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Fishing with an alligator — round two

Earlier today I made calls from Florida to my East End fishing sources.

With the exception of a report of small bass being caught in some of the creeks on the south shore and a very occasional flounder being taken, there still isn’t much going on right now.

It’s hard to believe it’s really spring in Florida, but with clear days, temps in the high 80s and stiff breezes I know it is true. Spring here is the time when all the wild animals are having babies and all the birds are on their nests. We have a hen mallard duck on a nest of eight eggs in the low bushes separating our driveway from a neighbor’s; there are bunnies running all over the place; frogs are singing love songs in our adjoining pond through the night; and alligators are enticing mates with bellowing grunts.

I haven’t seen a poisonous snake this year, but other dangers still exist.

To illustrate that, here’s an excerpt from my fishing log about a late afternoon trip I made on April 4:

Today was a day I won’t forget for awhile. About 5 p.m. I took the bike right down to Matt’s Pond to see if all those bass were still there and would hit the frog lure again. I tried the frog for a while and caught an 18-inch bass on it. Returning it to the water, I looked up and saw the same 6-foot-long alligator that had chased me several weeks ago surfacing and powering close to where I was standing.

He was easily recognizable with a slight reddish tint on his back. He came to look at me and cadge a fish. I moved away to the south end of the pond and tried there with limited luck, keeping an eye out for the gator. When I had moved away he submerged.

I’d been at the new spot for 10 minutes when I saw bubbles bursting on the calm surface — he was exhaling 50 feet away from me. Finally, the gator surfaced through the bubbles and watched me fish as I hooked a small bass on the frog lure. Bringing the bass in, the gator came right toward me, resting his jaws on the edge of the pond, 10 feet away from me.

I felt pretty safe on the crest of a ridge about three feet higher than he was. He stayed in the water as I tried to unhook the bass. Finally, I got it done and was about to toss the fish back in the pond away from the gator — I usually put them back in the water gently — when the bass slipped out of my hand and tumbled down the slope exactly halfway between the gator and me.

I started to move toward the fish, thinking of rescuing it, but the fish kicked into the weeds and the gator sprung out of the water toward the commotion, but couldn’t see it clearly because of the shore reeds.

The next time the fish kicked, the gator went right to it, caught it, backed into the water, tossed the fish in the air to reposition it in his jaws for an easy kill and then gulped it down and disappeared.

COURTESY PHOTO The gator’s snack.

I am not the nervous type, but that gator’s aggression spooked me and I was ready to leave the pond.

I was happy with myself that I didn’t try to save the fish since I know I wouldn’t have won a bout with that damn reptile. I’m sure he’s developed his dangerous habit of following fisherman along the ponds, looking for and receiving a fish handout and, unfortunately, I was guilty of doing that very thing, although unwillingly.

I have several guided tarpon fishing trips set up in two weeks where I only have to worry about large sharks attacking 100-pound tarpon that are hooked. Of course, I’ll continue fishing the ponds until we head north to chase the striped bass around May 8.