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A Turtle Story...

Discussion in 'Northeast Ohio Fishing Reports' started by TIGHTLINER, Sep 21, 2004.

  1. Here is an account from one of my turtle catching adventures earlier this summer. I headed out to West Branch Reservoir and set 30 limb lines. At the first location I caught 2 Snapping Turtles and 1 Channel Catfish. The Channel Catfish went about 3 lbs. At another location on the Lake I caught 1 Snapping Turtle and 1 Northern Pike. The Northern Pike measured 28 inches. At my next spot I caught 1 Snapping Turtle. At one of my other spots I didn’t catch anything but I did have one busted line. At another spots I tried I had one limb busted clean off, and I had one hook pulled from the line where apparently the knot failed or slipped. In all of these locations I mixed up the bait with a little crayfish and predominantly cut gizzard shad. The Snapping Turtles from West Branch weighed in at 14.5 lbs, 13 lbs, 8 lbs, and 7.5 lbs. (My rigs consisted of 40 lb monofilament leaders attached to large stainless steel hooks then connected to a large brass swivel then tied to the limbs with 30 lb monofilament. I used laminated tags attached to the limbs with picture wire which worked very well.) After days of frustration and failed attempts I regrouped and rigged my jugs a little differently, baited with cut gizzard shad and set 3 jugs in this private pond where I had been asked to do some nuisance removal of a “big” snapping turtle and I finally scored. To my surprise I caught about a 4 lb Channel Catfish and a nice Snapping Turtle that weighed in at 15.5 lbs. Interestingly enough a few hours after I had set the lines, I received a phone call at around 10:30 p.m. from a Wildlife Officer from West Branch State Park. She was calling to inform me that some concerned fisherman had contacted her about some loud thrashing and a bunch of commotion on the shore of a spot on the lake. She responded to the call from the concerned fisherman and realized that all of the commotion was coming from a Snapping Turtle that was caught on one of my lines. She asked me if I had a valid fishing license, and of course I did, she then complimented me on meeting all of the regulations (license, rigs, and proper tags) and then advised me to go and pick up the turtle. So I set out at 11:00 at night waded into the Reservoir and returned with my prize, 1 ticked off 14.5 lb Snapping Turtle. Now I commend the officer for her efforts of taking the initiative and investigating the call at the lake in the darkness. However at first I was disgruntled about receiving a call at night like that especially since I was breaking no laws and my lines that I set were in accordance with all laws set forth by the Ohio Division of Wildlife. The nosey fisherman that couldn’t mind their own business and apparently checked out my lines to find out that all the commotion was coming from a Snapping Turtle. These fisherman; poorly educated when it comes to fishing rules and regulations then called the ODNR on me that night because they assumed that because I was catching Snapping Turtles by a non traditional means that I was doing some wrong and/or illegal. But on the other hand, I am glad that the officer called and that I went out to land my turtle, because if she would not have responded to the call the “concerned” fisherman probably would have cut my line and I would have lost the turtle and been out the rig. So I guess now I have some mixed feelings, but I am proud of the ODNR officer for how she handled the situation but the nosey fisherman still really burn me up. Sometime people need to mind their own business and things are better left alone. None the less, this was truly my best limb lining adventure yet and it was definitely a lot of fun. Not something I would want to do everyday, believe it or not, there is quite a bit of work involved in running lines the way I do it. I probably had 8 hours invested in set up and retrieval. I wade all of my spots, definitely something everybody should experience once. This can be a lot of fun when done properly. What do you guys think? How about that wildlife officer? TightLines!

    Snapping Turtles (5)
    Channel Catfish (1)
    Northern Pike (1)

    Attached Files:

  2. Well the turtles ate well, fed many and the shells turned out pretty nice. I think of the shells as a trophy of sorts. They are very tough to work with though, very time consuming and tedious. Here is a look at my collection from the past 2 years.......TightLines!

    Attached Files:

  3. I think your shell collection is awesome!
  4. AWESOME!!!
    You set your lines from a boat or wading or both?
    I was told at East Branch years ago that they do not allow bank set lines so I stopped setting them there...
    Can you tell me how you clean your snappers?
    Maybe I can pick up a tip or two...
    THANKS in advance...
  5. is it good? what does it taste like? please don't say chicken.... nice catches though! great job!

  6. steelmagoo

    steelmagoo Enjigneer

    Nice! How do you clean/prep/preserve the shells? I've got a few in the back yard, kinda letting the bugs clean them. I made a cage trap that seems to work better than the wire rope and hook rigs I was using. Had broken hooks and stolen baits more often than not. What size and style hooks do you use?

    KSUFLASH respect our rivers please

    SWEET!!!!!!!!! Thanks for the pic Tightliner..

  8. As far as setting my lines go, I usually like to wait until mid july – august to set them that way its gives the turtles enough time to lay they’re eggs and put some size on. None the less I sold my 4x4 Chevy Blazer for a Pontiac Sunfire which was more economical for gas with me commuting to school. So needless to say I don’t have a means of pulling my boat right now. So I set all of my lines by wading the bank lines. I stepped into some holes, tripped over some deadfalls limbs and sunken timber and by the end of the day I was wet from head to toe, but I had a blast and it was worth every minute of it. As far as setting lines at East Branch…I don’t know I’ve never been there, but I know that some of the privately owned public lakes (i.e. Stark Parks: Dale Walborn -&- Sippo Lake) have independent jurisdiction forbidding the use of limblines, trotlines, and/or jugs. So that may be the case with East Branch.

    I usually like to put the turtles in what I like to cal “quarantine” for a good 5 – 7 days and change the water twice a day and spray them down with the hose to get all of the leaches, the muddiness, and all of the waste matter out of them. I know this sounds funny but don’t put too much water in the holding tanks, just enough to cover the top of the shell, because if not the turtles will drown themselves. Make sure that they can easily rest there nose out of the water. For me turtle cleaning is usually a two man gig (usually me and my dad), it’s a lot safer that way, when you have an extra pair of hands helping you out. A few necessities, are a hatchet, a pair of pliers, and a sharp knife. I usually have somebody grab the turtle by the tail, I clamp onto the turtles top jaw with my pliers, extend its head as far forward out of its shell and proceed to chop it off with the hatchet. I think tie them up to a tree, clothesline, chain, or building, etc. whatever is the most convenient to let them bleed out for a good 10 minutes. Throw the head away in a bag or bury it, I tossed one in the yard once, wasn’t paying attention, and I heard an awful racket coming from over by the chicken coop, and one of the hens was running around with a chopped off snapping turtle head clamped onto its face. After the turtle bleeds out, I flip them over and cut off the feet (claws, toes, whatever) right at the first small bone joint. This keeps you from getting all scratched up from the claws, because it seems that no matter how long you let them bleed out they still squirm and put up a fight the entire time that you are cleaning them. Next I start to work the skin off by cutting around the perimeter of the main shell and the small under body shell, until I have all of the skin peeled off. I usually do the front legs and the neck first and then I do the back legs and about half way down the tail. Next make sure that you cut out the a.nus and the reproductive members of the males to avoid having nasty smelling stuff spill onto the meat. Then I cut off the remainder of the tail. Then I go ahead and clear out all of the guts to avoid having them spill all over the place. Next you twist off the front leg meat, by continually spinning it, until you hear the tendons and sinewy crack of the remaining joints and connecting parts. Do the same for the neck and the hind legs/back. The hind legs/back are the hardest parts to twist out. I usually like to trim all of the fatty deposits off of the meat and then wash it thoroughly before bagging it and freezing it. There is some backstrap meat enclosed by some bone in the top of the shell, but its usually only a small amount and not worth the trouble.

    Thanks for the kind words, I worked really hard on those shells and the simple gratitude makes it more than worth it. So when I start to clean the shells, I cut out the bones/backstrap meat with a pair of tin snips and discard of it. Leave the top two bones intact so that you have something to hang the shell up by. I try to pick/peel/pull as much of the remaining flesh, fatty tissue and meat deposits from the shell as I can. I then take a very large pot, fill it with water completely covering the shell. Over the past couple of years I have experimented with boiling the turtles in several different ways. The easiest way that I have found is to use the stand from the thanksgiving propane outside turkey cookers and boil them out side, because if you try it in the house, the pan usually ends up boiling over, and leaving a nasty smell in the oven. After boiling the shells, as hot as it may be immediately pull the shell out of the water and peel what I like to call “stickers” from the top of the turtle shell. (The green parts that look like puzzle pieces.) Then continue to pull out any left over tissue and meat from the rest of the underside of the shell and especially the spinal area. Next hang the shell up outside in the sun for 2 – 3 hours to let it dry out real good. This is a perfect time to farther examine the shell and look at the growth plates and what not of the shells. Don’t leave them out in the sun for more than a few hours because the material connecting the growth plates will weaken after prolonged exposure and dissipate, leaving you with pieces of a turtle shell. Next spay the shells with some clear acrylic sealer gloss. Repeat this process 2 or 3 times until you reach the desired glossy effect. Let the sealer dry and time and then your done. I also like to record the dates of the catches somewhere small on the underside of the shell just to keep some kind of record.

    Once you do one you’ll probably be disgusted and never want to do one again, but its like anything else; the more you do the easier it gets. Don’t try to do more than two a day, because it just gets to be too much. Well I hope that I didn’t bore you guys too much, and I hope that those of you who were interested in this, took something away from it. I attached a picture of the underside of the turtle shell, to give you guys a little better of an idea, even though the picture is not the greatest, it gives you the idea. If you have any other questions feel free to ask away…….TightLines!

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  9. steelmagoo

    steelmagoo Enjigneer

    Thanks TL. That's pretty close to how I clean mine, although I usually scald the turtle with boiling water after removing the head and feet. Then I can hose off those "stickers" (thin layer of shell) and a thin layer of skin which removes all parasites and algea. Also, I cut the ribs away and get those nice strips of backstrap. I've got a turtle almost ready for cleaning in my garage right now.
  10. This is quite interesting as I have never even caught a turtle before let alone cleaning one. What kind of turtles are those in the above picture? Are they different species? They have a different shell shape (squared off vs. rounded), just wondering if that could help to identify them.
  11. Nice story & pics :) :) Daryl
  12. All of the above turtles are Snapping Turtles. I think that the variations of the Snapping Turtles is one of the coolest things about them. Each one of them has its own features and characteristics. I release a whole lot more than I keep. Hook removal really isn't as bad as it seems. Again, normally a two man gig, one guy holds the tail, and another takes a pair of long handed pliers and removes the hook. I've seen some interesting things in my turtle experiences so far. I've caught turtles with shell damage from being hit by props from powerboats and I've caught some turtles that actually had pellets embedded into their shells where somebody shot at them with a scattergun. Since were talking about turtles, I'll go ahead and post a picture of a softshell turtle that I caught out of lake milton a couple years ago.......TightLines!

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  13. Just about the same here too! I think the front end is a lot easier to remove than the hind end, but I use tin snips to cut the hip loose from the shell.

    I never mess with the I missing anything special?...and those back straps have to be the toughest meat known to to goose breasts :D

    Here's the biggest of the year for me

    29 lbs.

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  14. Eat the neck! It's definately the most tender part of the turtle. That's a nice 29lber, my biggest of all time is only 19 lbs. My dad's biggest of all time is 46lbs caught out at the portage lakes in his younger days. A picture of it used to hang in Jack Manda's bait shop for years.