Kayak Fishing with Alligators
If you google this topic, you’ll see videos of folks having close encounters with the Florida state reptile. We recently watched a few of them and saw anglers and paddlers doing stupid stuff and getting scared when the alligator reacted. They were crowding alligators, paddling right up to a nest and mistaking a gator attack for it trying to steal their fish at boat side. There are times and places that alligators can be dangerous. Thankfully those are the exception, not the rule. The most dangerous alligator is one that has been fed and becomes aggressive when the next kayak comes by. If a gator comes towards you, it has been fed and should be regarded as a threat. Slap your paddle on the water or its head to scare it away. Don’t bring pets along for a ride in alligator country. Active dogs and their barking can attract gators from quite a distance. They regard dogs as easy prey, especially if they fall or jump into the water.
Now crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators. The American crocodile found in Florida, is generally smaller and less inclined to try and eat a kayak than the African Nile crocodile dining on wildebeests. We’re glad our American croc’s range is restricted to areas well south of Englewood, but we’re confident they will show up here someday.
Most of our area’s best bass fishing is home to alligators. Having fished many of the freshwater lakes and creeks around here in kayaks and from shore, we have yet to be harassed, much less attacked by an alligator. Note that we do not wade in alligator country. The instinctual behavior we see in our encounters with alligators is always avoidance. They want nothing more than to be left alone. We always give them as much space as possible, which can be problematic in a narrow creek. The deepest water in any stretch of creek is probably where your kayak is floating. Many kayakers get the impression alligators are attacking as they move off the bank right towards them. They are just heading for that deep water under you and the security they seek. Never make them feel cornered or unable to retreat. In a narrow creek, it is advisable to make some noise before getting too close. They react badly to surprises.
Alligators don’t eat kayaks. A kayak looks like nothing it has ever successfully eaten before. If paddlers just use common sense and give these prehistoric reptiles some space, we can enjoy the same areas together. We find our biggest challenge is getting close enough for a good picture. They’re camera shy.
The times to avoid being around alligators are during the mating season when the males get quite aggressive and when the females are guarding their nest or their newborns. Avoid paddling near a nest. Alligator nests look like a pile of decomposing vegetation among cattails or along the shore. After the little gators have hatched, mom will be close by when summoned by those little chirps the babies make if alarmed. When you hear this sound, move away and don’t approach the little guys.
Fishing from a kayak among gators can be a challenge and we prefer to paddle to another area to get away from them. But, they may also be nearby and not show themselves until you hook a fish. The thrashing of a hooked fish will get their attention every time. It is always wise to play the fish quickly, unhook it in the kayak and quietly release it. Alligators will readily chase and catch a top water lure. While they put up a heck of a fight, they are impossible to unhook and release. It is also illegal to harass an alligator this way.
If you do freak out and tip your kayak over in alligator habitat, don’t splash around! Get back in the kayak or on shore as quickly and quietly as possible. Big gators live for their lucky day when they catch a deer or hog in the water. Thrashing around like their favorite prey is never a good plan.