A spate of mysterious fish attacks on bewildered swimmers at Lake Mendocino may be the result of hungry, sex-starved catfish, a state biologist says.

"I think the fish might be a little cranky," state Fish and Game biologist Wendell Jones said Friday. "The fish are spawning real late, and in the parts of the lake where the bites occurred, there is a noted absence of food fish. I think the fish are hungry and cranky because of the spawning."At least a half-dozen attacks on bathers have been reported recently. Jones blamed catfish as the likely underwater terrorists after he cruised the lake on a Boston Whaler outfitted with a large fish-shocker.

He said parts of the lake, especially on the east side where fewer people go, are full of healthy fish.

"I don't know why, but maybe it's the weather," Jones said. "We've had some real crazy weather this year."

Northern California has been experiencing drought-like conditions and during the last week unusually high temperatures have been breaking records daily.

After reports that the fish were really biting at Lake Mendocino, Jones netted catfish, bass bluegill and suckers.

He said he got 13 species, all of which normally are found in similar lakes. He said he found no people-eating monsters, as had been rumored locally.

The catfish are found in shallow water, have a large mouth with curved teeth, and are known to be feisty when sexually aroused, hungry or hassled.