Ozark Bestiary – False Trout

Other Names: mud-skips; land-fish; getaways

Habitat: rivers; deep creeks

Diet: trout; trout eggs

Appearance: The False Trout in all appearances, look exactly like the normal trout found across the Ozarks, Oncorhynchus mykiss. The difference is that the False Trout is not, in fact, a fish. The False Trout is most known for its thin arms and legs, which it can retract unto its body, much like the eye-stalks of a snail. It uses these arms, completely with tiny, nimble fingers, to escape fishing baskets and pull hooks out of its own mouth. The legs it uses to actually travel across the land to better spawning pools, or wider rivers.

Behavior: The False Trout is the bane of many an Ozark fisherman. For one, it is able to remove a hook from its own mouth using its tiny retractable hands. For another, it feeds almost exclusively upon real trout and their eggs. Many trout spawning areas have been completely wiped out because of this pest, who will walk itself across the land until it finds an area brimming with fish, then it will proceed to eat all the trout and eggs in the area, replacing this population with more of its own.

Interactions: Besides the predatory relationship between the False Trout and their one food source, the impostors are themselves preyed upon by several species of Ozark birds including the common heron and Rainbow Tail, a supernatural bird to be mentioned later on.

Origin Stories: Most don’t claim any supernatural origin for the False Trout, and instead side with the theory that this is just a cleaver and completely natural evolutionary adaptation. There are some, though, that in jest might claim these strange creatures were created by some ancient forest deity as a way of thwarting humanity’s constant desire to over consume.

Tall Tales: Stories and anecdotes about the False Trout abound in the Ozarks, and all of them go something like this: well once there was a fisherman who thought he’d caught a huge trout, maybe the biggest one they’d ever known. It struggled and struggled, and just as the fisherman thought he’d just about worn the fish out, the thing got loose off the hook. Well, the fisherman just laughed and shook his head, frustrated, but still happy for the struggle, and cast his line out into the river once more. Just then, another fish bit and began to struggle, this time it felt even bigger than before. The fisherman delighted in this new catch, but after minutes of struggling the fish broke free again. The fisherman was more frustrated this time, and even let himself swear a little, but only under his breath as Jesus was likely listening. He cast his line out another time, but much to his dismay this same fight happened not once, but three more times. After the last fish got away the poor fisherman snapped his pole right in half over his knee, packed up his tackle, and drove off to the nearest bar. A local at a table nearby asked the man if he’d caught anything. The fisherman just shook his head and told the tale of the escaping fish. This caused several listeners to laugh. “Well son,” the old man at the table said, “you got fooled by one of them getaways!” and then went on to explain all the finer details of the False Trout and why exactly they have plagued Ozark fisherman for centuries.

Control: Many fisherman have taken to poisoning sections of rivers, or spawning pools, with buckeye juice, which will actually suffocate any fish exposed to the harsh saponins of the juice. This unfortunately kills the trout and the impostors, but the trout eggs will survive, and since the False Trout breed much later than the trout, this will prevent them from spreading into an area. Other cleaver hillfolk have taken to setting out nets on the land, as well as in the water, to catch the False Trout as they migrate from one river to the next.

 

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