Popular Science Monthly/Volume 10/December 1876/Correspondence



To the Editor of the Popular Science Monthly.

HAVING read in your July number Mr. Buckland's account of a fight between a scorpion and a mouse, I am induced to give you an account of a remarkable conflict between a large water-snake and a trout, witnessed by myself and one of my brother officers in the survey in 1867, on the Purissima, a small trout-stream which empties into the ocean about twenty-four miles south of San Francisco. We had been fishing on the stream, and came to a high bank which overlooked a transparent pool of water about ten feet in diameter and four feet in depth. This pool was fringed with willows, and had on one side a small gravel-bank. The trout at first sight was lying in mid-water, heading up-stream. It was, as afterward ascertained, fully nine inches in length, a very desirable prize for an angler. While studying how to cast our flies to secure him, a novel fisherman appeared, and so quick were his actions that we suspended our own to witness them. This new enemy of the trout was a large water-snake of the common variety, striped black and yellow. He swam up the pool on the surface until over the trout, when he made a dive, and by a dexterous movement seized the trout in such a fashion that the jaws of the snake closed its mouth. The fight then commenced. The trout had the use of its tail and fins, and could drag the snake from the surface; when near the bottom, however, the snake made use of its tail by winding it around every stone or root that it could reach. After securing this tail-hold it could drag the trout toward the bank, but, on letting go, the trout would have a new advantage. This battle was continued for full twenty minutes, when the snake managed to get its tail out of the water and clasped around the root of one of the willows mentioned as overhanging the pool. The battle was then up, for the snake gradually put coil after coil around the root, with each one dragging the fish toward the land. When half its body was coiled it unloosed the first hold and stretched the end of its tail out in every direction, and, finding another root, made fast, and now using both dragged the trout out on the gravel-bank. It now had it under control, and, uncoiling, the snake dragged the fish fully ten feet up on the bank, and I suppose would have gorged him. We killed the snake, and replaced the trout in the water, as we thought that he deserved liberty. He was apparently unhurt, and in a few moments darted off. That the water-snake of our California brooks will prey upon the young of trout and also smaller and less active fishes, I have noticed, but never have seen an attack on a fish so large or one more hotly contested. Yours respectfully,

A. W. Chase,
Assistant U. S. Coast Survey.