Updated: Dec 16, 2021
This specimen of the rare and elusive fur bearing trout was caught through the ice in Moosehead Lake some decades ago. The deep, cold waters of the lake require the trout there to grow these dense coats of white rabbit-like fur. The fur helps insulate the fish against the cold. Reportedly few furred trout are caught as the typical bait for them are ice worms on heated hooks, which are rarely used for bait these days. For those interested in catching a furred trout, ice worms can be collected easily on the old decaying ice they feed on. Despite their rarity there is no legal bag limit on the number of fur bearing trout that can be caught in Maine waters.
These fish are found throughout the northern parts of North America. Some guides in Montana, where these fish are caught in glacier fed ponds, report that pulling them out of the icy water in summer results in the sudden explosion of the fish due to the sudden temperature change. Oddly, the fur and meat of these exploded fish is rarely harmed in the explosion and rather the “fur and skin come off in one perfect piece, making it available for commercial purposes, and leaving the body of the fish for refrigerator purposes or eating, as desired."
The North American fur trout is a species distinct from Iceland’s “shaggy trout,” the Lodsilungur, who’s meat is deadly poisonous. Early tales about the Lodsilungur claim that these animals are a curse from demons and giants. There the shaggy trout overwhelm rivers like a plague and out compete the natural fish. Thankfully here in Maine, we have no such trouble with our fur bearing trout which are quite good eating.
Some skeptics claim that fur bearing trout are actually just fish infected with a cottony, parasitic water mold called Saprolegnia. And while it’s true that a severe infection by this mold can result in a fish with the appearance of being covered in “white fur”, this is hardly a credible explanation for the animal displayed here.
This specimen hung on the wall of Kamp Kamp's "Indian Store” in downtown Greenville for many years and today resides in a camp on Sebec Lake. It was mounted by the World Fur Corporation of Brewer, Maine. It is likely the earliest and one of only a few such taxidermized specimens in Maine.
If you enjoy reading about Maine's fearsome critters like the furred trout you should check out my new book, Mythical Creatures of Maine, where you can learn about many other lumberjack and guide creatures as well as modern Maine cryptids and creatures from the folklore and legends of sailors, the Wabanaki Native Americans, and French Canadians.
Fur Bearing Trout photograph courtesy of Shaun Alfreds