - one of the monster fishes said to inhabit the deep, freezing waters of Lakes Iliamna and Clark in Alaska. He concludes that the likeliest identity for such creatures, should they exist, would be extra-large (up to 20 ft or so long) specimens of land-locked white sturgeon. Giant sturgeon have been confirmed in the past as the identity of certain formerly-mysterious lake monsters in various North American bodies of freshwater (including Lake Washington in Seattle), so this is certainly a plausible solution to the Iliamna and Clark monsters too. Here is what I wrote a few years ago concerning them within an article of mine devoted to aquatic monsters of North America:

Compared to such famous North American ‘monster’ lakes as Okanagan and Champlain, Lake Iliamna remains little-known and little-investigated. This is due in no small way to its location – ensconced in southwestern Alaska. In terms of size, however, it can scarcely be overlooked – as large as the state of Rhode Island, this lake measures a very impressive 120 km long, up to 35 km wide, and has a surface area of around 2600 square km. Moreover, the unidentified water beasts, popularly dubbed Illies by the media and cryptozoologists, reported from its waters are equally memorable. Not only are they decidedly large – often claimed to be as much as 10 m long – they are also very different from the many-humps and long-necks more commonly reported from North America’s inland waters.

Long known to the area’s Inuit/Aleut people, who refer to this cryptid as jig-ik-nak, the Illie is usually described as very long and quite slender, greyish in colour, and with a noticeable dorsal fin marked by a white stripe. It swims just beneath the water surface, sometimes in groups, but unlike a number of other lake monsters it does not come up for air, remaining submerged, and therefore seemingly able to breathe underwater, like a fish rather than a mammal or reptile. This was confirmed in 1963 by a biologist from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, who watched an 8-10-m-long creature swimming beneath the water surface for over 10 minutes, during which time it never once surfaced.

In 1977, air-taxi pilot Tim LaPorte and his two passengers saw from the air a dark 4-5-m-long animal whose back was just breaking the water surface. When it dived downwards, it revealed a large vertical tail – characteristic of fishes, as whales have horizontal tails.

There seems little doubt that the Illies are indeed fishes, albeit exceptionally big ones, and the most popular identity is a sturgeon, in particular the mighty white sturgeon Acipenser transmontanus, which is known to attain lengths of up to 7 m. Although sturgeons have never been confirmed from Lake Iliamna, they are known from other, smaller Alaskan lakes (Iliamna is the largest lake in Alaska). Consequently, it would not be implausible for this immense body of water to house such fishes too, and for them, on account of the lake’s huge size and the plentiful food supply that it is known to contain, to attain record sizes here.


  1. This is very spooky, I was just faving videos, of white sturgeon on youtube.

  2. This is very good and I am glad you posted it. The Illies incidentally are supposed to have a smaller triangular dorsal fin and a larger heterocercal (sharklike) tailfin. They are almost ceratainly very large White sturgeons and very simlar to other monsters reported in far NE Siberia and then again further inland into Canada. Matt Writer and I have a longgoing dialogue about this. There are also freshwater seals in the same lakes.

    Incidentally a Russian friend of mine says that the names beluga (the white whale) and beluga (the great white sturgeon) may look the same but they are actually pronounced differently in the Russian language. In the one case the g is pronounced as g but in the other it is more like an h.

    Best Wishes, Dale D.

  3. Wow, I knew Lake Iliamna was big - but it's kinda hard to get a sense of scale since Alaska's so far removed from the rest of the US - I didn't realize it was as big as Connecticut. These monsters really shouldn't be even doubted, since 10m, big though it is, really isn't even all that far removed from how big we know these sturgeon get.

    And I might be tooting my own horn a bit here, but I'd like to think it's because of me that show was on - there was something posted on the Facebook page for the show about places in the States they could go, and I said Lake Iliamna as one of my picks - obviously I don't know if it is, but I'd like to think this episode was because of me. Although it likely wasn't.

  4. Nice story about The Monsters of Lakes Iliamna and Clark. Catching this kind of creature will definitely be an exciting experience. It is a scary fishing adventure. But for families who love to do fishing activity during vacation, it is recommended to look for a Fishing charter to have a wonderful and memorable trip.

  5. I wish it were a landlocked whale or a plesiosaur or something, but based on the description I'd say just another big fish.


    Speaking of which, have you heard of the Lake Hanas giants? I heard about them in this book called the Unexplained. They're basically these whale-sized fish in a remote Chinese lake!

  6. That's it! I am going fishing!

  7. Was that my book, The Unexplained (1996)? I also documented the Lake Hanas fishes here on ShukerNature in their own post - if you check my full listing of ShukerNature posts, you can click to it directly. All the best, Karl

  8. Now I remember the author's name! YOU wrote the Unxplained?

  9. Okay, I'm going to need a huge fishing line and a whole lot of bait, but someday I am going to Lake Iliamna! And maybe Lake Hanas. Who could pass up that kind of fishing adventure?