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So a few friends and I were trout fishing on Slippery Rock creek yesterday. We did pretty well, we caught a nice mix of Rainbows and Brown, they were all stockies, but I did hook a nice little smallmouth which put up one heck of a fight on a light spinning rod. Anyways, on to the point... My friend was fishing a spinner, and thought that he had snagged a piece of wood. As he dragged what appeared to be a rather large piece of rotten water logged wood to the shore, we could see that it was a Hellbender Salamander! I don't know if any of you guys have seen one before, but this (non-fish-story estimate) guy was 18"-24" long with a mouth that looked like it could swallow a baseball with ease! Once we realized what it was, we grabbed some gloves (hey, we don't know if they bite or what), and tried to pull it up onto the bank for a picture. It was really heavy, and ended up pulling off the hook before we could get it up there. I've never seen anything like that before...
 

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With what some would consider ugly looks and a name like 'Hellbender," its easy to imagine that these creatures are pretty misunderstood. Hellbenders are not venomous, though their skin secretions are somewhat toxic (I don't recommend touching your eyes after handling one). They will bite, but only if they are really provoked. A common myth is that hellbenders will 'ruin' good fishing streams by eating all the fish. This couldn't be farther from the truth! In fact, if you see hellbenders in a stream, this is an excellent indication that the water quality is still good -- and this is good for both hellbenders and game fish. The hellbender's voracious appetite for crayfish also means that they are very important for keeping a stream's food chain balanced, and this is good for fish and the entire ecosystem.

If you catch a hellbender while fishing, please remove the hook using pliers or a pair of gloves and release the hellbender.
 

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I saw one swimming past me one day on Kettle Creek, So I reached down and grabbed it. I realized later how dumb it probably was, since at the time I had no idea what it was. Let me tell you those things are extremely slimy, and could probably live quite some time out of the water.
 

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Sorry for seeing this thread so late but here are a few pics of a Hellbender my kids and their buddies found up in Tioga Co on Pine Creek.
It was 24-3/4" long


 

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Awesome!

They are in fact indicators of excellent water quality and the host of several mussel species that are obligate to the salamander at one phase of their life cycle.
 

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We are happy that the water quality is so good to support the hellbenders. The amount of aquatic life is amazing. I just hope all the drilling in the area has no effect on the river.
 
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