snapping turtle

Les Johnson's Secret Weapon for Catching a Snapping Turtle

Les Johnson shows you how he catches a snapping turtle using an unusual bait. Then he and a friend show you how to clean and cook one.

Les Johnson is a well-known coyote caller and the host of Youtube channel "Everything Outdoors with Les Johnson." But he's after a different kind of predator here, as he demonstrates the method he uses to catch a snapping turtle.

Basically, Les uses a heavy setline—nothing particularly unusual. Lots of folks have used this very method to catch snappers and softshell turtles. But whereas most of us used chicken livers or chunks of suckers on baited hooks to entice turtles, Les uses something that made me go, "Hmmm, never thought of that!"

He baits his hooks with small dead sparrows.

His logic is that the sparrow floats on the surface of the water, and rather than relying solely on smell to locate the bait, the turtle is able to smell and see it from the bottom of the pond.

He'll swim up to the surface and easily engulf the sparrow. It makes perfect sense.

Les catches a couple of keepers and enlists his friend Bill Gray to help butcher and prepare the turtle for the table.

I personally prefer to clean turtles just by lying them on their backs on the grass, as I like to save the shells for decorative purposes. But Bill uses the nail-in-a-board method to clean the turtle. It's an effective method and plenty of folks use it, because it places the turtle in an easily maneuverable position for cutting the meat out.

One thing the video doesn't show is Bill cutting the feet and claws off of the turtle before he begins skinning it.

Safety is important when cleaning a snapping turtle. This includes safety from the turtle itself (it can still bite even after its head is removed) and safety in using your knife, because they are kind of an awkward beast to butcher. Just imagine having to butcher a critter encased in a wobbly bowl.

Bill's parboiling and batter-and-fry cooking recipe is a good one, too. You can also bread and broil snapper in the oven using a hundred different recipes.

For me, snapping turtle is one of the best-tasting meats on the planet. While it takes some work to get it ready for the table, it's always well worth it.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his Facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.