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Most people know I’m a diehard river smallmouth fisherman. It’s true. I am definitely addicted to what these big bronze monster tailed fish bring to the table. Where they live, how they hit, how they fight, what’s not to obsess about? I’m for sure a lifer in SMA (smallmouth anonymous), but I don’t plan on staying “clean” long enough to collect any achievements! What some people may not know as much is I have a deep rooted love and respect for something else you can find while out on the water. Ever since I was a kid I was completely fascinated with turtles. I’ve been catching them for as long as I can remember. Small ones, big ones, ones that hiss, and some that snap! I’m not sure how I learned what to be careful of. I’m guessing I probably got bit by some smaller snapping turtles and eventually learned where you can touch and be safe from their lightning fast neck and jaws. 

I do however remember catching my first “big” one. My sister could barely walk which means I was 10. It would have been the summer of 1990. I know that dates me, but ask Shannon and my kids, I’m really still the same age. Anyways, we lived in a neighborhood that thread creek ran behind. My friends and I would wade up and down miles of the creek. One of these excursions we had a 5 gallon bucket and a stiff smelt net. I saw what I thought was a giant snapping turtle. Using the net I scooted it to shallower water where my buddy held the bucket. Slid it in head first, the shell was as wide as the bucket. It barely fit. We poured the water out and I floated it down the creek close to home where it took EVERYTHING my little body had to carry that beast back home. I then put it in a rabbit cage we had on the front deck of the house. That’s where my mom found me showing my little sister the turtle. The rest of this story went way worse than handling that turtle…..

Come to think about it the first kayak tournament Shannon and I ever fished had some turtle action in it as well. It was the River Bassin event at the Kayak Corral in Saline, MI. We had fished a local river and did fairly well even after Shannon had a rough start, but that’s a whole other story. We got hungry so we packed up and ate on our way to another river that was closer to the check in. When we started fishing there we found a ton of softshell turtles basking. In the midst of a tournament I found myself unable to keep myself from getting in and sneaking up and getting my hands on one. We snapped pictures with it, posted to Facebook, and quickly had reminders that we were supposed to be in a tournament! We didn’t catch any upgrades besides the turtle but still managed 1st place team…..

I’ve caught a bunch of different species in different states. Some of the biggest snappers I have caught were hard for me to hold up for pictures for very long. If I had to guess a weight I’d say close to 60lbs. Turtles that size can be upwards of 70 plus years old. Can you imagine the stories they could tell? I have so much respect for these modern day dinosaurs. I really just like to get my hands on them briefly, maybe tickle their bellies. Just to get them to smile for the camera you know. Then let them swim off back to handling their business, whatever it might be.

– Jeremy Crowe