HomeOutdoorsNewsFreshwater Fish Rain Down on Town, Leaving Scientists Stumped

Freshwater Fish Rain Down on Town, Leaving Scientists Stumped

by Caitlin Berard
Spangled Perch, a Freshwater Fish Falling From the Sky
(Photo by Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Every year, the rural town of Lajamanu, Australia, sees around 20 inches of rain, about the same as California. The only difference? Every now and then, the Australian storms drop more than just water on the town – once in a blue moon, it rains freshwater fish.

The latest fishy phenomenon occurred Sunday. Believe it or not, however, it was far from the first time the town experienced freshwater fish falling from the heavens. The same bizarre situation occurred in Lajamanu back in 2010, and was also reported in 2004 and even as far back as 1974.

That said, it’s still not exactly something residents are accustomed to seeing. On the contrary, countless locals in Lajamanu reported their shock at seeing fish drop from the sky during the recent deluge.

“We’ve seen a big storm heading up to my community and we thought it was just rain,” local resident Andrew Johnson Japanangka told ABC. “But when the rain started falling, we’ve seen fish falling down as well.”

Following the flurry of freshwater fish, Queensland Museum ichthyologist Jeff Johnson set out to identify the species. According to him, the unfortunate animals were spangled perch, each one around the size of a child’s palm.

To make an outlandish situation even more unbelievable, the storm happened overnight. As a result, most residents didn’t realize what happened until they left their homes the following morning. Stepping out their front doors, they found small fish scattered across the town, many of them still alive.

“Some are still hanging around in the community in a puddle of water,” Japanangka said. “Children are picking them up and keeping them in a bottle or a jar.”

What Caused the Bizarre Flood of Freshwater Fish?

Lajamanu isn’t anywhere near any large bodies of water. It’s actually at the edge of the desert, explaining the relatively arid weather. So how did the airborne fish travel all the way to the rural town?

Well, the exact cause of the fishy weather remains unknown. Weather experts believe, however, that it’s likely caused by strong updrafts, such as tornadoes. The storm sucks water from rivers, taking the fish along with it, then dumps them hundreds of miles away.

“I’ve seen small ponds literally emptied of their water by a passing tornado. So, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for frogs (or other living things) to ‘rain’ from the skies,” Ernest Agee from Purdue University explained in a Library of Congress report.

Other theories include birds vomiting the fish while flying overhead. Scientists explained the anchovy rain of 2022 in California with this one. Another possibility is that a flood caused by the storm carried the fish into the town.

“Most of the time people arrive after the rain and see the fish scattered everywhere,” said Michael Hammer, curator of fishes at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. “And in that instance, they’ve mostly just burst through with the flood that’s happened locally, from a little waterhole or something. But it certainly can’t rule out fish being caught up in little storms and then dropped in other places.”