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Invasion Of The Panhandling Snapping Turtles

New chums are made over Labor Day weekend.

There is nothing like a free aquatic meal to spark chumminess.

Snapping turtles in the greater Cary area approach you looking for handouts. I discovered this when I was fishing from the floating aluminum pier Sunday at Lake Atwood, a 22-acre body of water west of the Jewel grocery store.

I should have been taking notes and snapshots Sunday. But all I had with me was fishing gear. I was going after bass and I used a lure that looked like a minnow.  Later I used capers on a small treble hook.

Lake Atwood is like a crowded aquarium. The water is so clear that you can go there and watch the fish show. It's a whirl of bluegills and catfish.

Then a monster startled me. 

A snapping turtle with a head the size of a baseball gazed at me from the weeds, just a few feet away. It wouldn’t leave. And I swear, it was grinning at me. I knew what it wanted.  It was panhandling. So I threw it the bait I was using, a few capers – berries from a caper tree. Capers resemble berries from a juniper bush, except the caper is smaller, darker and softer probably because it’s been pickled.  It’s a garnish for chicken and fish.  

Anyway, the monster snapper didn’t like the capers. In slow motion it pulled down its periscope and walked around the pier, moving like a tank. It must have weighed more than 50 pounds. It changed positions, looking for other anglers with tastier bait. I was the only one on the pier about 2 p.m. Sunday. 

Then a smaller snapper came walking up underwater. The monster snapper wasn’t having any of that. Might makes right.  The smaller turtle was crowding the monster. The bluegills sensed something was up. The fish formed a circle around the two belligerents.  It was a violent tussle of turtles.  They went after one another and disappeared in an explosion of lake-bed mud. When the mud settled only the big guy was left.  The smaller snapper must have hightailed it.

The next day I had my camera. We were going shopping for a Labor Day party, but I convinced my wife to come with me to the pier. She, too, wanted to see the big snapper I had told her about.

But it wasn’t there.

We were walking back to the parking lot when a woman who saw the camera around my neck asked me if I wanted to take a photo of a big turtle. 

This snapper had a shell covered in moss and was standing in shallow water. It was a big turtle, but much smaller than the monster snapper I had seen the day before.

The woman was part of a family of four – with two small children. They were tossing earthworms to this panhandling turtle. The turtle was snapping them up. It wouldn't leave.

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