Common Snapping Turtle Control
Most Missouri turtles don't cause problems
Of Missouri's turtles, only the common snapping turtle may become a nuisance requiring a limited amount of control. The other pond turtles (cooters, sliders, and painted turtles) are basically vegetarians and are not harmful to fish, wildlife, or man. The alligator snapper has become very rare in Missouri and it is illegal to capture or kill one in this state.
Don't hurt or kill endangered alligator snappers
Common snapping turtles are found in rivers and streams, but they also move into and stay in ponds and lakes. And, in some instances, they eat the same foods as the fishes. They are not, however, as detrimental to fish and wildlife as generally supposed, even though they do eat some small fishes, very young ducks, and goslings. Common snappers are basically lazy and are more apt to feed on slower moving, sick, less desirable fish. By doing this, they provide a valuable clean-up service by eating diseased or weakened fish and by devouring any dead or decaying fish or other animals. The common snapping turtle is also good to eat and should be regarded as another part of the crop from your pond.
The two species of soft-shelled turtles (midland smooth and eastern spiny) and the common snapping turtle are considered game animals in Missouri, and they may be taken by hook and line or archery for food if you have a valid fishing permit. It is illegal to shoot turtles in Missouri.
The common snapping turtle is one of Missouri's largest and can be easily identified by its rough upper shell with saw-tooth rear edge, large head, and alligator-like tail. The bottom shell is small and cross shaped. Adults often weigh from 10 to 35 pounds.
Catch them in spring, summer or fall
We have found that attempts to reduce or eradicate common snapping turtles usually do not result in any noticeable benefit to fish or fishing. However, if they become a nuisance in your pond, you can easily reduce their numbers by catching them on hook and line. Bank lines may be made by tying 4 or 5 feet of fishing line to a flexible pole or trimmed tree limb 6 to 8 feet long. Put about 12 inches of steel wire (No. 16) or leader between the line and the shaft of the hook to prevent the snapper from biting off the line and escaping. Hooks should be large and strong, about 1 inch between the barb and the shaft. Push the pole into the bank far enough so that it is solidly anchored, and set it at an angle that will allow the bait to hang a few inches above the bottom. Bait the hook with fresh beef, pork, or even parts of freshly caught fish. The tougher the meat, the easier it will be to catch the unwanted turtle.
Common snappers are easily caught in relatively shallow areas of your pond near beds of aquatic plants or under overhanging banks, stumps or other types of cover. Spring, summer, and fall are the best seasons to fish for the common snapper. Check your turtle lines daily. Freshly caught snapping turtles can be utilized for food. If another species is caught, you can release it unharmed.
Take care during handling and butchering
If you plan to eat the snapper, clean it soon after capture. They are easy to prepare, but be careful handling them! First, cut off the head and hang the carcass by the tail to bleed it properly. Next, remove the bony plate on the underneath side by cutting the cartilage that connects it to the top shell. This exposes the edible parts — the legs, neck, and tail. Peel the skin from these parts and cut them off from the shell and viscera. Wash the meat thoroughly in fresh, cool water and treat it as you would any other meat. It is excellent fried, stewed or made up into a soup or chowder.