The Port Arthur News
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.
Cottonmouths are sometimes called “stumptail moccasins” or simply “stumptail” because of the strange size difference between tail and body in some specimens.
The poor marsh brown snake, a harmless nonvenomous serpent that grows no larger than a foot in extreme cases, is called “ground rattler”.
Untold thousands have been killed due to this label although they do not have a rattle and look absolutely nothing like a rattlesnake.
The pigmy rattlesnake which is found in East Texas is sometimes labeled “ground rattler” as well but there are no similarities. In fact, I think the hognose looks a lot more like a pigmy than the brown snake.
Getting back to fish, the paddlefish is known locally as “spoonbill catfish” although they are indeed not catfish and are more closely related to sturgeons. These are a protected species and are rarely caught due to their plankton diet but occasionally will get snagged by a bass fisherman throwing a crankbait or bite on a trotline.
Science uses Latin name for identification to avoid confusing and you can see why after checking out just a few of our local creatures.
Our cougar may be Colorado’s mountain lion, South America’s puma and Canada’s catamount.
To science it is simply Felis concolor.
(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at email@example.com . You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI. Follow him on Twitter @flexfishing and watch his WebTV series at www.Godsoutdoors.com.)