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.
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