Water Snakes and Turtles
As the weather warms up, I have been seeing many interactions with aquatic reptiles. To ensure the safety of both the angler and the animal, I have decided to write up a small safety guide for such interactions.
Who here, while out on the water, has ever gotten a chill by the sight of a water snake swimming on the surface? If you been on the water pretty often, chances are, you would see a water snake. If not, you will see them sometime or later.
As the weather warms up, I've been seeing water snakes pretty often, specially when I'm fishing in a creek in a wooded area. Not only are snakes found in the water, but they are also found in overhanging branches on trees, especially if you live in the south. They sun themselves on boulders in creeks, and slither through tall grass and bushes on the shore. While snakes aren't too common, they can be found almost everywhere.
Left: The picture is bad, but here is a water snake that tried to strike my stick worm.
Right: A member of the YFS shows a tiny turtle he has caught on a piece of nightcrawler on a hook.
Snakes in general are timid animals, preferring to flee than bite. However, if they feel cornered, they will strike. The best thing to do in a confrontation is to slowly back away. No sudden movements, please.
Snakes swimming in the water are in a bad position to strike. They require a solid surface to push against in order to lunge and bite. Thus, their strike range while swimming is extremely limited. However, I have seen snakes swim towards the bank I was standing on, so in that case, slowly bank away.
If you are thinking, for whatever reason, of stepping on a big rock on or next to the water, please look to see if there are snakes on the rock, sunning. Stepping on a snake is a surefire way to get a bite.
If you are on some watercraft going over overhanging branches, you are in the risk of snakes from the branches. I have heard stories about snakes falling into boats from trees.
For some reason, snakes sometimes strike fishing lures, rare, but possible. Cut the line as close to the lure as possible. There's no point in getting bitten by a potentially dangerous snake. In muddy water, you often can't see the snake well enough to identify him.
Predatory turtles, especially snapping turtles, often strike lures or bait, especially live bait. Back when I lived in North Carolina, I used to fish in this lake called Lake Johnson. I had caught many red eared sliders there on live bait. Sliders and painted turtles, the most common turtles, like to take nightcrawlers and minnows. They rarely seem to go after fast moving lures in my experience.
Snapping turtles are dangerous looking things. You can easily imagine that beak snapping off a finger. I have caught them on spinnerbaits/inline spinners from time to time. Cut the line closest to the hook as possible. Don't even try unhooking.
Turtles usually flee, especially the sliders/painted turtles, but snapping turtles sometimes are feisty. Don't take your chances.
Catch and Release
Fishing for cold water game fish species can be very stressful to the fish. It can possibly kill them. Since the fish are adapted for cold, clean water, many things, such as chemicals on your hand, being out in the sun, of even overheating from your hand, can easily kill them. That is why it is vital to follow these tips when fishing for cold water species.
1. Cutting the line sometimes is needed when it is not possible to remove the hook without harming the fish, Only a small piece of line should be left on the hook to ease passage through the digestive system. Research has documented that cutting the line can greatly increase the survival of deeply hooked fish. Also, research has found that the majority of hooked fish will throw off their hook after release. When you are trying to get the hook out, you may rupture vital organs, damage the slime coat, or just plainly overstress the fish. If the hook can't be removed, don't do it!
2. Do not handle fish by placing your fingers in the gill slits! Fish gill filaments are very sensitive and can easily be injured. Trout in particular are very sensitive to this. Fish should be handled by cradling the fish near the head and tail if possible, or by gently holding the fish near the mid-section. If the fish is not to be harvested, don't do this.
3. Try to land your fish as quickly as possible and don’t play the fish too much. This is particularly important when fishing for trout in periods of warmer water temperatures), but it is also true for other cold water species when water temperatures are relatively high (greater than 80 degrees F). Also, lactic acid may build up inside the fish, causing more stress and harm. If it takes you a long time to land fish, your drag may be set too loosely or your gear may be too light for the fish you are catching. Also, the fish has more time to throw off the hook.
Above: Handling a fish.
4. Using a fine-mesh landing net may aid in reducing the amount of time required to land a fish and keep it from thrashing about, possibly causing damage to itself. Also, during this time, your fish may throw off the hook, and you would have lost a prized fish.
5. Wet your hands, your net, and other materials that may come in contact with the fish before your land it. Wet hands make the damage to the vital mucus of the fish less severe. Also, if the fish is not for the table, do not se a towel!
6. Keep the fish in the water. It is best to remove the hook from a fish you intend to release without taking it out of the water. Either that, or you minimize the time the fish is out of the water. Try not to envelope the fish with your hands, either. You may have chemicals on your hands that irritate the fish, or you are damaging the mucus coat. You can even overheat smaller trout and other fish with your hands,
7. If you can, try not to use barbed hooks. Barbless hooks can help with the quick removal of the hook from a fish and also reduce the risk of hooking injuries to the angler. Pinching down the barb with needle-nose pliers works to do that. However, the fish can throw off the hook easier.
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.