Monday, April 11, 2011

Slow fishing turns into superb snaking

I love spring... but probably not for the same reasons as most people.

As I mentioned in a previous post, springtime is snake time.

On Saturday, Kelly and I decided to take a short trip down the highway for a little warmwater fly fishing at a creek in north Mississippi. It turns out the fishing wasn't so hot. We saw fish, a few really nice ones actually, but only managed a handful of small Crappie and a single Bluegill between the two of us. (Official count: Kelly- 4, Jay- 1, but who's counting?)

It was the warmest day of the year thus far (temps in the high 80s), but I wasn't really expecting to see many snakes out and about. Lately, the weather here has been erratic to say the least. Forty degree temperature swings in less than 24 hours have caused some serious storms, and I wasn't sure if the snakes would be convinced that spring has really sprung.

I was very wrong.

We walked several miles of trail adjacent to the creek, and when you cover a lot of ground in the South during spring you're bound to cross paths with a snake... or two... or more.

In total we found nine snakes, which is probably more than some people will see in an entire season spent in the great outdoors. Like I've said before, the South is a "snakey" place... and our outing Saturday illustrates my point quite well.

Saturday snake summary:
  • 3 Blackmask Racers (Coluber constrictor latrunculus)- some really big ones, the first one I caught chewed up my right thumb pretty good... which really just added insult to injury, because I cut my middle finger on my left hand really badly Friday afternoon while working around the house... oops. Note to self: take better care of your hands... they're pretty useful.
  • 2 Speckled Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki)- a huge male, the biggest I've ever seen in the wild, looking for love from a female half his size who was headed down a hole in the ground. I extracted her from her subterranean refuge... easier said than done.
  • 2 Eastern Hognose Snakes (Heterodon platirhinos)- the ones we saw were melanistic, but normal... and not like this one. I haven't seen a live Hognose in the wild in quite some time, so this was a special treat. The Hognose Snakes I've seen recently have either been in captivity or dead on road (DOR).
  • 1 Western Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus leucostoma)- sitting right on the trail and not the least bit afraid of us. As tempting as it was, I decided not to "take up serpents"... probably a good choice.
  • 1 Yellowbelly Water Snake (Nerodia erythrogaster flavigaster)- I mentioned to Kelly that I really wanted to find a water snake to complete the day... so... she dropped (read "lost") her fly box on the trail for me to go back and find it. She couldn't possibly know for sure that I would find my desired water snake... but if it wasn't for her providing me the opportunity to walk two miles unnecessarily, I wouldn't have seen it. Thanks, babe.

In photographs...

Blackmask Racer gathering chemosensory information.

Kelly shows off a pair of Speckled Kingsnakes.

Cottonmouth showing off how they got their name.

Contemplating "taking up serpents."

... and for the first time on The Naturalist's Angle, video for your "edutainment"...









My Youtube channel is "FlyFishingNaturalist", and there will be more to come. Hopefully, there will be a fishing video uploaded sometime soon.

Even though the fish weren't really biting, we still had a great time. Just remember, if the fishing is slow, snaking might just save the day.

26 comments:

  1. I'm sorry Jay...you two are f#%cking nuts! I'm like Indiana Jones, I don't like snakes. That said, a very, VERY cool post.

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  2. Thanks, Mike. We think we're totally normal, and all of the snake "scaredy cats" are kinda weird.

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  3. I've got to show my son Ben this, he is a fearless snaker too.

    Very cool and novel idea (at least to me).

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  4. step aside jack hanna. sit in the backseat bill nye. jay the fly fishing naturalist is here. great videos. i look forward to the next installment. SCIENCE is a word that is best said loudly.

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  5. FCS, thanks for the comment. Be sure Ben has a good field guide so he knows for sure what he's getting into. Fearless is fine for the non-venomous species, but a healthy fear of being bitten by a venomous snake is good thing.

    Ivan, thanks for stopping by and the kind words. We need to get some editing software. If there was a TV personality I would aspire to be like, it would be Steve Irwin "The Crocodile Hunter." His enthusiasm for wildlife conservation will never be matched, and sadly he died in a tragic accident. I know a lot of people thought he was a clown, but he really wasn't that much of a daredevil, and I don't think his death was a result of him taking any great risk. In my opinion he really did know his stuff and did a great job of educating the world about wildlife.

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  6. I'm not a huge fan of snakes but this was a neat post to read. Watching the one in the last video race away was pretty cool.

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  7. TAGC, even if you're not a huge fan, you can still think they're "cool"... and that's cool by me. I just want people to change their attitudes from "the only good snake is a dead snake" to "snakes are important members of healthy ecosystems."
    Racers are fun to watch. They can move pretty fast... especially on a warm day.

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  8. I've got to give you your due Jay. While my opinion of snakes are well known, I admire the work you do with so much dedication. Cool post.

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  9. Thanks, Howard. That means a lot to me.

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  10. Very entertaining and the video is a plus. I have only seen two snakes so far in our ten acre woods.

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  11. Very Natural, very entertaining, and Nuts!

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  12. Larry & Josh, I'm happy to entertain.

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  13. Glad to know you haven't changed a bit, Jay. I don't know where on earth you found Kelly, but you two are ssssssssssimply a match made in Heaven;-).

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  14. Jen, I found her at a party at the zoo. Where else would I meet someone? Actually she found me, but you get the idea.

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  15. I've always wondered about catching snakes on a fly... Cool post!

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  16. Holy crap! I don't what else to say.

    Spring is definitely a "snakey" time. Last April on the 11 Point we saw at least 10 snakes - Dustin almost stepped on a water moc, he was a little nervous about that and he loves snakes like you do. As the water moc swam away from us, he struck at a passing boat. Can we say aggressive? Probably a good idea you didn't play too much with the cottonmouth.

    -stephanie

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  17. Pretty cool stuff, Jay. These snake posts are great.

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  18. Anthony, Interesting thought. I've never caught a snake on a fly, but I've seen several water snakes try to steal trout from a stringer. Snakes are pretty well cued in to prey odor... and only the specific type(s) of prey they eat. They don't really attempt to eat things that don't smell right. Unless you heavily scented a fly (like a marabou muddler) to smell like baitfish, I think it would be nearly impossible to actually catch a snake on a fly.

    Stephanie, I've seen lots of water snakes on canoe trips on the Spring River. That's about the only time to expect to see as many snakes as you did- water snakes in and around water. Certain places you could easily catch a hundred in a night- like a catfish farm. That's pretty predictable. What was so awesome about our day Saturday was that only two of the snakes were semi-aquatic (YB water snake and Cottonmouth). Finding seven terrestrial snakes of three different species in a day when you're not really trying is pretty darn awesome.

    Ty, glad you've enjoyed them.

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  19. That was awesome...great post!

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  20. No snake-handling videos with the cottonmouth, eh?!

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  21. Sneektip, sorry... Kelly wouldn't let me play with the hot stuff. I have "played with" venomous snakes in the past, but a Cottonmouth who has warmed in the sun is not going to be slow on the strike. In the summer, when I go out at night I'll occasionally pick up a Cottonmouth so I can manipulate it for a photograph and they're quite docile at night... it's still not something for the kids to try at home. Maybe I'll post a pic of me holding one soon... stay tuned.

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  22. Jay
    I thought I posted a comment on this snake thing, but somehow it got lost I guess. I enjoyed this post, but deliver me from having or being near a snake. Let me handle the fish as opposed to the snakes---you my friend are one brave soul.

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  23. Bill, I'm not really that brave. Snakes really aren't that scary. Rest assured that when you and I go fishing together, I'll protect you from the snakes.

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  24. spectacular stuff Jay. thoroughly enjoyed it! I like that you took the time to directly address the misconception of the racers chasing people down leaving no room for debate :)

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  25. Hi, Sorry I am way late on the post, I am a wildlife bio teacher living in north MS. I spent some time working with hots out in AZ, but have yet to find a good fishing/herping spot in MS. I was wondering if you would be willing to share where this creek is, or other spots in the area to find fish and snakes.

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