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Mudpuppy Hunting


When I was growing up, nothing was more fun than catching critters and keeping them as pets. There was a lot of fun to be had collecting ants and putting them in a jar full of sand, watching them go to work, tunneling like mad. Lizards were great fun to chase and capture...and of course there was the great butterfly experiment of 1973. My mother was completely caught off guard when she opened my bedroom door to put away my clean laundry and discovered about fifty or so assorted butterflies and moths (my best friend and I weren't picky) enjoying my hospitality.

Of course, she was a bit less understanding about the twenty or so mice that chewed their way out of the cardboard box beneath my bed...

I told Carla that the cardboard was a BAD idea...

Still, while lizards, bugs and rodents were rather intriguing, nothing was more fun and challenging than a day spent mudpuppy hunting.

What is a mudpuppy you ask? Well, some people argue that they are an Axylotl and some say they aren't. Because I'm not a biologist, I'll just tell you what they looked like to me. They were mutants...sort of a cross between a deformed salamander and a tadpole. They have the head, gills and tail of a tadpole...but then Mother Nature got all freakish and decided to stick a few appendages on them just to make them interesting.

Little Mudpuppy

This is a mudpuppy...

This is a mudpuppy...

Muddy Puppy

...not to be confused with this.  A muddy puppy.

...not to be confused with this. A muddy puppy.

My best friend, Carla, was an expert mudpuppy catcher. My mother didn't care much for Carla because my friend always knew how to have fun...the kind of fun that my mother would always warn me would end in my death. "Don't go in the desert...you'll get bitten by a rattlesnake and die!" or "Don't go running on the tops of the cinderblock walls between everyone's houses or you'll fall off, break your back and then you'll be paralyzed for life...and then die!" were a couple of my mother's favorite dire predictions. Carla would have nothing to do with my sissy fears and at ten years of age, being somewhat bulletproof and more influenced by my friend's opinion than my mother's admonitions...I would rather have risked death than be thought a wimp. Somehow I survived.

Carla knew all the best spots for mudpuppy hunting. How these rancid pits of standing water managed to survive a desert climate is still a mystery to me. The more nasty and murky the water...the greater the chance of catching the elusive mudpuppy. At first I was a bit squeamish about stepping foot into the foul-smelling ponds that Carla led me to. The mud on the bottom oozed between my toes in a rather slimy way as I inched my way slowly along, testing each footstep before putting it down. I couldn't be sure if mud would be the only thing I would encounter since it smelled like a cesspool and held a few discarded tires that protruded from the oily surface at random intervals. I was glad my mother didn't know about these pools I was currently wading up to my scabby kid knees in or she would definitely be predicting my imminent demise by disease.

Once we'd located a promising hunting ground, Carla would place her finger over her lips to indicate the requirement for complete silence. This was no time to fidget either. Ripples in the water would ruin the chance of a successful capture. For long minutes we would stand there, bent at the waist waiting in total silence, not twitching a muscle. Finally, we'd be rewarded for our efforts with the telltale sound of a mudpuppy kissing the surface for air. Quick as a flash, Carla would locate the source of the smacking sound and strike. I was in awe of her talent. Before my own brain had even registered the sound, Carla would plunge her arms in up to her shoulders and nab the mudpuppy with her bare hands. With a smile of pride, she'd hold up her catch cupped between her hands before depositing him into the communal bucket of pond water to be sorted out later.

My own skills were not as honed as those of my best friend. After many unsuccessful attempts at mudpuppy wrangling, I had to admit I was completely frustrated and for the remainder of the day Carla relegated me to spotter status. I didn't really mind though since I'd held one of those mutant creatures while it was in the bucket and didn't really like the slimy feeling one bit. Carla, however, felt I was missing out on one of the greatest experiences in my life and came up with a solution.

We needed a net.

Mudpuppy in capitivity

Lucky for Carla and I, we both had older sisters who happened to be best friends too. It wasn't important that they were best friends though. What was important was that they were sixteen years old and wore pantyhose. It was a simple matter to "borrow" a pair of pantyhose, use the scissors (which I walked with because my mother told me if I ran with them I would impale myself and bleed to death), and a wire hanger to fashion one that would work nicely. It took a bit of practice with the net, but before long I was catching mudpuppies nearly as quickly as Carla.

Catching mudpuppies was a lot more fun than actually keeping mudpuppies. Once we had a barrel full of them, we really couldn't find anything very exciting to do with them. Sometimes we would keep them for a few days, release them back into the water just so we could catch them again. This strategy was reconsidered when my mother thought the water in the mudpuppy barrel was a bit chilly and moved it into the sun. Boiled mudpuppies don't smell very good.


Jill Spencer from United States on November 20, 2017:

I remember catching mud puppies, too, though I think I usually just got a handful of mud. Unlike you, I never kept them, although I remember collecting lightning bugs in Mason jars and then letting them go. Back them, the night winked with them in summer.

spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on November 28, 2012:

Thank you, Zaton! I'm so verly glad you enjoyed it. Btw...I have to say that ladybugs were so very cool! :)

Zaton-Taran from California on November 27, 2012:

What a beautiful and hilarious read. Reminded me of my considerably less adventurous youth spent collecting ladybugs. Great hub!

spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on June 16, 2011:

Brandon, you certainly have your work cut out for you on this. I'm not really sure I have any good advice. However, using my overactive imagination and depending on the level of your dedication to this cause you might try creating a Facebook page to make people aware of the situation, create a YouTube video showing the actual massacre taking place or do what I might have done...wrangle up as many of the soon to be homeless and take them to a safer pond. Whatever you choose I wish you the best of luck.

Brandon on June 16, 2011:

There are mud puppies behind my house in a pond not they are draining the pond and KILLING THEM ALL... how do I stop it!?!?!? They are dying as we speek I found like 10 dead today..

spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on May 20, 2010:


I wish I was 11 years old again! :) Bolt is a cool name and you are right, they're FAST! I'm not sure how big they grow...I suppose it would depend on the actual type of Mudpuppy they are (there seems to be quite a few varieties). When I was 10 and catching them...I always wondered if they would grow up to become salamanders...but now I know they never would have. Thanks for sharing your experience with this cute little critter (yeah...I think they're cute too) and letting people know that they can be found in Lake Eerie.

joshua amenta on May 18, 2010:

i forgot to mentain that i a 11 year-old boy actually caught one mud puppy. i think i caught at lake erie. it was so amazin. my dad didn't know what it was, so he put the mudpuppy in a plastic bag and put it in the truck. when i to my house i filled a bucket of water and put the mudpuppy in the bucket. i named him bolt because their fast in the water.

joshua amenta on May 18, 2010:

i think this fasanating creature, is actully cute. i think ther cute because there gills are like little sponges. i also wander if they can grow to the size of a salamder? i wonder.....

james on March 27, 2010:

U are such a great scientist. I would kill to have ur experiences with mud-puppies and all. I'm having to learn all the parts (in and out) of a mud-puppy. it's insane. you my dear messed with some hard core science and could even write a book if you wanted to. I kid you not.

t on January 24, 2010:

THis sucks!

Carzykat on August 04, 2009:

I just love Mudpuppies!!!!!!!!

Chef Jeff from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago. on September 10, 2008:

I tried vegemite when I was in Europe and just didn't get it. Cheers to those who do, but I doubt I'd go to a vegemite tasting contest.

spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on September 06, 2008:

*smiles wickedly*

Oh! You just made me remember something! (And trust me...I rarely forget anything so I'm just as surprised that this memory came out of nowhere). I was so revolted by your version of apple pie, I wrote a piece about vegemite for my IRC mates.

I remember the vegemite song well. For those of you that haven't heard it...it's rather cheerful in a maddening way. Of course, I altered it slightly for my purposes in my column and spliced in the sound of somebody hurling at the very end. I know...sacriglege...lol!!!

Sorry Brain...there is NO way you'll ever convince me that this stuff is as delicious as apple pie. Even the family dog couldn't be bribed to try it...

Brainstormer from Australia on September 06, 2008:

spryte - When I saw that comment about Vegemite tasting like the bottom of the Dead Sea I had to come right over and set ya straight. I told you once there is a wicked streak running through you. I know what you are doing and I bloody well know where this is gonna end up. "lick the bottom of the Dead Sea". Fair suck of the sav girl this is Vegemite. Vegemite get it. That’s like saying Apple Pie tastes like the wrong end of a diarrheatic cow. I am madder than a cut snake.

Our 2nd National Anthem is the Vegemite Song. “We are happy little vegemites as bright as bright can be”…. I can sing it all day. As a matter of fact I‘m singing it now.

You need to follow my advice, have a little listen, have a little sing along and as sure as the blowfly on the end of my nose you will be wanting some too. I figure you just don’t remember the taste right.


spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on September 05, 2008:

I drove through there on my way to a life in AZ and have to concur :)

Christoph Reilly from St. Louis on September 05, 2008:

Fellow Okie! Hello. It was a great place to be a kid but I wouldn't want to visit...or something like that.

spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on September 05, 2008:

LOL Christoph! You and I would surely have had many critter adventures together! Btw...I lived in Del City, OK for a couple years as a wee tot.

I remember flipping over rocks in lakes while hunting for crawdads...but I've definitely never had a pet alligator (I'm jealous!). My mom was pretty freaked out over my pet rats though... hehehehe :)

Christoph Reilly from St. Louis on September 05, 2008:

Ahhh, reminds me of my childhood in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Suddenly, I feel like I missed out on something, for there were NO MUDPUPPIES! We captured tad poles, frogs, toads, snakes (poisoness or not, it didn't matter), collected crawdads from the street after a heavy rain (but we didn't eat them, didn't even know you could. I mean, they came from the sewer system)and I bought an alligator at the pet store and mom made me get rid of it...Humm...wonder what it's doing today under the town, and then my mom forbade me from getting a salamander as a replacement. The audacity of that woman! So I got one anyway and hid it in my closet. What my mother was doing in the closet that day I'll never know, but the little booger got loose, scared the life out of my mom and, after a chase, the poor critter was smased with a mallet and I was grounded for two weeks. Ahhh....good times. But NO MUDPUPPIES! What fun they must have been!

Thanks for the great hub!

spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on September 05, 2008:

I'm pretty sure we could blame it on our mothers...generating this fear of death and destruction. Even though we survived, the mothers of the current generation have decided to be prudent and take no chances?

Shadesbreath from California on September 05, 2008:

That's a hub all on its own that pads and helmets thing. Someone was talking about freaking nerf javelins in the comments on my T-shirt hub. lol. Hmm... maybe there is a hub, were I to have the courage to write it.

spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on September 05, 2008:

*nods at the image of death by typing*

Maybe it is a Mom thing. I was always so fascinated by this morbid imaginative side of her. No wonder she was always so tired...worrying about how to protect five children from any possible thing that could harm them. That would explain the helmets, elbow and knee pads though... :)

Shadesbreath from California on September 05, 2008:

Great story. I grew up on a ranch so I share your general sense of adventure in this story. There were tons of critters to seek out and learn from (and admittedly sometimes destroy, as in the case of the boiled mudpuppies lol). And LOL @ your descriptions of everything ending in death. I swear that's how my wife is towards our children. Poor things. Oh well, must be a mom thing. Anyway, I need to get off of here or all this typing is going to cause carpal tunnel which will enflame the surrounding flesh and cut off my circulation, resulting in gangrene and eventually, in death.

spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on September 05, 2008:

I never really understood why boys were made of such disgusting things...and I'm sure when I wake up completely, I'm going to see a hub in there somewhere :)

Clive Fagan from South Africa on September 05, 2008:

Spryte I always did have a rebellious streak and pretty much did as I wished on the QT. Keeping an innocent facade.

Oh and yes she would have gone for the wide eyed innocent, Blonde with pigtails (I've added this bit from my own imagination) look.

I think that nursery rhyme got a bit mixed up.

 "Little boys are made of snips and snails and (Mud)puppy dogs tails.

Little girls a made of sugar and spice and all things nice."


spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on September 04, 2008:

LOL! You'll have to check out Brainstormer's most recent hub for that answer :) But yes...Mr. Bunny does buzz. :P

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on September 04, 2008:

I daren't ask what the AA batteries were needed for!!!!! Does it buzz?

spryte (author) from Arizona, USA on September 04, 2008:

Misty - Yay for tom boys :)  I was the same way...but I tried to spare my mother most of the gory details of my adventures and come home alive every day.  What fun it was being a kid then.  I don't think I would have survived a computer world as a child...all the things I would have missed...

Sixty - LOL!  I bet your mom would have loved me!  Most moms did.  :)  I'd perfected that look of innocence and nobody ever believed I could do anything truly wrong...of course my friends knew otherwise.  Anyway...are you making up for your mom's advice now by associating with all the types she warned you about? 

Brainstormer - Nice to see you here!  And thank you for the reminder that I used the last AA batteries this morning and have to pick some more up :)  I'm looking forward to reading more of your writing as well.  So glad you enjoyed my mutant creature story! And awww thanks for the fan comment :)) You made my morning!

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on September 04, 2008:

Excellent, your Mum sounds a bit like mine used to be, but eventually she more or less resgined herself to the fact I was always going to be a bit of a "Tom Boy" and climb trees, build dens, rescue mice from cats etc. She still panics if I have a few too many glasses of wine though, or stay up later than 2am, and seems to forget I am now 38 years old and can make pretty safe decisions on my own.

Brainstormer from Australia on September 04, 2008:

That's the weirdest looking fish/dog/thing I have seen. I thought us Ozzies had the market cornered with our platypus and bunyips but that, that mutant monstrocity takes the cake.

From the dire warnings of imminent death to the scabby knees a great read.

Thanks, and thanks for giving me a laugh that brought tears to my eyes with your comment you left this morning (my time).

Clive Fagan from South Africa on September 04, 2008:

Great fun! Mudpuppy hunting. no wonder you can relate to the Jackalope. My mother too, was a great one for the dire warnings and trying to eliminate usuitable (unsuitable to her that is) friends. She would turn in her grave if she knew that I consorted with nymphes (Sprytes) Jackalopes, brain on a spine, a southerner (or two) and sundry Australians, Brits and even a paraglider! I can hear now "Mark my words no good will come of this. It will have dire consequences you will be brainwashed by these people!"

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