by Capt. Matt Maloney
It was one of those Florida nights where everything was very still, the black water we were floating in looked like a big mirror. It was hard to determine where the water stopped and the sky began. The only thing that gave it away was the eerie red eyes that were staring back at us. We were on the great Lake Okeechobee in the central part of Florida hunting down the American Alligator! To say that my clients and myself were excited would be an understatement. We were ecstatic!
Alligator hunting in Florida is certainly one thing that should be on every hunter or fisherman’s bucket list. This particular hunt we got out to the lake around 6pm. I unloaded my boat while my clients got their things ready. Once the boat was in the water I didn’t even have time to start the boat before we saw a gigantic 11ft gator. So instead of starting the boat and spooking this giant creature I put down my trolling motor and started to move his way.
When hunting gators in Florida the hunter can use a few different types of weapons. It might scare some people to think that guns cannot be used! Yes, that is right, no guns. Most hunters use crossbows, harpoons, or big treble hooks on a big fishing rod. All ways can be effective to harvest a gator, but my favorite is a big treble hook on a fishing rod. Maybe it is the fisherman in me, or maybe it is because I have been most successful with this method. Whatever it may be, the snitch hook method has worked well for me. Once the gator is hooked, we fight him to the boat and then put another harpoon in him for good measure. Finally, the gator is finished off with a bang stick (a .223 rifle round that can only be fired by hitting the gator on top of the head).
As I headed my boat towards our 11ft gator I informed my client to get the rod ready to cast. We snuck up close to about 15 yards. I whispered to my friend, “Okay, just cast the hook across his back and reel fast to set the hook.” In a split second the water went from flat glassy calm to a whirlpool of waves and thrashing alligator. The gator was hooked and the fight began. The alligator took line off the reel like a giant tarpon! I cranked up the motor and started to follow him. The fight lasted about 15 minutes. It was a hard fight so far but it was far from over. The hard part was about to go on, the harpooning. The large whale like harpoon that we stick the gator with insures that the gator does not get away, and that was what we had left to do. I grabbed the rod so my client could harpoon the giant beast! Down went the harpoon with all of my friend’s might. Then the rod and line went slack. “Did the harpoon stick”, I asked. We pulled on the harpoon line, nothing. I reeled on the fishing rod hoping he was still attached to the rod, nothing. As quick as we had hooked the huge gator, he was gone.
What a disappointment, and yet at the same time what an amazing fight! We lost the battle but we did not lose the war, a few minutes later another alligator went swimming by and this time all went in our favor! We got an alligator. This second gator was not the gigantic gator we were hoping for, however, we did cross off one thing on my good friend’s BUCKET LIST.