It's your first trip to the zoo with the whole family, you pack up the mini van and head off for a fun day. Without a doubt one of the most exciting things at the zoo is the alligator feeding times. Watching a goofy looking trainer sling bloody pieces of meat the size of small children towards a crowd of hungry alligators is always an excitement to watch. There is just something about watching the strong jaws of the gators rip apart their food like it is a sheet of paper. Take away the steel fence, the trainer, and the meat the alligators are receiving, leaving just you and the gator. Sound fun now?
If you have been around any body of water in the great state of Florida, more than like you have seen an alligator. These large predators can easily get up to 14 feet in length and over 1000 lbs. Despite their large size, these animals can find the smallest bit of water and make it home. So no matter where you live in Florida, chances are you are going to have to learn to live with the alligators.
Living with these creatures can be easier than you would think, as long as you keep your distance. The idea of staying out of the way of gators is easy for most people, but not such an easy task for the freshwater fisherman. Whether walking the bank, using a small canoe or Jon boat, or trolling around with an expensive bass boat the Florida freshwater fisherman has to be aware of the alligator. Being an avid freshwater fisherman I too must be aware of the dangers of alligators, but just this week I tested my luck and definitely learned my lesson.
With nothing to do Monday morning, a buddy and I headed out for a day of fishing. Like our previous trips we loaded our small Jon boat in the truck and headed off. It was a beautiful day and we couldn't have asked for better conditions. We trolled through the lake and it didn't take long before we spotted our first gator. He was around 5 ft long and was slowing cruising through the lake like he owned it. We paid him no attention and continued on casting our lures into the water.
As the day drug on we still spotted that same gator many times. We were both rather unfamiliar with the lake so we assumed that this might be the only gator in the lake. We continued to work the lake over for fish and this trolling method led us into a horseshoe shaped bend in the lake. Upon the outer edge of the horseshoe we spotted two small alligators. These two baby gators were between 1 and 1.5 ft.
We talked it over and thought it would be fun after fishing the horseshoe to come back and see if we could touch one of the small gators. We hadn't trolled on for more than 25 feet before we saw it: on the bank was at least a 10ft alligator just sitting there! We assumed it must have been the mother of the two smaller gators we had once thought of trying to touch. We were a mere 15 ft from the shore of this massive mother gator.
We were going to keep putting along until I noticed something. A huge bass was right in front of this gator on the shore line. Much to my buddies dismay, I told him I was going to cast at the bass, even though it was right on the shore line, probably a foot or two away from the sunbathing gator. I cocked my pole back and slung out my best effort of a cast, but did I ever miss the mark. My fishing worm got caught in a tree right next to the gator. Being the idiot I am, I kind of chuckled and said would you look at that.
I gave a few stealthy tugs to try and get my bait from the tree, but no such luck. I then yanked back, upon my yank bank the whole tree shook. This jolted the gator from the bank, a splash of nearly 5f t erupted, and awake like the one from the movie jaws was heading straight at our boat. I froze and my bud dypressed down on the trolling motor to reverse us. The gator was on us in no time at all and swim right under the boat. We both nearly peed our pants during this 10 second ordeal.
There is nothing scarier than having a 10ft alligator charge at you from the shoreline when you are in a 10ft boat. My buddy proceeded to call me a jackass the rest of the day, and asked what I was thinking. I told him I figured if anything the alligator would have retreated to the shoreline, he than said "those things have been around since the dinosaurs, you think your 7.5 inch plastic worm is gonna scare them?"
The moral of the story is to stay clear of the alligators. Whether you are an avid fisherman or just someone who lives near the water, remember when you are on the water you are on their territory. Stick clear and play by their rules!