“Joe” Fred Turner
Southern Appalachian Stream Maps
I have seen three on the Hiwassee since the 1970s and one on Rough Creek which is a tributary of the Ocoee. That one was about 18-20" and was missing an eye and a front leg. He was a mean rascal. My father caught him after turning over a big rock and he definitely would have bitten us if we had not been careful. My grandfather caught a really big one in a fish trap on the Hiwassee back in the 1930s. I remember a picture of him holding it up for camera. It looked to be well over 20". I don't recall ever catching one while sampling with TWRA or the Park Service.
the Davidson is full of them.. clean water cold water there. seen many never caught one and thankful of that.
My post here several years ago showed a hellbender eating a trout that I had just caught and released. The literature suggests that hellbenders don't often feed on trout, but I witnessed otherwise.
There have been other posts here of hellbender encounters on Deep Creek as well.
Slipstream--At least a half dozen times in my life, and always in Deep Creek, I have seen a hellbender with a trout in its mouth. In every instance I would notice something white on the creek bottom and, looking closer, would discover it was a trout's belly (with a part of the trout being in the mouth of a hellbender). I would also add that from time to time as a boy I caught them on throwlines/trot lines, They are still present in Deep Creek in appreciable numbers.
Amphibians are the "canary in the coal mine" as they are an indication of water quality. Some parts of the world, amphibians are disappearing due to the lack of environmental standards for air and water quality. For funsies, turn over leaves in sinkholes or around a spring. When we camped, I would take the kids on a salamander hunting expedition. We would put one or two in a bowl of cold water and watch them for a while. We always turned them loose.
This Hellbender was found in November, 2011 along the East prong of the Little River, the only time that I have seen Hellbenders and Mud Puppys out of the water has been in the Fall, may have something to do with mating, but they do that in the water, so I'm not sure if they are just more active or it is a coincidence. This salamander was about 18" long.
Last edited by grouser; 01-10-2012 at 11:33 AM. Reason: add pix
Going back to college cays, we went up on the Hiwassee in mid-January during a warm snap. We set up traps- #10 cans in the ground and a 100 foot fence. The salamanders would come out of the mountains and head for the pools along the river to mate. They would go along the fence and fall into the cans. We took data and turned them loose. Kept a couple for the Prof's lab. Two fellows were by a pool and saw their mating ritual call the Love Dance (Ger.- Liebspiel as the Prof. called it).
I'm wondering what you are calling a mudpuppy. There a number of salamanders in east Tennessee and the Smokies.
John--The name I've always heard mountain folks use is water dog, which is a synonym for hellbender. When I was part of stream sampling in Deep Creek this summer we shocked up a bunch of them. To my knowledge (which is limited to personal experience and with no scientific backing) they live in streams. The only time I've ever seen one out of the water was when it was caught on a trot line, throw line, fishing line, or by shocking.
They are singularly ugly creatures and I've seen them up to close to two feet in length.
If I remember correctly they are our largest salamander.