Into The Outdoors: Salamanders




The salamander was apparently born with only one eye. One of nature’s oddities. Photo by Dave Lewis.

Last week, I mentioned the topic of salamanders. Let’s take a look at these fascinating, and in many ways, unique little critters. We have already looked at the big salamanders, the hellbender and mud puppy, so we will focus on the smaller ones. As kids, we always called these lizards, due to the fact that they are somewhat similar in appearance. Of course, they are not lizards at all. Lizards are reptiles, while salamanders are amphibians. Some spend a good deal of time on land, while others are mainly aquatic. They all like moisture, as it keeps their skin healthy.

In the case of most salamanders, they are too small to eat anything of any size, so they confine themselves to worms, insects and plant material. Sadly for them, they are often coveted by birds, fish and other predators. In fact, for many years, salamanders imitations were top notch bass lures.

For such unobtrusive creatures, salamanders have generated a good many myths. The oddest one is that they are born from flames. Some salamanders like to live in damp logs. In earlier times, if someone tossed such a log onto a fire, the salamanders would, of course, flee for their lives to escape the flames. Superstitious individuals got the idea that they were being born.

These little guys also have amazing regenerative powers. If they lose a limb or their tail, they will, in time, grow a new one. This means that, should a predator bite off their tail, they will eventually grow a new one. Scientists are still trying to figure out how they do that, in order to apply it to humans.

Of course, if you have an adventurous palate, as I do, you must be wondering if you can eat salamanders. The answer is no. They are all toxic, although some predators seem to be immune.While I can’t say that eating a salamander will kill you, you can be certain that it will make you sick.

On the fishing front, things have been a little weird this summer, at least for me The intense heat and rain have made things unpredictable to an almost annoying degree. I guess it’s true that fish can’t read, because they seem to be often defying what it says in the books. If you hit it just right, the action is fast and furious, but if you don’t, you stand a better than even chance of getting skunked. Very early morning and mid to late evening seem to be the best daylight times. Night fishing is actually probably the best prospect, but as we discussed in a previous column, it has its own set of problems and inconveniences, and some anglers are not willing to go to the trouble.

A number of different species of fish are very active night feeders. Catfish and walleyes are the ones that come readily to mind. In fact, they are most active at night. Over the years, I’ve also caught both largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as rock bass and crappies. For whatever reason, I’ve found live bait to be the most effective for night fishing.

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