For more than 30 years, Ohio sportsman Mike Lieb has been trapping snapping turtles for the pot. “Turtle is a big hit at sportsman’s dinners,” Lieb says, “and it’s a favorite meat of a lot of old-timers around here.”
Lieb traps the snappers with a homemade hoop-net setup. He stretches nylon mesh over three 30-inch galvanized-steel hoops, making a 4-foot-long tube with a 6- or 7-inch opening on one end. The whole thing looks a lot like a live-bait trap but bigger. (Commercial models are available online for about $60 a trap.) To bait the trap, he first catches carp and freezes them whole. When turtle season opens, he cuts the frozen fish into 6-inch sections and hangs a chunk about two-thirds of the way into the trap from a mesh bait bag. He’ll place the hoop-net setup just below the waterline at a pond edge or along a creek, then check it every morning. “That cut fish melts, and all the blood and oil flows downstream and brings turtles from all over,” he says. “I’ll get half a dozen turtles in a trap. Last year I had 11 in one.” But catching the snappers is only half the job. Lieb puts all his turtles in a freshwater tank for a week or more, changing the water several times a day until it runs clear, flushing the turtle of algae and pond scum. Then it’s ready for butchering and Lieb’s famous turtle soup.