It is considered one of the most popular lakes in Rhineland-Palatinate - but three bathers had to be treated in hospital with injuries in the summer. Is there a “problem pike” living in the Gelterswoog? Christine Richter is certain that it was such a predatory fish. The chairwoman of the Kaiserslautern Paddler Guild, one of the tenants of the water, is familiar with the reports of wounds. “In the lake,” she says, “there is a significant risk of pike bites.”
When something mysterious happens to animals near a body of water somewhere in the world, you don't have to wait long for comparisons to the Scottish lake Loch Ness. Same here - terms like “Loch Lautern” or “Loch Hecht” quickly made the rounds on the internet.
Richter can't laugh about it. “The victims are defamed when people not involved speculate whether it might have been something else,” she told the German Press Agency.
According to the “Rheinpfalz”, a woman with bite wounds on her hand was treated at the Westpfalz Clinic on August 18th. About three weeks earlier, a man had suffered a severe bite wound to the back of his knee. “Doctors in the clinic also took care of them. The cases are documented, as is a third,” it said. At least one of the injured claims to have recognized the attacker as a pike.
Richter first heard from a doctor in early July that someone had been treated for 15 pike bites. “I was puzzled and unsure whether someone might have swum into the reeds and met a pike guarding its spawn.” But later she learned details.
"The pike bit into the back of the knee and the swimmer had to open his mouth by hand. He suffered cuts and bite wounds to his leg and hand." The wounds looked “scary” in photos. "At the time of the attack, the injured person was not swimming in the reeds, but in the middle of the lake and is a strong man," she was told.
At first she thought "that such a case only happens every 100 years." But shortly afterwards, a woman told her that wounds on her hand had been stitched up in the hospital after being bitten by a pike.
"I know the people who were there when the woman came out of the lake: she couldn't take care of herself because the wounds were bleeding so badly." In the emergency room, the woman was told that she was the third person with pike bites from the Gelterswoog. Richter then informed the club members by email about the “significant danger” - also because of the duty of care.
The topic is discussed in internet forums. "These stories appear every year and may be true in individual cases. But that's just nature, things aren't peaceful and idyllic," writes user "Lajos1". And "Vincent_der_Falke" says: "In addition, we are still in their habitat and not the other way around..."
Swimming was once forbidden in the Gelterswoog. “Foresters or priests collected the clothes of those frolicking in the water,” reports the city of Kaiserslautern. Today the only thing that is collected is the entrance fee. The 12 hectare large and 3.50 meter deep reservoir is recognized as a natural monument and a popular leisure oasis. Swimmers and fish have been frolicking there for years without conflict - this puts the possible danger of a "great pike" into perspective.
Kaiserslautern now wants to get to the bottom of the matter. “We are in coordination with the responsible authorities to get an overview of the fish population in the water,” says Bettina Dech-Pschorn, head of the environmental protection department. Once you know the population, a decision should be made about a possible “maintenance measure”. This means that the population of certain species may be reduced if, for example, there are too many predatory fish living in the Gelterswoog.
According to Richter, fishing is now common despite the ban. "That basically helps the matter, but it's not clear whether the fishing community might catch three big pike or how we should deal with it next summer."
The chairman recalled that the water had not been drained for around ten years. "The fish population was able to build up well, the fish got big." The water level fell significantly during this time and the lake became warmer. "Little water, lots of big fish, water that's too warm - that leads to stress."
It wouldn't be the first time a fish has bitten. In the Wunsiedel district of Bavaria last year, a woman was wounded in the hand by a pike in a bathing pond.