So, I’m sitting here, drinking homewine, looking over the progress pictures of this flooring installation, when I happen across photos of Matt fixing a turtle shell with a crapload of spring clamps and beer cans. And then I realize, I never made a post about that story.
We were fishing up on Cherokee Marsh one day in July, I think after a bad day trying to catch muskie on the other lakes in Madison. We were after big channel cats, like we usually are up there. We didn’t go terribly far from the launch- maybe a half mile up the marsh, and close to the western bank. There were fish thrashing around near the cattails, and we had our lines out for them.
I sit on the platform on the front of the boat, and I typically only throw in two lines, as opposed to the three we’re allowed. Three lines are too many to monitor, in my opinion, and I’ve caught my share of big cats with just one or two in the water. Anyhow. We’re sitting, enjoying the quiet as the sun is going down. I’m watching my bobbers after having caught one cat already. Suddenly, one of them drops down, the one with a cut up, dead shiner. But it doesn’t go out and strip line, like it does when a catfish takes it. The water, though murky, is shallow. I can see the dull glow of the plastic under the surface. It just… sits there. So I set the hook and start to reel.
It’s heavy. Really, really heavy. Matt tells me I hooked into a log. I insist I didn’t, and the bobber was fine seconds ago, and I watched it go under. So, I give him the rod, and I get the big net. He reels and pulls, wondering what on Earth this heavy object is. We finally pull whatever it is up- and it’s a snapping turtle. I get the net under it in a hurry- it bends the aluminum frame of the net. I have to clamp the net under my arm and hold it with both hands, and I still set it down on the floor of the boat. The turtle lets go of the bait in order to begin hissing at us- the hook was never set in its mouth, the mean old thing just never let go. This would be to his detriment, because Matt had never caught a snapper before, and he wanted to keep it. They were in season and we had the small game license required, so we did, even though any snapper I’d hooked before, I always cut the line.
The back of our boat has another platform with a hatch in it, to store batteries and other odds and ends. I didn’t want this thing running around the bottom of the boat near my toes, so Matt drops it in and snaps the hatch shut. Mind you, we can still hear it scratching and thumping and hissing around in there. We left shortly thereafter.
So we get this thing home. It’s still mean and hideously ugly. I’ve heard turtle is good to eat, and I’ll try anything once. Trouble is, we haven’t the first clue how to kill this thing, beyond Matt’s idea of shooting it in the head. We’re in town, and gunshots are highly frowned upon here. We end up finding directions on the interwebs. I’ll spare you the details- I’m not sure I’d want to do it again. I felt pretty awful about it, even though I don’t like snapping turtles.
The thing is, no one tells you that snapping turtles’ muscle contract, even 24 hours after they die. It’s not like a twitch here or there- I was trying to skin the legs of this thing a full day after we killed it and it was flexing its dismembered muscles in the palm of my hand. Eerie, to say the least. I finally skin the thing and dull the crap out of my good chef’s knife, and put it in the slow cooker. Sadly enough, my poor old crockpot decided to kick the bucket in the middle of the night while it cooked. And it was just warm enough to put the meat off. I was sad to lose my first try at turtle meat to equipment failure and spoilage.
But Matt was pretty pumped about having a turtle shell. We carved and scraped out what meat we could, and we let the summertime flies do their grody work. There was still some dried out meat, so he soaked it in a bucket of water to try and remove it. That made the bone of the shell expand and ultimately fall apart, and the scales also fell apart. Which leads us to the pictures I mentioned- he super glued the shell back alone the natural fissures a week or two ago, and then started putting the scales back on this weekend. The clamps held down the edges of the scales, and the beer cans weighed down the center of the scales.