Lake Pend Oreille: A Tell Tale Sign in the Water

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Predator of Another Kind

I had just pushed off Go Fish Charter’s Fishing Guide, Chad Landrum, and his happy 3-man charter from my dock where they had come into lunch and share their stories of a good morning on walleye. As the boat moved out and took current under his engine, I saw this carcass floating right beside the dock. At first glance I thought it was small mouth bass, and told Chad on the phone that’s what I thought I had seen. He told me he had seen it as well and that he thought it was a tench, and ancient holdover generally considered a scrap fish.

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The Phenomenon

Chad was right. when I processed the digital and looked at it more carefully, I could see that it was indeed a tench. Though the eyes are the same color as that of a small mouth, the head is shaped differently, showing the bottom feeder of a non-predatory genealogy. What I found most interesting was the way in which the obviously dead fish had been eaten. The bite and scratch marks were not recognizably like anything I had ever seen on aquatic carrion in North Idaho. I went on about my business just kind of puzzled, trying to think what kind of animal or bird would have eaten a dead fish in that manner.

It wasn’t until the following day when we hosted the Cofrances family of kids and two of their close friends that the mystery came to light. I heard one of the older teens, Bob Byrum’s daughter, Beth Byrum, exclaim that there was a large turtle in the water at the edge of the sandy shoreline. Beth is the youngest member of an incredible singing group, Sarabeth, that I hope to feature sometime on this or another site.

I expected to see a Painted Turtle, a variety common to these waters; instead, I was surprised to see, when she picked it up, that it was in fact a non-native Snapping Turtle. I had seen them before on a trip through the South.

That was now several days ago. I’ve mentioned it to half a dozen people I know and was surprised to learn that others who’ve lived around Lake Pend Oreille all of their lives have seen them before also. My brother-in-law for one had heard something scratching in his garage a year ago or so and was shocked to find a Snapping Turtle sitting on the seat of his riding lawnmower.

Invasive Species

How they got here is anybody’s guess. I say probably an aquarium release of a young turtle or two when someone moved. Who knows. I can only guess at this point that they are reproducing. This one was a male. It was obvious–let’s just leave it at that.

I certainly intend to question Idaho Department of Fish & Game officials about it. I’ll show them the photos if they laugh at me. And if I learn more, I’ll share it here on IFishWrite.

~Dwayne on Twitter @IFishWrite