Lesson for all gators: Don't mess with a man and his rod

May 16, 2011 

I feel like pulling up the old boot straps, hopping on an old hag marsh tacky and galloping up and down the streets of Bluffton doing my very best Paul Revere imitation: The cobia are coming! The cobia are coming!

But seeing that I don't have a marsh tacky, nor do I have any fancy leather boots, then how about this? I get on my rusty old bicycle, throw on my white oyster pickin' boots and a Colt 45 Malt Liquor baseball cap, borrow a bullhorn and get the word out that way. Chances are, I won't make it far but, hey, it's definitely the Bluffton way of doing things.

Have I been cobia fishing? This is kind of a yes/no answer: This past week I went looking and I saw cobia -- lots of them -- but I didn't fish for them. It was a late afternoon exploratory mission and no sooner had we reached our destination and pulled back the throttles than a wad of cobia popped up right behind the boat. There were at least 20 to 30 brownies in the bunch, but oddly enough, they were all small. We pitched a few baits at them, but they just weren't chewing. A couple did come up and nip at the baits, but not one would put the entire bait in its mouth.

I have heard this very same scenario from several charter guys, which makes me think the small fish are males and, for the time being at least, they are more interested in love than eating. Having gone through puberty myself, I can understand where they are coming from, but sooner or later they are going to have to eat and that's when I'll be there.

On an entirely different subject, I had a pretty sporty encounter with a gator this past week. An old friend of mine came into town from Ohio and all he wanted to do was catch a redfish. I wasn't feeling all that ambitious so I took the easy route. I suggested we hit a couple of my favorite lagoons and try for monster reds -- some are so big they look almost prehistoric. So with a few fresh mullet in hand, we went fishing.

Lagoon fishing is pretty much a waiting game. Using half of a very large mullet, I pitched the bait out as far as I could chunk it, set the reel in free spool, and we sat down and caught up on our respective lives.

I wasn't paying a great deal of attention to the rod until out of the corner of my eye, I saw the tip bouncing like crazy as a giant redfish shot across the lagoon. By the time I got him to hook the fish, it had taken out at least 100 yards of line and, when he finally did hook it, it was like he was hooked into a freight train. The only thing that was going to stop that bruiser was the lagoon's far shoreline, which is exactly where he went. And, wouldn't you know it, not 10 feet from where he stopped was one big ole alligator lying there on the bank, basking in the sun

The redfish finally came to the surface, made a big splash and that lazy gator wasn't lazy anymore.

Now this wasn't my first rodeo when it came to gators and fishing -- but my buddy was clearly a nervous wreck. Heck, when I was around 9 years old, I got pretty darn good at calling a gator. I would wait until the mama gators gave birth and then try and catch her babies. Armed with an old crab net, I would go to the opposite side of the lagoon where the mom was, let out a few distress calls and when she would steam over to check me out, I would run back over to where she left her babies and try to catch them before she caught me. If that weren't enough, I would then take a fish stringer and lasso the baby gator's neck and stick the metal end into the ground. The baby would run in circles hollering like crazy and every gator within a mile would come running.

It was an interesting childhood.

Back to the redfish-gator tale. That gator wanted that big, old fish bad. My friend was freaking because the gator was not three feet from us -- and was he hissing and growling!

Right when it seemed the gator was about to get the redfish, I told my friend to put the reel in free spool so the fish could swim away. This back and forth battle went on for nearly 20 minutes before I was able to grab the redfish, haul boogie up the bank with the gator right on my heels. The redfish was 44 inches long and, when I went to release it, that gator was so mad he stuck his head all the way out of the water and gave one last hiss.

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of my friend with his fish. You know why? He was already back in the car!

I guess they don't have gators in Ohio.

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