LeBlanc: Be alert for snakes while fishing

It looks like summer has finally decided to get serious and things are warming up. I was speaking with fishing guide Butch Terpe last week and he said he had a party out that day and when they came in at 10 a.m. that morning, the water temperature in the main lake was 91 degrees.

If you haven't done it yet, you might see if you can get some air conditioning professional out to check over your system at home and also get your car into a shop to have the radiator hoses and antifreeze checked.

Butch and I somehow got on the subject of experiences we had encountered over the years with snakes while we were fishing and I thought I would pass some of that info along to you.

Folks need to be aware of our snake population and especially those people new to Southeast Texas and the upper Texas Gulf coast.

Texas is home to over 105 different species and subspecies of snakes, but there are basically only four that can be harmful to people: the Cottonmouth Water Moccasin, Copperhead, Rattlesnake and Coral snake. The most common snake in our part of Texas is the non venomous Rat Snake.

I am not a big fan of having snakes for a pet or playing with them but neither am I paranoid and panic when I see one. I was born and raised on the upper Texas Gulf Coast where there was no shortage of snakes and alligators and other critters that I never could warm up to, yet know how much good they all do. I draw the line at venomous snake around our yard. My wife too does not panic when she sees a snake as she knows the venomous ones when she sees them and will call me to deal with it.

When Butch and I were talking it came to my mind that I used to keep my fish on a stringer tied off to a cleat on the boat and hung off in the water. I stopped Doing that after one day pulling up the stringer to put another fish on it and found a Cottonmouth Water Moccasin hanging on to one of the fish. I then went to a tow sack to keep my fish in.

Just a point to remember when you go fishing down on the gulf never hang your fish on a stringer because all that is doing is inviting sharks and barracudas to lunch. That also holds true for any natural bait. Keep it all far away from you.

When I mention that to Butch about the snake on the fish on the stringer he said he had had a similar situation using a stringer. He said he also had a cottonmouth try to climb over the transom and get in his boat. I had the same thing happen to me early one morning while fishing on Big Hill Bayou in Jefferson, County, near the coast. I can tell you for sure that will make you jumpy for the rest of the day.

I can also remember one time when I was a teen, my dad and I were out fishing in the marsh in our boat. We would be where we wanted to fish by daylight in the summer to evade the heat and in that mostly shallow water the bass would hunker down when the day heated up and stop biting. Once we stopped fishing for bass we would rig up with a cork, split shot and small hook and fish for Blue Gill for a while in one of the deep spots we knew.

On one day I was sitting watching my cork and it bobbled and then disappeared so I set the hook and brought it up out of the water and there on my hook was a cottonmouth water moccasin. I just sat there looking at it hanging there out over the water and my dad told me to hold it still, which I did, and he removed the snake from the line with a 12 gauge shotgun.

At that time we never went into the marsh unarmed, kind of like going into any big city nowadays.

Cottonmouth water moccasins are not the only snake you will see in the water. There is also the banded water snakes that is common in this part of the country. Unlike the cottonmouth it is not venomous, but like the cottonmouth they have a nasty disposition.

When you get closer to the coast and along deserted beach area you may encounter a canebrake rattlesnake in the waters of the marsh that is kin to a Timber rattlesnake and get big. Therefore when you run on some driftwood along a beach on the Gulf Coast make sure it is not the home of a rattlesnake or cottonmouth. They will hunt rodents that venture from the sand dunes or marsh.

So friends, I suggest you get a book or look online and learn to identify the venomous snake that we have around us. Don't assume that just because the greed motivated land developers are stripping the land of trees and covering it with concrete that there are no more natural critters around.

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