Several years ago, I headed on a simple fishing trip in which I was floating the Neuse River while fishing for striper bass. They were running although the river was a little high from a recent rain. And as I sometimes do, I decided to make things a little less simple by adding another element in order to make an adventure.
That trip, I decided to float a twenty-two mile stretch of the Neuse while fishing…on a paddleboard.
It wasn’t your typical paddleboard. It was designed like a barge, held a specially and specifically build cooler that had a tackle tray and several rod holders. Heck, it even had a motor mount on the back. There was never any intention of doing yoga on the water with this battlefield olive drab colored monster of a board.
That being said, I figured it would take about three days to make the trip properly. That would be two nights of camping riverside as well as many stops to fish bends, twists and turns that are prevalent along the river’s span in that location.
My very first stop on the float was roughly five miles into the plan. There was a sandy beach along one of the curves that I figured would be perfect for eating a lunch and stretching a bit. Once I found it, I was rather excited to be honest. But the adrenaline didn’t flow nearly as much at catching sight of it ahead on the waterway as it did when I decided to use a log from a long-fallen tree for a seat.
I sat down maybe ten feet or so from the well-worn stumps and roots to make my temporary dinner chair. After I finished off a peanut butter and cheese sandwich that I pre-made for this first stop, I got up and looked around the log. Nestled in a hollow surrounded by grasses was where my adrenaline shot through the roof.
Two snakes, intertwined tightly together, stared at me while flicking their serpentine tongues. Now, I am not the believer of the adage “the only good snake is a dead snake.” However, I am of the principle that as long as I can see the snake, I am good. That is why my heart decided to pump blood a little faster through my veins at that time. I didn’t see the snakes that were less than an arm length’s distance away from me while I grubbed down my sandwich.
Of course, the next thing I had to do was determine the amount of danger I was potentially in. Now, there are six different venomous species of snakes in North Carolina. One of those snakes is the eastern coral snake. That one I didn’t have to worry about. There are easily identifiable and rarely seen in this particular area, if ever.
Three are species of rattlesnakes. The timber rattlesnake, pygmy rattlesnake and eastern diamondback rattlesnake are all to be feared. But again, neither of these three were likely going to be in this particular spot along the river.
That left two species to worry about. The cottonmouth and the copperhead. Both of these are very prevalent to the area. Both are snakes I do not particularly care for and prefer to keep plenty of distance from. And the odds were that the two snakes I quickly jumped back from once I spotted them in the log could be of one of these two species.
After careful examination from afar, well, I couldn’t determine. So, being the outdoorsman I am, I placed my cell phone on a selfie stick and snapped a pic up close. Yes, outdoorsmen have selfie sticks on paddleboard float trips. Don’t judge me.
What species of snake could have taken my life either by bite or heart attack? It was a pair of banded water snakes. Thank goodness. They live, I live, we all live. And I still worked my way away from them very carefully.
The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission warns everyone to check their surroundings while in the woods and in their yards at this time of heightened snake encounters. There is no reason to kill the snakes, even if they happen to be a copperhead or cottonmouth as more bites occur when trying to close enough to kill the snake than if you were to just leave it be.