Alligator Hunting–Another “On the Water” Opportunity

Florida's lakes are excellent habitat for American alligators
Natural North Florida’s lakes are excellent habitat for American alligators

While the “deer and the antelope” roam much of North America, it’s the American alligator that appeals to hunters and fishermen during the late summer and early fall months in Natural North Florida.  Yes, we do have abundant deer, wild pigs and Osceola turkeys, but the chase for alligators is what stirs the spirit of many residents and visitors to our area.  It’s much like fishing, in that “gators” live in the water and are usually chased in boats, snagged with hooks, but then dispatched using bang sticks–a relative of the modern firearm.  The end product is a huge reptile, often reaching ten or 12 feet and weighing in excess of 300 pounds.  The tail meat and ribs are considered delicacies, and the hides often appear later–tanned in the form of expensive shoes, belts, wallets and purses.

Florida’s 2014 alligator hunt began on August 15.  Hunters must apply for a special permit to harvest gators, and winner of the lottery are give two tags that must be accounted for at the end of the highly-regulated season.  Permits are valid for specific week-long hunts and unused tags are valid for the month of October.  Permits are also site-specific.  Permits are issued for entire counties (such as Levy and Alachua) or specific bodies of water (such as Newnans Lake or Orange Lake, in Alachua County).  For example, 31 permits were issued for the first phase (week) of the 2014 hunt for Newnans Lake in Alachua County.  With two tags each, a total of 62 gators could be taken during that week. Permits are awarded by lottery, and the drawing is held in early summer.  It’s a complicated process, and the cost is $272 for residents.  Many residents obtain permits and then hire guides to fulfill the quota allowed.   For complete information regarding alligator hunting, see the FWC Alligator Hunting web page.

 

Shallow draft boats, including "go-devils" and airboats are essential for navigating the shorelines of shallow lakes
Shallow draft boats, including “go-devils” and airboats are essential for navigating the shorelines of shallow lakes
Keen eyes and a pair of good binoculars are helpful when spotting gators
Keen eyes and a pair of good binoculars are helpful when spotting gators
Fishing rods rigged with "snatch hooks" are used to hook wary gators
Fishing rods rigged with “snatch hooks” are used to hook wary gators
Hooking the gator is only one part of the battle.
Hooking the gator is only one part of the battle.
Small gators tend to roll boatside, breaking rods and tearing up tackle
Small gators tend to roll boatside, breaking rods and tearing up tackle
Small gators (under 8-feet) are released unharmed
Small gators (under 8-feet) are released unharmed
Gators must be tagged and accounted for upon harvest.
Gators must be tagged and accounted for upon harvest.
The final result:  a 10-footer bound for the BBQ!
The final result: a 10-footer bound for the BBQ!