I just received release from the Georgia DNR regarding their concern for what appears to be declining numbers of hellbenders in their streams. I have only encountered one of the lizards in park waters, an 18-incher on the smallmouth bass portion of Abrams Creek. I was standing in shin deep water beside it, at first thinking it was an old boot. Itís head was about 5-inches across.

Has anyone here encountered many hellbenders, or mud dogs as we called them when I was growing up. Itís my understanding there is only one species east of the Mississippi, then another in the Ozarks. Several years ago I caught a two-footer on a Muddler while smallmouth bass fishing in the Nolichucky. It was more slender than the ones I have seen in mountain streams. Its ribs had red or orange splashes, color depending on if you call Tennessee orange, orange, or Auburn orange, orange (or as Bama fans refer to Auburn orange as U-Haul orange)

The one I caught was pretty darn aggressive or at the least unhappy about meeting me. I preferred not to actually handle it, as when I was kid I had heard their skin emitted toxins, which even at the time I caught the mud dog I knew was not true, but nonetheless, I did not want to handle it. Using the switchblade I keep in my wading boots, to release the thing I filleted away that portion of the hellbenderís lip where the fly was embedded.

Does anyone here know how common the salamanders are in these parts? They could be as common as dirt, but rarely seen. Just curious here.