The night of the Mudpuppy

Catfish, that was the goal.  Well, that and maybe some dumb jokes and a six pack or two. It was a fairly warm summer night on the banks of the Kanawha river in Putnam County, West Virginia.  What was NOT the goal is what we ended up landing.  Repeatedly.

For some reason, on a couple of different occasions over the years, my brother in law and I have apparently been in the right place at the right time to experience something… Shall we say interesting?

Mudpuppies …   If you have never had the joy, the common mudpuppy is a salamander that lives an entirely in the water in the eastern part of North America in lakes, rivers, and ponds. They have gills, and really are quite freaky looking if you’ve never been exposed to them before.  They are usually a rusty brown color and can grow to an average of about a foot long.   imageThey are nocturnal and only come out during the day if the water in which they live is murky. They eat almost anything they can get in their mouth and on this particular night, it seemed that was the night crawlers that we were attempting to have the local catfish show interest in.  The thing about Mudpuppies is that they aren’t exactly graceful as they are drawn from the choppy wate of your local river.  They tend to come out twisting and curling their slick skinned bodies in a way that, quite honestly, can turn your stomach and make you think you have a small alien on the end of that line.  Also, they are slippery little reals that are hard to hold onto while you attempt to use whatever tools you have to dislodge the hooks from their mouths.  But, as we always want to see wildlife maintained in a healthy way, we do out best to not harm them and return them to their water playroom.  Admittedly, still wishing they had been a large cat.

Probably one of the most interesting things abut this for me is that once we caught the first mudpuppy, it seemed we were bound to catch nothing but these slimy little creatures the rest of the night.  Granted, we typically fish the bottom or near bottom of an area about half a mile below the local locks and dam so we never know what we will catch.  But, to see several of these landed in a row was a pretty bizarre experience.and one that I won’t soon forget.

For more information about fishing opportunities the Kanawha River or West Virginia waterways in general, visit the State’s DNR fishing site at –

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