Water snake vs. Brook Trout

Tuesday afternoon, August 16, I went out to fish the Swift.  It was a beautiful afternoon, mostly overcast and humid, but water in the high 50s made for comfortable conditions. And the trout were obliging nicely!  Well, late in the afternoon, a brief, but heavy rain shower came through.  After it passed, the sound of water dripping off the trees became a consistent and comforting noise.  About 10 minutes after the dripping slowed, I heard a different rhythm of splashing at the bank.  When I looked, I could see what appeared to be a brookie trying to climb the steep shoreline!  They often porpoise or completely fly out of the water to catch insects on this river, and at first I thought it had done just that and landed on the shore… Then I saw something had it.

I waded over, and was amazed to see this large, probably 30” (or more) long, watersnake had caught the brookie, which was about a 6” fish, and was trying to bring it up on shore.  I was amazed!  My first thought was to save the brookie, but that snake would NOT let go.  When I’d pull the fish, it was clear that if the little trout came out of the snakes’ mouth, its tail was going to stay with the snake.  Once I realized that, I wanted to get a few pictures – because this was just amazing to see!

I’ve read that watersnakes eat fish.  But I always figured it would be little 2” long chubs and darters or fry. I never thought they would eat a fish as big as this one, nor did I think they could have caught a fish as quick as a wild brook trout. 

It really made me wonder about the many wild brook trout streams I enjoy fishing around central MA – how big of an impact do snakes have on those fish? 

Regardless, it was a really neat encounter.  And while I enjoyed catching a bunch of trout (brookies, browns and rainbows) that afternoon, what made it really fun, and really memorable, was getting to see nature taking its own course, with this hungry watersnake being the main protagonist.

--Will Kirousis, Millers River Chapter

Posted by Gary Metras, Pioneer Valley Chapter


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