In case you’re ever tempted to poke your hand into a fish’s mouth, don’t.
There might be a snake in it.
That’s what happened to an East Tennessee fisherman awhile back. Knoxville TV station WVLT reported angler Dan Boudrie caught a largemouth bass, and when he reached down to land it, he saw something inside its mouth.
“It was a snake, with its head pointed toward me,” Boudrie said.
The report didn’t explain what happened next, but quoted Boudrie as saying, “I wondered how I would explain to the ER doc that I got bit by a snake from putting my hand in a fish’s mouth.”
Boudrie snapped a photo and sent it the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, which responded with this unique public-service announcement.
“Be careful when reaching into a fish’s mouth.”
It’s not unusual for big bass to feed on snakes. There are foot-long plastic lures designed to mimic a snake slithering along the water’s surface. Bass also eat full-grown frogs and salamanders and just about anything else they can swallow.
Sometimes they try to eat something they can’t swallow.
I was fishing on Crossville’s Lake Tansi one summer when I saw a fish splashing in the shallows. I puttered over and found a 5-pound bass frantically thrashing around. I scooped it up in the landing net, and immediately saw its problem.
A hand-sized bluegill was stuck halfway down its throat. The bluegill was too big to swallow, but too far down for the bass to disgorge. I took it home and had it for supper. The eater got eaten.
I empathized with the bass. Once when I was a child, my mom had to take me to the emergency room to get a bluegill bone removed from my throat. But supper’s supper.
I had a similar experience with a northern pike I caught in Canada. The 3-foot-long pike hit a big spinning lure, and when I landed it, a walleye’s tail was protruding from the pike’s mouth.
The walleye was a foot long – too big for the pike to swallow all the way down. But even though it literally couldn’t eat another bite, it still hit a spinning lure.
That’s known as an aggression strike. Pugnacious pike and musky will often hit a lure not because they’re hungry, but instinctively, out of pure aggression. They are the Mike Tysons of the fish world.
Catfish will eat anything and everything. A few years ago, a photo went viral showing one with a child’s orange basketball lodged in its mouth. The big flathead was spotted frantically splashing on the surface like the Lake Tansi bass in a lake next to a residential area. The basketball rolled into the lake, and the catfish tried to eat it.
The cat was netted, the basketball punctured so it could be removed and the fish set free.
Some fish tales are hard to swallow.
Longtime outdoors columnist Larry Woody is a three-time winner of the Tennessee Sports Writer of the Year award and is the author of several books, including “Along for The Ride.” Woody covered NASCAR from the early 1960s until late 2007 in addition to SEC sports, minor league baseball, the Tennessee Titans and the Vanderbilt Commodores.