Now that the weather is warm and the turtles are out, I’ll be catching them in my beaver sets when I’m doing removal jobs. I decided that this year, rather than them being nuisances that negatively impact my beaver work, that I was going to actively target them when doing a beaver job.
This would do two things – it would put even more free meat on my table and by deliberately removing the turtles, it would help keep my beaver traps clear so I can do the job I’m hired to do. Just another way to take what most people consider a negative and turn it into a positive. Being able to turn a negative into a positive is a mindset you will need the tougher times get – and they are going to get tough.
I started to invest in some hoop nets or wire cage traps, but a few days ago Alabama slammed the door on commercial turtle harvesting because the Chinese were buying everything that had a shell and four legs, and out of staters were coming in and decimating the populations. We are still allowed to keep two a day for personal consumption. Because of this I turned to bank lines instead of traps. Besides, traps are bulky and hard to transport on foot – and a lot of my nuisance beaver work requires foot access.
Fortunately any place that’s good beaver habitat is also good turtle habitat, so I have access to a lot of good turtle spots. The first problem I had to solve was the bait issue. Most people use chicken livers and tie it to the hook with elastic thread of some sort to keep the bait on the hook. Since I’m hiking in on foot – the less I have to carry the better, and trying to carry a plastic tub of chicken livers didn’t work well. I also had trouble with the bait getting robbed as well.
I spent some time trying catfish ‘punch baits’. They stunk like you wouldn’t believe, but it would dissolve off the hook after a while.
In the past, it had been very common for beavers that I caught in 330′s or drowner sets to be half eaten by snappers when I got to my sets the next day. Snappers – like everything else, likes beaver meat. I wasn’t about to use beaver meat for bait, as I eat that myself, but the fur was a different matter. I took a damaged beaver pelt and cut 2″ x 2″ squares of beaver hide that had the fat and meat still on it. I embedded a 4/0 treble hook in the fur making a fur ball out of it. The beaver hide is so tough it is impossible to pull off the hook. No robbing this bait!
The next thing I realized is that I can take a pre baited hook, wrap the line around it and make the whole thing into a ready to use ball and carry it in a shirt pocket with no fear of getting hooked or getting it tangled up. The beaver hide makes for a nice soft ball.
But, would it catch turtles?
I put out two lines and the next morning I had two turtles.
I was sold. This bait is free, easy to handle, doesn’t stink and works like a charm. It’s hands down the best turtle bait I’ve found. While I haven’t tested it, I’d be willing to bet that any road kill fur would work. I’d also bet that if you saved the pelt from a deer killed in deer season that would work as well.
I’m going to keep experimenting, but if you’re in the mood to catch a few snappers, remember you don’t have to buy bait at the store. You can catch your own – or pick it up off the side of the road.