Turtles make up one of the most interesting groups of reptiles. I seemed to find them everywhere I go fishing, especially since I moved to Tennessee. In this post I will show you several that decided to take my fish bait.
Some of the others I saw sitting around the lake or in the waterways nearby. One even traveled up to my yard to lay her eggs last Summer.
This is one of the most interesting turtles I have ever caught. Notice the red and yellow on the plastron under its chin. I catch so many turtles in the small lake where I fish. Of course, I release them all back into the lake after examining them and making sure the hooks are removed.
This unfortunate snapping turtle got snagged on my fishing lure as I brought it back to the shore. He wasn’t happy to be so rudely taken. After snapping and hissing, I was able to remove him with my hook pliers and set him free. This is just one of three snapping turtles that I have caught down at the lake so far. One of the others snapped out and jumped toward my camera and hit the lens. It got my attention and taught me to respect these aggressive turtles.
These turtles can grow to massive sizes. Below is a picture of one I saw in a stream-bed under a dam at Radnor Lake State Park in Brentwood, Tennessee. It was about three feet long.
Interestingly, the Snapping turtles are actually good fishermen. They actually use a lure, part of their tongue that looks like a worm. As they wave it in the water with their mouths open, along come fish trying to eat the worm. Snap! Guess who becomes dinner?
Here are some more pictures of snapping turtles I caught since first publishing the first post. This snapper tried to bite me a couple of times. Needless to say, I moved quickly! I was able to flip the biggest one over and get some pictures of its belly. Notice also the long claws.
I caught one on chicken liver and the other on a hunk of bluegill. I was trying to catch a catfish. This big one is about two feet long.
Here are some more turtles. Notice that most of these are Red-eared sliders.
Time to lay some eggs.
The turtle below laid eggs under a tree in my front yard. It traveled about a quarter mile from the lake to my yard.
Can you see the area behind her? She dug a hole and carefully laid and buried the eggs.
Worms and cut up bluegill were too tempting to these turtles.
One day I caught seven turtles in just a couple hours. The picture (above right) with three turtles, shows three of the seven still on shore before I let them all go back into the lake.
Below is a softy!
One of the turtles was much different from the others. It was a soft-shelled turtle. The picture above shows the underside of a Soft-shelled turtle.
Keep Turtles Where They Belong!
Though most turtles spend most of their lives in the water, some types are more terrestrial, like the box turtles. The majority of water turtles are the Red-eared sliders. Unfortunately many of these have been introduced into the environment by people with good intentions but a poor knowledge of the environment.
When I was a child, red-eared sliders were sold by the thousands to people wanting a cute pet. Practically every kid had one in a plastic container. What they didn’t tell you when you bought one was that they grow up and often outlive their owners. When the turtles got bigger and people didn’t like maintaining a suitable habitat for their pets, they took them to the nearest lake or stream and released them. This caused a lot of problems for the native turtles in those regions. Competition for food and space created a difficult situation for the natives. Unfortunately many of these species were threatened and some were completely wiped out in certain areas. Today there is an over-abundance of this species. Go to any park pond and you will probably see what I mean. The turtles are often stacked on top of each other on the logs in the pond and on the shore-line.
Turtles do serve a purpose in the areas you find them. They are the clean-up crew. They will eat dead and decaying fish, help control the insect population, and regulate the fish if there are too many of a given species.
Enjoy Them Where You Are!
When God created the turtles He designed them well for where they live. Their hard shells, ( for most turtles), provide great protection from predators who seek to eat them. When the enemy comes they just withdraw into their shells and hide until the threat passes. Many also have offensive weapons to use to drive off other animals or each other. The snapping turtles are probably the best example of this. They can literally snap off a broom handle with their powerful beaks. Turtles also give off warning hisses when they think someone or something is getting too close.
Below are a couple pictures from Texas of some large turtles that come up and sun-bathe on shore at my son’s house on Spring Lake.
Just Hanging Out In The Sun!
Notice that more than one species can occupy the same area. This big guy must be at the top of the pecking order. Turtles love to lay out in the sun to warm up.
Look For Turtles Near You.
Why not take some time to watch the turtles in your area. They have many interesting habits and are sure fun to watch while sitting lake-side and fishing. You may see a head pop up out of the lake when they come up for air. Look along the shore-line. They will often be sunning themselves on a the ground, a rock or a log. Just be sure to take along a pair of pliers to remove the hook if they decide to eat your bait!