Thursday, July 22, 2010
Bill Cochran's Mailbag: Fished-out; hell-bent
Bill Cochran's Outdoors
- Virginia’s hunting totals produce mixed results
- A good trade: Virginia trout for Kentucky elk
- Forget the odds-makers; Salem’s John Crews believes he can win the Bassmaster Classic.
- The good and bad of the 2012 saltwater fishing season
- Column archive
Bill's Field Reports
- Virginia General Assembly goes soft on outdoor issues
- Quail Unlimited calls it quits
- Field reports archive
BILL: All right, I know you spend time in West Virginia. I ran into this article about a salamander called a hellbender. I have heard of them, but can’t say I’ve seen one. They live to be quite old according to the biologists in the segment -- 25 to 40 years. That’s amazing. Do any streams in Virginia have them? West Virginia seems to have the market on them.
J.R.: Mike Pinder, of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, has this to say about hellbenders:
“Yes, there are hellbenders in Virginia. They occur in the New and Tennessee River drainages. Most of the streams they inhabit are cool, clear mountain streams with abundant boulders to hide under. Because of their nature to hide during the day and only come out at night, it is very difficult to survey for hellbenders. Most observations are incidental, usually by anglers or boaters.”
The West Virginia blog says hellbenders got their name because they are so ugly people claimed they are from the depths of hell. They can grow to more than 20 inches in length.
I recall catching one as a kid, and it was an unsettling experience. I was fishing in West Virginia, drifting a bait around a rock when I thought I’d hooked a huge fish. But the fight was different. With much effort, I reeled in this beefy creature that looked more like an alligator than a lizard. I wasn’t about to try to get it off my hook. I shouted for my uncle, who was fishing nearby. As I recall, that is the only one I have caught in a lifetime of fishing. They are that rare or difficult to encounter. One catch in a lifetime is probably enough.
The DGIF has a link on its Web site that invites people to enter information when they see one: dgif.virginia.gov/hellbender/.