Florida Swamp Lizards 2021

KayakMacGyver

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Jun 8, 2018
Messages
246
We were fortunate to draw some great gator tags this year and had a few goals in mind:

First, have fun. Gator hunting has become quite therapeutic to us as we've learned ways to do it that don't require you to run yourself sleep-deprived and ragged. We've been doing it long enough that the pressure is off on killing any gator, now we focus on the gator.

Second, we wanted to bring our kids, ages 3 and 5, along for the hunts. I'm sure some folks might question that goal, but we prioritize safety and want our kids to be part of everything we do. We have 16 years of experience hunting alligators, so we understand the risks and plan accordingly. This is finally the year where the kids are conscious enough to know when it's time to be serious and listen to every word Mom and Dad are saying.

Third, 12' minimum standard on my tags. I drew a unit that has a great opportunity for trophy-sized gators. Alicia drew tags in an area that also has great trophy potential, but we just don't have the boat to effectively hunt it. An airboat or mud boat would be ideal and we would definitely adjust our expectations if we had the right equipment. So, we decided to take the first 7'+ gators that present an opportunity on her tags for personal consumption meat.

It's been a great year so far. On my son's birthday, we caught our first gator of the year within 5 minutes of legal hunting time. It was early enough that we were able to stay on the water and ended up filling the second tag not long thereafter.


20210822_203910_capture.jpg


After that, we turned our attention to my tags and put in lots of time scouting for the big ones.

20210828_085305.jpg


The next generation of gator getters

imagejpeg_1.jpg


We hunted hard and have put in many hours on our self-imposed 12' minimum tags. The truth is, we should have filled them 5 times over already, but luck just wasn't on our side. This particular unit presents some unique challenges with structure and it seems like every big gator we've hung into knows exactly how to use it to his advantage. Even so, we've kept at it and we were finally able to put a grown one in the boat yesterday morning. Unfortunately, my son got in trouble at school last week and wasn't allowed to go. We were all bummed that he couldn't be there, but he took it like a man and understands the consequences of his actions a little better now.

This one taped out at 12'3.

VideoCapture_20211003-142337.jpg


20211004_091033.jpg


3 tags down, one to go!
 

Hem

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Joined
May 20, 2009
Messages
2,754
Location
Three Forks, Mt
I'm fascinated with the idea...but know next to nothing about the sport.
How much does that 12" gator weigh?
So you hook it then what? Is it easy to shoot them when boatside?
What do you do with it?
 

KayakMacGyver

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Joined
Jun 8, 2018
Messages
246
Holy moley - that's a giant gator!! Congrats!

More importantly, it sounds like you and your wife are great parents!
That's a very nice thing for you to say and a very much appreciated comment.

I'm fascinated with the idea...but know next to nothing about the sport.
How much does that 12" gator weigh?
So you hook it then what? Is it easy to shoot them when boatside?
What do you do with it?

Weight can vary greatly, depending on the food that's available and competition from other alligators. In this case, I'd say this gator was a little on the "skinny" side, likely due to the fact that there is quite a bit of competition from other large alligators in the immediate area. We didn't have access to a scale, but based on other alligators that I've had weighed, I would say this one was in the neighborhood of around 450 lbs. For perspective, the alligator in my avatar was 12'2 and weighed 650 lbs.


On to how you catch them. Here's a video I put together of a hunt a couple of years ago that shows our process. Florida Alligator Hunt 2019.


Florida has some unique rules, and I'll do my best to identify those below:

1) Weighted snatch hook: This is our preferred method and you're basically just snagging the alligator. The hook doesn't penetrate the hide, so you have to maintain constant pressure or the hook will come unbuttoned. Once you've found a gator that you want to pursue, you have to close the distance in order to get a cast on it. Like most wild game, alligators have a safety bubble away from human interaction where they feel comfortable. Alligators that don't have this (due to human conditioning) are often dispatched by nuisance trappers because they are a threat to life and property. Once you get inside that safety bubble, alligators become evasive. Very rarely does an alligator sit still and let you get within an easy casting distance. This is the cat and mouse game that really gets the adrenaline pumping. The larger the alligator, the larger the safety bubble that alligator needs, especially in areas where they've received pressure.

2) Harpoon/Crossbow: Some folks like to run and gun with this method. That can be very effective in shallow/heavily vegetated water where you can run an airboat or mud boat and follow their trail. In deep or open water, though, gators will generally go under once you get inside their safety bubble. We use crossbow or harpoon once we've got a tired alligator lifted to the surface with the snatch hook method. Getting this hard line in them is critical because it's the first time in the fight, which on large gators can go 2 hours+, when the risk of losing them goes down dramatically. It also gives you much better control over them.

3) Bait: In Florida, we can't use a hook in our bait. The line must be attended to at all times and "attached" to the boat. A wooden peg, no longer than 2", must be used on the bait which serves to lodge in the alligator's throat in order to fight it, but can also be regurgitated in the event that the gator breaks loose or you decide to let it go.


Dispatching: Something else that's a little different here, compared to, say, Lousiana (Swamp People), is that we can't use a gun to kill an alligator. There are a lot of houses on water bodies in Florida, I just assume it's a safety deal. Bullets can skip a long way across water. We use a bangstick, which is just a pressure loaded firing pin on the end of a broom stick. Once you get the gator boatside, you jam that stick into the back of the gator's head and the force drives a pin into your primer, setting off the round.



Hope that helps explain a little better. Happy to help answer any other questions anyone might have, we love this stuff.
 

Hem

Well-known member
Joined
May 20, 2009
Messages
2,754
Location
Three Forks, Mt
That's a very nice thing for you to say and a very much appreciated comment.



Weight can vary greatly, depending on the food that's available and competition from other alligators. In this case, I'd say this gator was a little on the "skinny" side, likely due to the fact that there is quite a bit of competition from other large alligators in the immediate area. We didn't have access to a scale, but based on other alligators that I've had weighed, I would say this one was in the neighborhood of around 450 lbs. For perspective, the alligator in my avatar was 12'2 and weighed 650 lbs.


On to how you catch them. Here's a video I put together of a hunt a couple of years ago that shows our process. Florida Alligator Hunt 2019.


Florida has some unique rules, and I'll do my best to identify those below:

1) Weighted snatch hook: This is our preferred method and you're basically just snagging the alligator. The hook doesn't penetrate the hide, so you have to maintain constant pressure or the hook will come unbuttoned. Once you've found a gator that you want to pursue, you have to close the distance in order to get a cast on it. Like most wild game, alligators have a safety bubble away from human interaction where they feel comfortable. Alligators that don't have this (due to human conditioning) are often dispatched by nuisance trappers because they are a threat to life and property. Once you get inside that safety bubble, alligators become evasive. Very rarely does an alligator sit still and let you get within an easy casting distance. This is the cat and mouse game that really gets the adrenaline pumping. The larger the alligator, the larger the safety bubble that alligator needs, especially in areas where they've received pressure.

2) Harpoon/Crossbow: Some folks like to run and gun with this method. That can be very effective in shallow/heavily vegetated water where you can run an airboat or mud boat and follow their trail. In deep or open water, though, gators will generally go under once you get inside their safety bubble. We use crossbow or harpoon once we've got a tired alligator lifted to the surface with the snatch hook method. Getting this hard line in them is critical because it's the first time in the fight, which on large gators can go 2 hours+, when the risk of losing them goes down dramatically. It also gives you much better control over them.

3) Bait: In Florida, we can't use a hook in our bait. The line must be attended to at all times and "attached" to the boat. A wooden peg, no longer than 2", must be used on the bait which serves to lodge in the alligator's throat in order to fight it, but can also be regurgitated in the event that the gator breaks loose or you decide to let it go.


Dispatching: Something else that's a little different here, compared to, say, Lousiana (Swamp People), is that we can't use a gun to kill an alligator. There are a lot of houses on water bodies in Florida, I just assume it's a safety deal. Bullets can skip a long way across water. We use a bangstick, which is just a pressure loaded firing pin on the end of a broom stick. Once you get the gator boatside, you jam that stick into the back of the gator's head and the force drives a pin into your primer, setting off the round.



Hope that helps explain a little better. Happy to help answer any other questions anyone might have, we love this stuff.
Thank you for explaining. Pretty certain I would be wearing my Knight suit...at least from the waist down.
So 100lbs of gator steaks?
 

KayakMacGyver

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 8, 2018
Messages
246
Thank you for explaining. Pretty certain I would be wearing my Knight suit...at least from the waist down.
So 100lbs of gator steaks?

I think that's a pretty good estimate. Maybe a touch more.

What line/reel setup do you use?

25 year old Penn Spinfisher 7500SS's with Ugly Stick rods are my tried and true. I've had these combos since I was a kid and spooled with 65 lb test Spiderwire Invisibraid, they provide constant service from alligators to cobia.

I recently bought a Shimano Saragosa that has been a really nice upgrade. I don't like it for casting so much, but it's a beast for applying pressure (over 50 lbs of drag). I use this reel to get a second line in them after hooking up on the other to pull them off the bottom.
 
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