I’m here to tell you folks, I’d be fine with the rain letting up for a while. It’s almost gator season and I don’t want the river to climb too high. If it does, the gators will have dispersed into the backcountry, back into riverbottom swamps and creeks where I won’t be able to get my boat. That’ll make finding the really big bulls kind of tough. My last run up the Withlacoochee, from Silver Lake, I saw lots of gators out in the open water, but if the rain continues to hammer us, they’ll move deep into the flood plains.
Well, I expect it’s going to keep right on being soggy, so I want to plan ahead for it. The question is, for us gator guides, how can we get the big-boys to come out and play? I reckon I’ve a couple tricks up my sleeve that seem to work more often than not and if you have tags to fill this year, you might want to try them.
First off, I plan to hang baits. Not with hooks, which would be illegal, nor with pegs with the intent of catching the big-boys. I hang baits near the entrances to the narrow backwater creeks flowing into the flooded areas one night or two prior to the hunt. I consult the weather forecast to determine the dominant wind patterns and place the baits where the scent will carry back to the big hungry brutes. Note too, that feeding alligators is illegal, so the bait is placed higher up in the limbs of overhanging trees where the gators can’t reach it. The scent of it will be enough to keep them nearby and exposed.
Next is calling to the gators. A lot of hunters employ vocalizations of small alligators in distress, which can bring the older gators out for a look at what the problem may be. I’ve had hunters with far more experience than myself tell me that they come out to defend the little guys they think are in trouble. Yet, I’ve had other hunters with far more experience than myself tell me that the big bull gators respond out of cannibalistic intent looking for an easy meal for the youngster. But, whatever their reason for leaving safety and approaching the boat when they hear a small gator’s distress cries, they come; and that’s the whole point.
On my boat, we’ll be employing saltwater spinning combos to pitch weighted treble hooks over the gator in hopes of snagging him. Once he’s on the line, we just let him drag the boat around while we reel in and close the distance until we can get within range to thrust a harpoon into him and secure him with a heavy hand line.
It’s at this point that the fighting begins; he will go all out on an offensive and the fight can get dangerous if we lose focus for just an instance. But, eventually he’ll tire out and give you the opportunity to make the kill with a tap on the noggin from a bang stick. After which, we can only hope to be headed back to the boat ramp with a monster we can be proud of.
I surely thank you for all of your input and as always, if you have any feedback, give me a shout at [email protected]. God Bless and good hunting!