Outdoors: Snake bitten on the lake

Despite an anxious moment while fishing in Central Cass County, garter snakes are still considered harmless. (Contributed photo)



It was a beautiful sunny afternoon when my brother-in-law Tim Gilbert and I decided we should run over to a neat little lake in Central Cass County to see if we could pick up a few largemouth bass.

We knew it wasn’t the greatest afternoon for landing big bass with little wind and clear blue skies, but it was just too nice to hang around the cabin. So, we hauled my oversized boat to the lake and launched it on a landing designed for canoes and kayaks.

We were fishing for about an hour picking up some small bass when we noticed a garter snake swimming toward our boat. It was coming at us like it planned to jump in the boat and join in on the action. The snake went under the boat and completely disappeared.

Using the trolling motor, I turned the boat into some small circles to see if we could see where the snake had gone, but it had completely vanished. I told Tim that it almost looked like that crazy snake was coming after us.

We really weren’t too worried about the snake, after all, we were in a big boat with very tall gunnels and there was no way a snake could crawl up the side of our boat.

We were fishing about 10 more minutes when I felt something brushing along my ankle. Without looking, I reached down to scratch my foot when I felt a sting on the front of my index finger. I looked down and there was that crazy snake pulling its fangs out of my finger!

I jumped a foot and almost dropped my fishing rod.

“Tim!” I yelled, “that snake just bit me in the finger”!

Holy Batman! I couldn’t believe it, I was attacked by a garter snake!

My whole life flashed before me. Was there something wrong with this snake? Could it be poisonous? Why would it swim right to the boat, climb in and attack a human?

Garter snakes are supposed to be harmless. I have handled them all my life and never had one bite me. Maybe this is something new — AIS, Aquatic Invasive Snakes! After all wood ticks, deer ticks, even mosquitoes used to be harmless, but look how dangerous they are now.

I grabbed the snake and threw it back into the lake where it immediately swam back to shore. I sucked my finger for five minutes like they do in the movies when bitten by a rattlesnake, cleaned it with alcohol, put a band aid on it and waited for a funny feeling to come over me. Would it be like in the movies when the poison starts to circulate throughout the body? I waited for an hour. Nothing happened. Really, nothing ever happened, it was just like they said in the snake book.

Garter snakes are harmless. Let’s hope they stay that way. We have enough creatures biting us to have to worry about one more thing!

Ray Gildow is an ECM outdoors columnist