back when i used to live in seattle, some buddys and i went on a fishing trip and found out that there was a rattle snake not 50 feet from our camp. scared the hell out of us so we decided it might be a good idea to move to another spot
Yes, your chances of getting bitten while in the water are very slim. In fact, just about non-existent unless you are in cottonmouth country, and even then very slim. I grew up in cottonmouth and copperhead country in Missouri, and now live part-time in rattlesnake country in Montana. In fact, a few weeks ago I was fishing the West Boulder River in Montana and sat down on a rock, and had a rattlesnake dash out from under the side of the rock within a foot of my leg and into the water, where it hung for a bit looking at me and then swam back to the bank and under another rock. I just moved away and let it be.
For those who are cottonmouth country...far too many people mistake harmless water snakes for cottonmouths. As somebody above said, when they are swimming it's usually pretty easy to tell the difference because cottonmouths (and copperheads and rattlesnakes when they decide to take a swim, by the way) swim with their bodies on the surface, just like their bodies are made of the stuff in PFDs. Harmless water snakes swim with bodies almost entirely submerged. That's not to say that cottonmouths won't submerge completely, they can. But ordinarily they don't while just swimming. And as for them biting you while underwater, regardless of old wives' tales to the contrary, they seldom stay submerged for long and they don't usually bite while underwater.
And there is no earthly reason for a snake to "charge" you. However, pit vipers are high enough on the food chain that they aren't always really shy and retiring (especially cottonmouths), so if you happen to be in the path of where they are wanting to go, they may not go around you. I've had both cottonmouths and copperheads swim toward me both while I was wading and when I was in a boat. I saw one big copperhead swimming downriver while in my solo canoe, straight toward me, from a good 30 yards away. I watched it swim right up the canoe, go either under or around the front end (couldn't see which because it was out of sight at that point), emerge on the other side, and swim on downstream to a logjam, where it climbed out of the water. (By the way, however, copperheads are in no way aquatic, so they are seldom seen in the water...I've only seen three or four swimming in all my years on Missouri Ozark streams. They simply swim to get from one place out of the water to another.)
I simply don't worry about snakes while fishing, other than basic awareness of where I'm likely to encounter one. Sitting down on the rock with the rattlesnake WAS a bit of brain fade, though--I should have been more aware of the possibility.)
Last year there were a lot of garter snakes in the McCloud in Northern CA, you'd see them swimming by or sunning themselves on a rock mid river (see photos).
Makes me wonder two things - When you see snakes in the river is it time to pull out streamers? Also, When you see garter snakes you've got to wonder if there is a rattler close by hoping for some lunch.
That area is known for rattlers too, but I've only seen one there - hiding in a shady spot of brush. Went to get my camera and he was gone when I came back. They are shy. I think if you wear boots and watch your step you will be fine.
"By the time I was a teenager I fit the standard profile of a lifelong angler. I was lazy, shiftless, unambitious and willing to work hard only at things that were widely considered useless." ~John Gierach
I've seen a few snakes while outdoors here in Idaho. I have strict "you go your way, and I'll go mine" policy.And I go very quickly. I've always been amazed at guys (it's always guys) who just have to mess with them.
I'm in the habit of tapping the brush ahead of me with the rod tip as I walk to the water, especially off trail, even though I've found that rattlers often don't buzz till I'm past them.
I used to carry pistols as snake defense, till I realized my chances of catching a ricochet were much higher than me actually hitting the snake. I've tried .22 and .38 snake shot on snakes and targets and found both singularly ineffective, especially thru the short barrelled revolvers that I carry. I still carry the pistol, but I wonder how well pepper spray works on snakes?
its funny you mention misidentifying snakes, I have seen if for a few years around home, the folks nextdoor would ride their mower almost standing up looking way to hard at the grass ahead of them.. one day the guy jumps off the mower big stick in hand and started pounding on something in the grass.. (I was also on the riding mower while seeing this..) So I ride over to see what was going on.. it was a 2 foot garter snake he wacked in half.. I was POed a bit and gave the guy a talk about how that lil snake was helping keeping the rodents under control along with the 2 I seen a little while ago... had it been a copperhead I could have understood since the guy has little kids around, but to senselessly kill a harmless critter just makes me made.. I did NOT tell him I see a 6 ft long black racer patrolling our area frequently... and those critters will stand thier groud. I see this along the creek aswell were folks freek out over a northern brown watersnake.. it should be tought in any area that is prone to dangerous critters should have to learn about said critters before going out in the woods in a park. I for one think we have is soo easy here in the USA... for example the folks down in OZ, I think everything that moves can kill you...
best advice for anyone that enjoys the outdoors, learn whats in your area that cant hurt you, and know how to ID it.
Being from Florida and spending a lot of time in swampy areas I have seen a lot of cotton-mouths. Just like alligators, they'll keep their distance unless pressured. I usually see a few while kayaking. One time while turkey hunting in a swampier area I heard russling in the bush directly next to me. I was sitting absolutely still and then a four-ish foot black racer came out of the bushes next to me. It hung out a few inches from for a few moments and then went off on its way. One year while away at camp I had a copperhead who took a liking to the space under my tent, but a stray dog I found at the camp drove the copperhead off and took its spot... It was an interesting exchange, haha. I've also had a clutch of rat snakes be born in my garage, which I relocated to the backyard once they grew up a bit, in order to keep the fruit rats in check. While I'm a fan of snakes and can identify the dangerous ones, they can lead to some nerve-wracking situations at times.