I bet Nick and Trace each $1 that the gator cruising up to the baits would choose the meaty sirloin over the bleached-white rotting chicken that looked like something that floated off the carcass of a bloated whale.
I lost 2 bucks. Shows what I know – but, hey, this was my first experience baiting gators.
The gator grabbed the chicken in his jaws, chomped a couple times and took the chunk of flesh down his gullet.
Baiting is a popular method in which to entice a gator close enough to get it attached to a restraining line. No hooks are permitted by law, as the FWC stipulates:
Baited wooden pegs less than two (2) inches in length have been used as a legal and effective method for attaching a restraining line to take an alligator. A baited wooden peg is attached to a restraining line that is hand-held or used with a fishing rod and reel and high-test line. The baited peg is typically thrown or cast near the alligator or near the area where it last submerged. The line of a baited wooden peg cannot be terminated with a float. The end of the line must be attached to the boat or hand-held.
Baits include rotten chicken, beef or beef lung, all of which will turn a stomach in a heartbeat. In some instances, the leader is wrapped around and through a bait and cleated off to the peg. Some folks fill the baits with spray foam to help it float. The baits are then left in buckets to stew for a few days before the hunt to create the putrid scent that’s attractive to the reptiles. Once the gator ingests the bait, the fight is on, though care must be taken to not pull it out or force the gator to regurgitate it.
That monster, national news-making gator Harris and Matt killed a few weeks back took the beef option. The first time he bit, the gator spit the bait after pressure was applied. When he returned, though, he did so with a vengeance, rolling the steak across his back before sucking it down. From what they tell me, it was quite a show.
So I was excited to see it for myself. With a successful season already in the bag and an early teal hunt in the morning, we didn’t have the impulse nor motivation to wait out another biggun’. Using Harris’ last Kissimmee tag, we spied a decent meat gator, tossed the baits out and trolled a hundred yards upstream and hoped for the best.
Watching through the binoculars at dusk, we observed the gator return to the surface and take the lure. While he wasn’t the biggest beast on the river, he ran us a merry chase for an hour through vegetation before getting the line caught under a submerged tree. Desperate to be over with the hunt and the mosquitoes to cease flaying our flesh, Harris reached into the water to grab the tree – cracking a rib on the gunnel of his boat in the process – cut the line free and re-tied the loose ends. Thankfully, the gator was still on and thereafter quickly subdued.
It may not be ideal in all situations, but on places where the water is deep or otherwise impractical to toss snatch hooks, baits are a fun way to go about gator hunting.