The Poisonous Snake State

 

Texas, a state known for their long-horned cows, size, and to us, their poisonous snakes. At Big Thicket we had a few close encounters with some deadly snakes. To start out the day, half of the class jumped into the van, including me, to go seine some fish while the other half went canoeing. After driving for about a half hour we arrived at our first creek.  Only have seined fish once I was eager to seine and see some of the different fish that were in Texas. A few of the class members started out and brought up multiple cool fish such as: mad-tom, black tailed chub, and mosquito fish. Then it was my turn to handle the seine. Not even 10 minutes into seining I was dragging the net trying to move it as fast as possible I went from 3 feet of water to what it felt like 5 feet of water. Water was pouring into my waders and I was stuck in the mud unable to get out. When I did finally get out I emptied my waders and surprisingly we still caught fish. After bringing our bucket of fish to Dr. Williams his excitement grew with each fish he identified, yelling “we need to keep this one, and this one, and this one!” After putting all the fish into the alcohol we were back into the van and off to a new site.

Fish Seining at First Pond

The second creek went right under the road from where we parked the van. At this creek, the group separated into two smaller groups. In my group, we went down the creek seining as we went along. When it was Tabby and my turn we seined a narrow snag filled area where more tripping was involved than seining. Surprisingly we caught the coolest fish that round compared to our others from this site. Most of the fish I couldn’t identify, but the one that stood out to me was the war-mouth fish. At that time, it was what I thought to be the prettiest fish we caught so far. Eager to show Dr. Williams our findings we headed back to find a large pond on the side of the creek that we decided to try. One step into the pond we knew it was a no go. Ben was almost up to his knee in mud. The only positive thing about that pond was that we found a rope swing and I went to swing on it and it didn’t break. After catching up to Dr. Williams and the other group we saw their spotted bass that they caught and got to watch them electrofish, which I had never seen before.

War-mouth Fish

After catching more neat fish, like a pickerel fish, we were back in the van. The smell of fish and creek had now filled the van immensely, yet we were so use to our stench we barley smelt it. We stopped at what was going to be our third creek and got out. According to Dr. Williams map it wasn’t that far of a walk so I decided to stay in my waders thinking it would be less changing and keep me warm since I am always cold. I found out quick that it was a bad idea! What started out as a short hike ended up as where is the creek? Where is Casey? After the first 2 miles, everything on me was sweating and I was beginning to get blisters on my feet. I found out waders are not meant for walking in. We all got to sit down and rest for a bit as Dr. Williams turns off the path and goes into the thick forest. After what felt like 20 minutes of Dr. Williams disappearance we were thinking what we would tell Dr. Dennhardt when we came back without Casey. Finally, Dr. Williams emerges from the thick trees to tell us to turn around, the creek was dried up. We headed onto our 3-mile hike back, my wader’s shoes squeaking the whole way back. Into the van we went. For the first time I was in favor of having the air conditioning on high.

After getting out of the van we walked on a trail that lead us into the trees, until we all paused at once. Before us was what looked like an abandoned house or a meth house, still undetermined. We all walked past it in hopes there was no one home. We finally arrived at the creek and there were cypress knees everywhere. We started seining and electrofishing and caught some awesome fish. One of the fish we caught was a long-eared sunfish.

Long-Eared Sunfish

I decided to help electrofish since I have never done it before. While, in the middle of scooping up some minnows up the rest of the group started yelling “SNAKE! Get out of the water!” After hustling out I saw all of them frantically scurry away from what I later found out was a water moccasin. Then just after Dr. Williams tells the group when there’s one there’s more the loudest girlish screech I have ever heard came from Dalton’s mouth. The group gathered onto the highest ground they could find. As our electrofishing group walked over we found out what was the commotion. On one part of the creek was a water moccasin and on the other half was a diamond back snake. From then on, the class of Texas Ecology will forever associate Texas not for being the lone star state but for being the poisonous snake state.

Electrofishing around Cypress Trees

Water Moccasin Snake

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