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Rattlers add adventure to fishing trip

Dad, have they ever thought about putting lights out here?” Sherese asked as we packed up our gear and began the long walk back to the truck.

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the question and pointed to the lights that lined the docks of Las Vegas Boat Harbor floating across from our location on the shoreline of Lake Mead.

“They already have,” I said.

Naturally, she was well aware of those lights, but I couldn’t resist the chance to tease her. What Sherese was concerned about was the dark trek that lay before us and the critters we might encounter along the way, and to be completely honest, so was I.

With my wife in Denver to help our oldest daughter with newborn twins, and three kids of our own still at home, the week had been a long one. So I wrote myself a prescription for a fishing trip and invited Sherese, our middle daughter, to join me. Due to the lateness of the hour, we opted to try the shoreline that runs southeast from what is left of Horsepower Cove. This area is lined with flooded vegetation, so I thought it might hold a few largemouth bass. I wasn’t sure where we were going exactly, but I knew what I was looking for.

We hiked cross country because there was no trail to follow, just lots of rocks and boulders interspersed with young tamarisk trees and brush — country that seemed just right for snakes.

Thirty minutes later, I found what I was looking for, a semi-open stretch of gravel offering a handful of promising casting lanes in the flooded vegetation. Sherese went to work reading her book and swatting at clouds of swarming gnats while I went to work with rod and reel. I tied on a Heddon popper in white and gray and worked my way around a bend in the shoreline.

As I stepped into the shadows of some trees, something on the ground suddenly moved, and I instantly froze in place. Less than 5 feet in front of me was a large rattlesnake, his rattles long enough to start doubling over. He gave me a brief warning rattle and coiled up near a large rock. We stared at each other for a minute, and I decided to fish in the other direction and warned Sherese about the snake.

The popper did its job, and a largemouth bass blew up on it. He was a plump little bass, maybe a couple of pounds. I released him, and a few casts later briefly caught his twin, but after that all was quiet. So we packed our belongings, briefly discussed the need for shoreline lighting and started back.

I was still chuckling about the harbor lights as I focused my headlamp on the rocks in front of us. Just then, something suddenly moved, and I put on the breaks. There in the beam of my headlamp, not 20 yards from our fishing spot, was another rattlesnake, every bit as large as the first. This one also gave us a brief buzz on his rattle and slithered into the protection of the rocks.

“This is going to be a long walk back,” I told Sherese. “Stay right behind me, keep your eyes open and move slowly.”

Rattlesnakes have always made me nervous, but this was only the second time I had seen more than one in such a short period and the first time I had seen a snake in all the years I have been around Lake Mead. Thus, our return trip was much slower than the trip in, and luckily we didn’t see another snake.

All in all, it was a good adventure — time with my daughter, two snakes and almost two fish. Just what the doctor ordered.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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