June 5, 2023

Snapping Turtles Abound in the Chesapeake

Snapping Turtles

This Alligator Snapper above was caught off Kitts Point in the St. Mary’s River in a fike net.

Message From the Captain is a compilation of fishing advice, waterman and weather insights, Chesapeake lore, and ordinary malarkey from the folks who keep their feet wet in the Potomac and St. Mary’s rivers.

We have many different types of turtles in and around Chesapeake Bay, in spite of their clumsiness as suitors. These were caught in the act in a pond in Calvert County, MD, above Cove Point.


In the video are Common Snappers, once a freshwater snapper, but found increasingly in brackish water, as attest watermen seeing more of these and Alligator Snappers. The spiky look and name of the Alligator Snapper gives it a more intimidating appearance, but for camouflage. The Alligator Snapper’s tongue dances like a worm in its open mouth and lures its prey into its lethal jaws. The Common Snapper hunts its prey. But neither have a good disposition and either could put a real hurtin’ on a perfectly good day.

The lesser known Chesapeake species is the Snapping Turtle, locally known as Turkles, are a silent and a frequently overlooked  species in our ponds and waterways. It’s possible they haven’t been as plentiful as other species, coming more recently to the brackish Chesapeake Bay area. Since 2012, based on a study published by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, freshwater turtles are not merely developing a tolerance for brackish water, but something of a taste for it.

One of the most frequently seen turtles in Maryland is the Eastern Box Turtle, often trekking across a road. If you find yourself compelled, first take some hints here, before helping a turtle cross the road. And as for the snappers noted above, special rules apply.

Around the Chesapeake you’ll also be seeing our variety of friendlier turtles out sunning. On our ponds and shallow waterways are different Sliders, Painted turtles, and our famous Diamondback Terrapins.

Terrapins need added protection from the lethality of crab pots. The same bait that attracts crabs, attracts turtles. Turtle extruders but are sized to allow large crabs inside, but not small terrapins. Just like the crabs, once inside, the turtles cannot exit. They have a short life span of only a few hours trapped under water and unable to return to the surface for air.

With the midsummer, Fourth of July holiday long over, the price of crabs continues to fall. With the heat, the sea nettles began to show up and plenty of bottom fish are to be caught according the Tackle Box Fishing Report. Great catches of Spanish Mackeral are also being reported in the Lower Potomac.

From the Interpretive Buoy System, the water temperature is in the mid 80s  and the salinity level struggles to reach 9 psu. ( 13 to 15 would be a good average)

**********Smith Island Tour  ****************

Still time to check off this trip from bucket list this summer…..MAKE RESERVATIONS ONLINE…..

FROM POINT LOOKOUT, MD: Departs 10:30am (Seasonal Thursday-Sunday)

2019 Schedule:

  • Thursday through Sunday departures through September 1, 2019.
  • Post season dates September 7, 8, 14 and 15


Till next time, remember “It’s Our Bay, Let’s Pass It On.”

Reach Cap’n Jack at [email protected] or 240-434-1385

To learn about tours and trips into the Chesapeake, get more information on Fins + Claws’ Leader member page.

One Response to “Snapping Turtles Abound in the Chesapeake”
  1. Katrina says:

    Do you know what happened to the alligator snapping turtle caught in St Mary’s River? It’s not a native species, so hopefully it went to a good home. Someone must have released it. Thank you.

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