Catching Terrapin by Alfred Kappes

In the shoal waters along the coast south of Cape Henlopen, terrapin are caught in various ways. Dredges dragged along in the wake of a sailing vessel pick them up. Nets stretched across some narrow arm of river or bay entangle the feet of any stray terrapin in their meshes; but these require the constant attendance of the fisherman to save the catch from drowning. In the winter, in the deeper water, the terrapin rise from their muddy quarters on mild sunny days and crawl along the bottom. They are then taken by tongs, their whereabouts being often betrayed by bubbles.

The method shown in the drawing is resorted to only in the spring and in water not over a foot or two in depth. Turtles will rise at any noise, and usually the fisherman only claps his hands, though each hunter has his own way of attracting the terrapin. One hunter whom I saw when I made the drawing uttered a queer guttural noise that seemed to rise from his boots.


Whatever the noise, all turtles within hearing—whether terrapin or "snapper"—will put their heads above water. Both are welcome and are quickly sold to the market-men. The snapper slowly appears and disappears, leaving scarcely a ripple; and the hunter cautiously approaching usually takes him by the tail. The terrapin, on the contrary, is quick, and will descend in an oblique direction, so that a hand-net is needed unless he happens to come up near by. If he is near enough the man jumps for him. The time for hunting is the still hour at either sunrise or sunset.