Imagine the surprise of duck hunters Chad Buehler and Matt Schimming who, en route to retrieving a dead duck at Metzger Marsh State Wildlife Area, nearly stepped on a seven-foot-long, 14-pound African rock python.
"Some slob could have let that thing go this spring and it may have been out in the marsh all summer long," said Buehler of Genoa. Schimming is from nearby Williston.
The waterfowler said that recently they had decided to try Metzger, in eastern Lucas County at Bono, because of a forecast of heavy north winds.
"Apparently so did the rest of northwest Ohio's waterfowlers because we were about the 12th rig there. The congestion forced us out onto the newly built dike wall, where we set up our spread.
"The action was slow, to say the least, for the ducky weather we had. But I shot a duck and was going to get the boat when I walked up through the weeds and nearly stepped on a coiled snake - a BIG snake!
"I thought to myself, that is the biggest fox snake I've ever seen. Then it hit me. That isn't a fox snake. I called Matt over to check it out. He's a bit more unreserved than I and touched it. It opened its mouth. It was still alive, just very sluggish due to the cold.
"We didn't know what to do, but it wasn't going anywhere, so I got the boat, grabbed the duck, and headed back in to deal with the snake. We decided to take it home for either animal control to deal with or something. We didn't want to leave an invasive species out there for fear of it actually surviving. We put it in a mesh decoy bag and loaded it into the boat."
One of Schimming's neighbors, it turned out, is very familiar with big, exotic snakes, identified the one the hunters found, and decided to give it a home.
"Boy, it gave me a good scare," said Buehler. "You just really don't think much about snakes when it is 37 degrees and sleeting."
Commentary: It is clear that the foregoing episode relates to the sorry activity of pet dumping and ignorant ownership of and trading in exotic species.
The duck hunters in question did the right thing in removing this creature from the wild and at least getting it into hands that were capable of properly handling and caring for it.
Far too often irresponsible owners thoughtlessly buy an exotic, find they cannot properly care for it, or the creature becomes troublesome. Then they do not have the guts to dispatch of it and solve the problem. Zoos do not need or want animals of questionable pedigree. Nobody does, and that's why too many owners take the cheap way out and dump it in wildlife areas, often to the detriment and death of native wildlife. Shame.
Shame also on well-meaning but ignorant individuals who live-trap raccoons or squirrels in the attic, skunks in the shed, or other nuisance animals, even stray cats, and dump them "in the country." They have done no favors and certainly nothing righteous. They simply have rid themselves of a problem and foisted it on others, or nature.
There is no room or home for such nuisances "in the country." The country has all the native wildlife it needs and dumping strays or pets or nuisance creatures simply results in often fatal conflict or other competition - and often death to the newcomer.
But to the ignorant, out of sight is out of mind. Don't stick someone else with your problem; deal with it.
Leon Szych of Point Place has put up his Lake Erie fishing rig for the season, like most other anglers, but sends along some yellow perch tips that should be noted for future reference.
Notably, he landed a 14 1/2-inch perch weigh about 1 1/2 pounds among many limits of 9 to 13-inch fish during three furious weeks of perching from late October to mid November - all apparently where no one else was looking.
"We were 11 miles out [off Davis-Besse] north of C-Can in open water," Szych said, adding that the super-jumbo he landed was his largest perch in more than 50 years on the lake.
"When I caught him he took off and ran 180 degrees from the boat. I thought I had a catfish. When I finally got him up, all I could think was, don't lose him."
That fish is going on the wall, not into the deep fryer.
"We couldn't catch them off the reefs like last year," Szych said of this fall's fishing. "We pounded them there a year ago but we couldn't do it this year."
So Szych and buddies went perch hunting, rather than perch fishing, and they ended up way out in the deepwater flats. "One day we couldn't find them, so we kept making half-mile moves. We found them the fourth time, 10s to 13s."
A couple of other points that Szych makes: They were taking fish by letting the baited hooks lie on the bottom with no pressure on the line. If the slack line moved, they would set the hook. If they had a doubt, they would set the hook. The fish, the veteran angler said, "were entirely different this year."
During the hot run of action, a 30-perch limit was averaging 10 pounds, which is excellent.
"I've never seen perch [in the western basin] like we caught this fall."
Last and not least, he recommends big hooks to prevent deep-hooking smaller fish that you may want to release.
"I buy No. 22 Mustad central draught hooks. They're the biggest ones you can get [in central draught style]."
Szych hand-ties his perch terminal tackle, stacking his hooks about four inches apart crappie rig-style, rather than using commercial wire spreaders or tandem stacked wire.