As a life long Floridian, I have always been respectful of alligators and luckily have had very few run-ins with these prehistoric monsters. I have had several situations when wade fishing in the Indian River, where they would lurk at a bit of a distance but still close enough where you still pucker up a bit! I never considered applying for a gator hunting tag until this year. It was 2020, so why not!
With oversight from a friend, we applied into the annual lottery with our preferred gator hunting spots listed in priority. We were both selected in the lottery to hunt STA_1W-North, which is a water treatment area in Belle Glade, Florida. The tag allows an individual to harvest two alligators during the season. The STA_1W North area is essentially a small grid of dirt roads with small canals on both sides within about a 3-5 mile area used to clean water from Lake Okeechobee.
Here is the essential gear used:
- A truck, preferably lifted so you fit in with the others
- Medium Heavy Fishing Rod
- 8000 Size Reel with 80lb braid
- Weighted Treble hooks
- Large Snatch Hook connected to a rope
- Jon Boat w/oars
- Bang Stick w/357 Magnum ammo
- Waterproof Boots
- And a lot of bug spray
In a nutshell, someone is driving the truck down these dirt roads and your hunting partners are standing up in the back of the truck scouting for alligators in the canals. Once something with some size is spotted (6 foot plus), a few slaps on the roof, truck stops, and the hunt begins! The hunters quickly work their down the shoreline and start casting weighted treble hooks over the alligator in an attempt to snag the alligator. This often occurs by blindcasting until you snag something, which is often also dead trees, roots, litter etc...
If you happen to snag an alligator, the fight begins! The other hunters quickly pull the jon boat from the back of the truck and slide it down the bank. The hunters including the angler board the boat and launch in chase of the gator. Once launched, one of the non-anglers start tossing the snatch treble hook to get a better connection into the gator to better control its movement. If successful, you would now have two connections to the alligator, and able to somewhat control the alligator. Dependent on the gator’s size, it may be beneficial to also harpoon the gator. Eventually, the gator will exhaust itself out and a bang stick is used to finish the fight.
I was able to punch both my tags (9ft and 9ft 7inch) during the same weekend with help from my friends.
Fortunately, many alligator processors exist in the area where you can drop off the gator and they handle the rest. The wife didn't like the idea of handling it at the house!
Gator hunting is as Floridaman as it gets and comes with a lot of risk. After all, you are fighting a prehistoric monster in their territory and in my situation a small boat. Things can go wrong and do occasionally go wrong. If you are interested in trying it out, please go with a professional or an experienced person. It's definitely an experience!
The rules are set by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission aka the FWC. Rifles and other guns are not permitted by law and would probably just result in wounded gators. These annual controlled hunts are used to control the gator population and also help fund the management of Florida wildlife. This active management is what drives the USA to have such plentiful wildlife. In addition, the costs of the licenses and the special excise taxes from the hunting equipment are also used to fund the various state programs to preserve our wildlife.
For additional information, please check the FWC site.