In all my years fishing, I have caught many different types of fish — both freshwater and saltwater. Now, in Florida, I usually spend all my fishing hours on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. However, this year the fishing has been very slow.
So, while in the local bait shop in Flagler Beach talking with the owner, I asked him about bass fishing, knowing Florida is one of the best places to fish for largemouth from shore. He told me where there were several of these ponds nearby. I thanked him, bought my annual Florida freshwater fishing license and headed for Daytona and Bass Pro Shop to stock up on some Stik-O-Baits.
The next day at sunup, I parked on the hill next to the pond and walked down the hill to the edge of the water. I made casts as I moved around the pond. It was about 45 minutes later, when I was about halfway around the pond, that there was a big splash in the water.
My fishing rod immediately bent in half.
The drag on the reel was singing.
I finally stopped my big catch and attempted to start bringing it in, but it was a fighter. When it finally surfaced, it didn’t jump. It rolled.
My catch wasn’t a bass — I had hooked an alligator, and in his mouth was the Stik-O-Bait.
For a few minutes, it would dive and run. It took a while, but I finally worked it back to the surface, and all I wanted to do was get the alligator close enough for a photo. I finally did get it within photo range sitting on top of the water looking at me.
It was the perfect time for photo . . . but I had left my phone in the car.
I called myself a few well-deserved names and started back around the edge of the water. The alligator would run taking line and stop, and roll winding the line around its body as I took up line a little at a time. All I could do is hope it would stay on. This give and take lasted about an hour as I worked my way around the shore. Fortunately, the BPS-XPS Hyper Braid 5-pound test held out as the alligator dove and splashed. I thought for sure the line would break while I backed up the hill to my car. I grabbed my cell phone and quickly worked my way down the hill with one hand holding the rod and the other snapping video and photos.
And, then, I did something foolish.
I touched the alligator, and it swirled around, hitting my hand with its tail. A few minutes later, the hook came loose and off it went. I wasn’t able to measure, but I estimated the alligator was around 36 inches.
Several days later, I returned to the same pond remembering what the owner of the bait shop said: “They have some big largemouth in that pond.”
This time, I brought my wife with me, and I parked in a different place away from where I had caught the alligator and we made our way to the edge of the water. My wife had the camera, just in case I hooked up with a big bass.
Just seconds after the Stik-O-Worm hit the water, something from underneath it exploded, but it wasn’t a bass. Once again my rod bent in half and the reel’s drag sang — and it was another alligator.
This one was smaller than the first, but also a fighter. It headed into deeper water for what became a 15-minute battle with my wife doing the filming. Finally, after several runs, it shook the hook out.
These adventures were fun and exciting, you bet, but for the rest of my stay, I will be looking for different ponds.
BACK ON THE ICE
After Don Bare, of Amsterdam, spent four weeks in Albany Med for a list of injuries he got on his farm and after rehab, his orthopedist turned him loose to go fishing. His buddy Ed Skorupski, of Stillwater, was right there to take him on the ice. His wife Linda drove him to Saratoga Lake, and Ed took it from there. Ed cut three holes and they agreed to a bit of competition, with the first fish caught netting the winner $1.
Ten minutes later, Don had a big smile on his face and a big bass in his hand, which he released. It was a warm and very enjoyable for the two buddies back on the ice together at sunset. Linda, Ed and Don left the ice smiling.
Ed told me the ice-fishing season is fast approaching its end. He also said that the edges are getting very sketchy and, depending where you are, the top few inches are soft crystal. Ice fishing is over for him.
YOUTH TURKEY HUNT
On Saturday, April 20, is the opening of the NYS Youth Turkey Hunt, as Mike Auriemma and Dick Andrews, of Schenectady, will host their 10th annual Youth Turkey Hunt. All youths, ages 12 to 15, with a valid hunting license along with an adult caller are welcome to participate. The weigh-in will be from noon to 2 p.m. at the Hagaman Volunteer Fire Department at 126 South Pawling Street.
There will be awards for all turkeys taken, and all youth present will receive door prizes. There will be free food and beverages.
Please call with any questions and to sign up by April 13. Contact Mike at 518-669-0460, or Dick at 518-843-9086 or 518-461-2912. Also, if a caller is needed, please let them know as soon as possible.
See you there.
Reach Gazette outdoors columnist Ed Noonan at [email protected].