Residence: Austin, Texas
Date of Performance/Collection: April 2011
Primary Language: English
Legend – Giant Man-Eating Catfish in Lake Travis
Ive heard my whole life that there are catfish in Lake Travis that are the size of Volkswagens. Right by Mansfield Dam the water gets to be like 200 feet deep, so they say the catfish down there have just had years to grow so large. Apparently divers have gone down there and seen these giant catfish theyre so big that they could just swallow a full-grown man. I mean, catfish dont eat people, but if you accidently, like, swam under them and they were sucking something up, they could swallow a human. At least thats what they say.
The informant is fifty years old and grew up on this lake in Austin, Texas. Catfish as a meal is very popular in this area, and there have been instances of big catfish being caught, though not as big as the ones that are said to dwell at the bottom of the lake. This legend, in many ways, is similar to the legends of the Loch Ness Monster and Giant Squids in the ocean. It seems that, wherever there is a large body of water that is generally untouchable by humans, a legend like this is formed. It is as if all areas undeveloped and untouched by humans are somehow savage and monstrous, almost to prehistoric extremes. Uncertainty is, apparently, a breeding ground for folklore. There was an article about this legend written in a local hill country newspaper, in which the journalist attempted to debunk the legend. According to this article, a local man made jokes to tourists, which they apparently they took seriously, and the legend of giant catfish in Lake Travis began. Also, the article addresses the fact that the water at that depth contains too little air to sustain fish, so all the fish stay closer to the surface. Overall, this seems to be just another legend of a monstrous sea creature, but adapted to the culture of Central Texas.
Williams, John. “A Body in Mansfield Dam? Man-eating Catfish in Lake Travis? Are These Stories True, or Are They Urban Legends?” The Hills of Lakeway Messenger [Lakeway, Texas] Feb. 2008, 2nd ed., sec. 2. Print.