PORT ARTHUR — “We’re catching some big gator trout.”
Those were the words of a Florida fishing guide I spoke with at a sporting show back in the mid-1990s.
“What is a gator trout?” I asked.
“You know a big one,” he said.
It took a little research but I found out a “gator trout” was the Floridian term for a trophy-sized speckled trout.
I must admit to being a little disappointed. Part of me hoped my vast knowledge of fish of the Gulf Coast missed something cool and there was some sort of trout with green scale and teeth like a piranha.
Regional names for wildlife have always fascinated me and are a source of at least a couple of emails from readers a month. I thought it would be fun to discuss some of the more interesting ones this week.
The creature with arguably the most regional variations is the fish we call a grinnel. In Louisiana its choupique and in much of Florida it is a mudfish. However in New York they call them eels. I know after catching one in the Seneca River there and laughing as my friend told me it was the biggest eel he had seen.
They are also known as dogfish, cypress bass and mud marlin.
The northern shoveler is the waterfowl with the most nicknames. They are called digger, spoony, spoonbill, smiling mallard and Hollywood duck. I once asked a guide why he called them Hollywood duck and he said because it looks like they’re always smiling.
“You know like a movie star,” he said.
The hognose snake is often described as a “puffing adder” because of its habit of puffing up and exhaling with a wicked sounding hiss.
Rat snakes are most commonly called “chicken snakes” in Southeast Texas due to their habit of raiding chicken houses and preying on the eggs.