It was the final stretch of Weird Weekend 2007, (Sunday 19 August 2007), traditionally the time for the CFZ's expedition reports.
The CFZ's trip to the Lake District had not all been 'Chorley cakes, the Beatrix Potter Museum and interesting tea,' assured CFZ Director Jon Downes. They had been intrigued by a photo of Lake Windermere in the Westmoreland Gazette last year. Its photographer, Steve Burnip, described seeing something large and eel-like swimming 'very fast for over 60 seconds.' The publication of the photograph led to a letter from Mark Plant, who said he'd seen something weird on Windermere back in his twenties in 1959, while in a dinghy on the lake.
Reports from the 1980s and 1990s began to come in, with 1959 as the earliest. Local diver Kevin Boyd joined in with the CFZ investigation, doing night dives 60ft down, but he didn't see a single live eel on these dives. He did say he thought he saw a 4ft hump which he thought was a coil of an 'eel-like' creature. Boyd had also seen very big eels on previous dives.
The length record for an UK is 4ft 2 1/2 inches. There have been eye witness reports of eels of five, six, eight or nearly 10ft on various British and Irish lakes over the last 15 years.
There are two shapes of the common eel, two variants or 'morphs' of the same species. There is the round-face eel that predates on other fish, and the pointy-faced eel that eats worms. Boyd described having once seen a 'carpet' of eels in the lake, with both morphs present.
Eels are very weird indeed. Until quite recently, we had no idea how they bred. There were some tiny, leaf-like fish around called leptocephali, which we thought for years were a completely different animal, until they turned out to be the larvae of the common eel.
Lyndon Adams rang the CFZ in February. He'd caught an image like Burnip's - only clearer. In May, John Harker saw a snake-like thing in the lake leaving a wash, although the CFZ's Richard Freeman thinks his pictures show the wash of a boat.
Dr Charles Paxton says there's also a recent video doing the rounds which also shows a 'thing' on the lake.
There's a theory that there are sterile eels - called 'eunuch eels' that don't go out to see like normal eels. There's a report of a 25ft eel in the Birmingham Ship Canal in the 1990s, and a recent film of Loch Ness shows what looks like a 25ft eel. Isaac Walton, author of the classic Compleat Angler, talked about a third type of eel morph in the Thames, that had bright red fins. Could eels throw up new morphs?
In the deep lakes of the Northern hemisphere there are many stories of massive 'horse eels,' particularly in Ireland.
Then the CFZ got a report of an eel that had been in the Blackpool Aquarium in the Blackpool Tower for many years, which was over 4ft long. They went to take a look, and found - in a very small tank - a pointy-faced morph eel that was over 4ft long. It had been there since the early 1960s. They went round the corner and saw a tank with two round-faced fresh water eels that were 5ft long.
The Times in the late 19th century reported eels of 8 or 12 ft long in deep lakes in South Wales, and that 'reputable gentlemen' at around the same time reported eels giving birth to live young in a bucket.
Clearly there's a lot about eels that we don't really know.