High on snakes and bass

I set out for a walk around Cutler Pond today hoping to see one of those northern water snakes that were around regularly last summer. I had only seen one so far this whole year.

Along the near side of the pond, on the dike between the pond and the marsh along the river, a guy was fishing at the big open spot that’s the obvious place for fishing. I looked in the bucket near him to see what he had been catching. Besides a couple of sunnies, there was a good-sized, and I mean twelve or fourteen inches, largemouth bass. Well! I didn’t know there were bass that size in that pond. I asked him what he was using for bait, and he showed me his can of earthworms, and then went on to tell me how smart fish were. If one of them gets off the hook on the road there it will flop towards the pond, not the other way. Then he showed me how he baits his hook and covers all of it with the worm, because if even just the point is showing the fish will have nothing to do with it. Then he went on to talk about catching the worms, at night when they’re above the ground (that’s why they’re called night crawlers, after all) and how you have to move fast and grab them at the end next to their burrow, not try for the far end or they’ll get into the ground before you know it. I’ve done a little fishing myself, but that big bass in his bucket gave him a lot of credibility, and I figured I could probably learn something by listening. Along about this time I noticed line paying out of the reel of his fishing rod, and said, “Something’s taking your line — you’d better get the rod and see what’s happening.” He had a fish on. And, holy smokes, not just any fish, when it was close enough to see, but a big largemouth. I mean, close to 20 inches. The biggest largemouth I’ve ever seen in Massachusetts, for sure.

After I helped the guy untangle his stringer so he could tie the fish down to discourage it from jumping out of the bucket, and took a couple of pictures of it with my iPhone, a man and woman who were walking towards us thirty yards down the path started talking very animatedly. “It’s huge!” she said. “This fish?” I asked. “No, the snake we just saw.” I got more specifics and ran over to check. Sure enough, it was one of those water snakes I was hoping to see. I went back to the fisherman, thanked him again for everything he had told me, and went back along my way. When I got to the snake, I saw a garter snake next to it. At first I thought the water snake had caught it for lunch, but no, it was just hanging out, with its head up, looking around. It didn’t take kindly to my being there and slithered away before I could get a group portrait, but I did get a picture of the water snake.

Further on, at the end of the side path leading to the river, was another water snake, smaller and with clearer red and yellow marks. What a bonanza! Three snakes and a fishing lesson on one walk!

(check back for pictures later. I left the cable for the iPhone up in Maine. I’ve ordered another one from Apple, but it’s not going to be here for several more days.)

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