Taylor caught a small snapping turtle in the pond while fishing one early summer day in 2000. She reeled him in but half way up the steep bank, he got away. He was small, maybe 5″ from one end of his shell to the other. We threw lines out for him the entire summer but didn’t see him again until the following year. We wondered how to catch a snapping turtle but didn’t put much effort into the task at first. That was a mistake.
Snapping Turtles Can’t Live in Our Pond
We started having problems two years later when the snapping turtle started drowning mature ducks and ducklings. Our trout surfaced with bites out of them and then died a few days later. Eventually the snapping turtle was big enough to bite our 115 pound dog Sebastian’s tail and cause an infection.
Steve built traps the turtle would go into but that weren’t strong enough to hold him. A neighbor baited big hooks with rotting meat, tied them onto Hi-C containers, and tossed them into the pond. That didn’t work. I tried shooting it when it stuck its nose up to breath but couldn’t hit it. We never saw the turtle on land.
How to Catch a Snapping Turtle
So how did I catch a snapping turtle? I used two tools, the first being floating fish food we feed the rainbow trout. Grass in the water moved a few feet away. “Gawd, what happened to that fish,” I wondered. Its face was muddy and disfigured. It settled on the bottom, well hidden by the grass and mud it stirred up. I could barely see it. I wanted it out of the pond because it was big enough to breed (too many hornpout in the pond). I got the second tool, the net, from the boat.
Except, it wasn’t a fish. I stood sideways on the bank, left foot lower than right, right foot perched on a rock, knee bent, end of the net’s handle resting on my leg, the net out over the water, ready to snag fish. The food pellet floating above his head was tempting. He started to stretch to get it but stopped. We stared at each other. He wanted the food. I wanted him. I needed him to move six inches closer to me to be sure I’d get him. If I lunged forward to reach him I’d surely fall face first from the steep bank into the cold, cloudy water. A mosquito landed on my eyelash, and when I moved to brush it away, Turtle turned his head to the right and took a step. He was leaving.
Eight years of frustration kicked in. I slammed the net into the water, forcing it down until the rim hit Turtle’s shell, pinning him to the bottom. Mud swirled. I couldn’t see him but I could feel him struggling to be free of the rim. Without thinking, I reached out the extra six inches. The rim fell over the shell and landed on solid ground allowing me to brace myself. I thought I had him. I regained my balance and pulled the net across the mud toward me. It came too easily.
Suddenly, the net was heavy. I had him. Three seconds after the net slammed into the water, it was over. He didn’t fight much as I climbed the bank but half way to the house he started hissing and fighting. Expect a bit of a struggle but if your net is strong you’ve got time to get away from the water. If I have to do this again I’ll add a third tool – something to put the turtle in without having to walk 100 yards to the house!