Most people will probably never come into contact with a snake during their lifetime except maybe at a snake exhibit. However, if you spend time in wooded areas or around water you will increase your chances of coming in contact with a snake.

Even then your chances of seeing a venomous snake versus the non-venomous variety are not very good. All snakes pose very little threat to humans but NOTHING frightens us more than coming into contact with a snake.

Every year about this time of the year, I begin receiving e-mails from people who read my column about what they perceive to be poisonous snakes in Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee. I have been sent photos of supposedly poisonous snakes and have even been asked by people to come to their residence and see a snake as proof that the snake in question was in fact poisonous.

In all of those cases, I have yet to find or see a poisonous snake that was found in either lake, on the lake shoreline or in a pontoon boat. All of the snakes that I have personally seen in Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee or that I have been asked to identify from those lakes have been non-poisonous water snakes.

A friend who is a professor at Georgia College and State University and is an expert on snakes has also been contacted numerous times by people over the years who think they have found a poisonous snake in one of the lakes mentioned and over those many years his investigations have never turned up a poisonous snake.

I know those conclusions will not sit well with many folks who swear that they have seen or even killed poisonous snakes in either Lake Oconee or Lake Sinclair. Most believe that the snake in question is a water moccasin but the habitat of both lakes is not conducive to water moccasins. Most snakes in Lake Sinclair and Lake Oconee are the Banded and Northern species of water snakes.

Granted at first glance the coloration, the color pattern and the head of the snake might be confused with a water moccasin but a close observation of the snake (assuming you get close enough) will help you determine that the snake is just a harmless water snake.

Most people refer to the triangular head of the snake as a way to identify the snake but that is not a good indicator for identifying the snake. Many water snakes have a triangular head and there are other better ways to determine whether the snake is a water moccasin or a common water snake.

The one sure fire way to determine if a snake is a common water snake or a water moccasin is to look at the head but not at the shape of the head. Instead look at the snake’s eyes. Water snake’s pupils are round and the water moccasin’s pupils are vertical slits. The water moccasin also has a heat-sensing pit that sits between the eye and the nostril on each side of the head.

I know what you are now thinking. No way am I going to get close enough to check out the snake’s eyes. However if you do kill the snake and I hope you do not, then at least look closely at those identifying marks to make a final determination so when you have another encounter you will be able to quickly see that the snake in question is not a water moccasin.

There are several other ways to identify the snake in question. The water moccasin has a very distinct neck separating the head from the body and when swimming the entire body of the water moccasin will ride on the surface of the water. A common water snake will swim with a good deal of its body under the water. The water moccasin also has a very thick body for its length. It is short and fat whereas the water snake has a longer body length and is less thick compared to their overall length. 

Most people immediately want to kill any snake that they encounter around the water and this is an extremely bad way to feel about snakes. Non-poisonous snakes are protected and you can be fined for killing common water snakes or any non-poisonous snake. Some types of snakes have seen their numbers greatly reduced to the point of near extinction due to man’s obsession with killing them.

Your chances of encountering a water moccasin in Lake Sinclair or Lake Oconee are very remote if not impossible but when encountering any snake in or near the water just do what my wife does with all snakes and vamoose. Even though water snakes are not poisonous, they will give you a nasty bite if you mess with them so best to just leave them alone. See you next week.


Bobby Peoples can be reached by e-mail at


 Lake Oconee Fishing Forecast

Lake Conditions – The north end of the lake is heavily stained with most of the creeks having less stain than the main lake and clear water can be found in Richland Creek.

Lake Water Temperature – 70-74 degrees.

Largemouth Bass – GOOD – Secondary points, main lake points and deep boat docks are now the focus for anglers as the largemouth move back to the main lake after spawning. Angler choices include spinnerbaits and crankbaits (DT-10/Deep Little N, strike King 5XD, 6XD) and use colors to match the water color. Other good choices right now are white Zoom flukes, buzzbaits and topwater lures when you find the shad spawning early in the day around seawalls and rip-rap. Floating Trick worms, Shakey heads and Carolina rigged plastics are also catching fish around seawalls and docks.

Crappie –GOOD –The crappie have moved back to the lake’s underwater trees where they can be caught on both jigs and minnows through the summer months. Trolling over those lake treetops continues to be good.

Striped/Hybrid Bass/White – GOOD – The fish are moving away from the dam and to humps and deep lake points. Dropping live bait to the fish and trolling through the schools are catching some fish.

Catfish – GOOD - The catfish continue to spawn in the larger coves before they begin to move back to the main lake. Cut baits of shad/bream or live shad/bream are best for larger blues and flatheads.

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