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Has the Loch Ness Monster been catfishing us all these centuries?

One of the world's foremost Nessie hunters says he no longer believes in the legend of a dinosaurlike creature patrolling the depths of a Scottish lake.

Is there a monster or just a monster meal in this Apple Maps photo? Apple Maps

Imagine spending your life hunting for a legend only to discover you've been to a really big catfish.

Such is the apparent and somewhat sad ending to Steve Feltham's search for the Loch Ness Monster after nearly 25 years of looking for evidence of the mythic cryptid. After selling all his possessions in 1991 and leaving his life behind to earn Guinness world records for his persistent vigil at the Scottish lakeshore, Feltham now says he's reached the end of a long journey of realization. He now suspects that the "monster" sometimes believed to be a modern dinosaur relative is really just a very big wels catfish.

"They are very long-lived and it is entirely possible they were introduced by Victorians to the loch, which would explain why the main sightings of Nessie really started in the 1930s -- just as the animals were reaching maturity," Feltham said in The Times (UK). "I have to be honest. I just don't think that Nessie is a prehistoric monster."

The wels catfish is said to possibly grow as large as 16 feet (about 5 meters) in length, and weigh as much as 800 pounds. This would actually put it in the same relative size range as the long-extinct Plesiosaurus that is sometimes cited as a possible explanation or at least a doppelganger for Nessie.

Sightings of Nessie go back to the sixth century, and other local believers say they aren't swayed by Feltham's resignation. Surely the legend will continue to draw other seekers to the loch's shores. In the past few years, both Google and Apple Maps have played a role in modernizing the search, and presumably we'll eventually get a virtual-reality Loch Ness Monster experience.

Even if Nessie does turn out to be nothing more than a ginormous imported member of the catfish family, anyone who has ever been up close with the creepy, whiskered fish shouldn't be opposed to letting it keep the title of "monster."