The Fulshear Fish Fall

One of the best documented cases ever of a ‘rain’ of fish took place in Cross Creek Ranch, a planned community development in Fulshear, Texas on the afternoon of January 16, 2018.

I discussed the report and my investigation with Sharon Hill on her 15 Credibility St podcast of Feb 11, 2018. It’s remarkable how little media coverage this fortean event received. Fish rains typically get blanket coverage, but this one slipped right underneath the radar.

The images within this article were all supplied by Fulshear residents and copyright is theirs.

One fish found on a resident’s back patio, photographed shortly after the fall.

Houston and most of Texas was in the middle of an ice storm that Tuesday; sleet was falling and the temperature was around -2 degrees. The fall appears to have taken place between 3.15-3.30 p.m. on the afternoon of the 16th. We know this as one witness I interviewed saw three fish fall on her back patio at this time.

One of the fish discovered a week later on a Cross Creek Ranch walking path

The spread of the fall across Cross Creek Ranch appears to be roughly three quarters of a mile by half a mile. That afternoon and next morning, locals were out photographing, filming and updating their Facebook pages.

One fish discovered on the 17th January, the day after the fall.

Despite the fact that the story was covered by only one U.S. television station, Houston’s KPRC 2, I found that there were no shortage of local residents who had photographed or filmed the fish they found in their yards or around the Cross Creek area.

The exact number that fell isn’t known, but one resident I spoke to said she had found around 100 in her yard and another told me she found 15 around her house. It seems there were at least 130 fish involved and possibly a lot more, given the area involved.

One fish was photographed on a roof and another on a windowsill, suggesting an aerial source.

Fish found on a Fulshear roof, showing impact site and damage to the fish.

Others were found in front and back yards, on local walking paths and in backyard pools.

Fish collected from Cross Creek Ranch walking paths around one week after the fall.

A few of the witnesses thought the fish were shad from the ponds and lakes located within Cross Creek Ranch.  I was able to engage with helpful local Bernie, who sent several of the fish he had found a week after the fall to the University of Texas.  Ichthyology Collection Manager Adam Cohen proved the locals were right. The fish were threadfin shad, Dorosoma petenense.

 

The general explanation as to how these fish falls occur is that a waterspout or tornado picks up the fish locally and drops them over the nearby houses. To check this, I contacted a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Houston, Dan Reilly, who looked at the weather radar for the time of the fall.

His comments nixed the wind/waterspout theory in this case: “Radar shows no thunderstorms, really just stratiform precipitation (mostly sleet/ice pellets). Waterspouts, tornadoes would not make sense at all from the meteorology of the day, and no hint of any rotation or anything odd on radar. It remains a mystery as far as I’m concerned”.

Radar images at the time of the fall show only rain and sleet.

Adam Cohen from the University of Texas also had a theory based on the specimens he examined. He outlined it to me:

“The specimens in the photos seemed desiccated to begin with, but when we received them they were very desiccated and in worse condition. We could see nothing that would indicate aerial distribution from the specimens beyond their being desiccated in the original photos. Our internal working theory is that they died in mass in one of the ponds nearby and washed to shore where they dried out. Once all together and dried they’d be easily carried away in a strong wind”

The problem is that Adam had examined fish that had been collected around a week after the fall. No wonder they were in bad shape.  As the photos on this page show, the fish photographed that afternoon or the next day look healthy and relatively fresh. It seems unlikely the 35 mph gusts in Fulshear that Tuesday afternoon could have lifted and dropped those pesky pisceans across Cross Creek backyards.

One listener to the 15 CredibilitySt.  podcast, a marine biologist, suggested the fish may have been disgorged by a bird unsettled by the sleet and freezing weather of the 16th.  This interesting possibility certainly requires more investigation. Texas has a number of native inland waterbirds (herons, egrets & cormorants) and locals have confirmed that pelicans frequent the Cross Creek ranch ponds. Several elements of the case seem to argue against a bird explanation. None of the fish appear even partially digested – see the first photo. The biologist suggested the fish on the roof shows evidence of digestion, but I think this is impact damage. Most of the fish appear whole and intact. No other matter appears to have been disgorged along with the fish. Finally, the wide area of the fall (three quarters of mile by half a mile) argues against a single bird flying overhead and disgorging fish over an extended period left, right and centre. That said, I’ll certainly be asking more birdy questions of my Fulshear contacts.

What about a hoax? Any hoaxer would have had to have sourced a large number of small fish, then travelled around a wide area of a densely populated residential development on a mid-week afternoon in the middle of a ice storm distributing them in peoples front and back yards (and on at least one roof) without being noticed by anyone. The hoax theory is also hard to align with the witness I spoke to who actually saw three of the fish land directly on her back patio.

So its all rather odd. There were no nasty winds, tornados or waterspouts. So how did all these little fishies end up all across Cross Creek Ranch?

Charles Fort, this one’s for you.

 

2 Replies to “The Fulshear Fish Fall”

  1. Fascinating, had not heard of this one and I live in a state close to Texas. Will it be possible to get your blog by email in the future? This could be a good one to add to my reading list, and so far new to me stories!

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