Boy’s First Gator Hunt Packed With Lake Seminole Action

Each time out provides new adventures that can never be erased.

Reader Contributed | September 7, 2022

Blake Rhodes loves to fish, and his expert casting ability would pay off on a Lake Seminole gator hunt.

By Scott Barwick 

The rush of a 7-foot alligator on the end of your fishing line can be intense, but imagine being a 12-year-old boy on the other side of that fight. 

Finally, after six years of being declined for a Georgia gator tag, I was granted the opportunity to harvest one. My friend Byron Rhodes and his son Blake quickly agreed to go and assist with the hunt.

We met at Fins and Feathers Campground in Donalsonville, where we set up the camper. We then left in my truck and made our way to the Sealy Point boat ramp on Lake Seminole. It was the closest to the campsite and to the open waters that alligators like. We normally go out just before sunset, but Blake loves to fish, so we left several hours before. He is a gifted fisherman and proved this by catching the only fish. It was a 3-lb., 11-oz. bowfin that he caught on a multi-colored Zoom Speed worm. He was ecstatic that he caught his new personal best of this species. We quickly released the fish.

As the sun began to set, we put away our tackle and set up for gator hunting. I cocked the crossbow, put a bolt in the rest and carefully placed it on the bow of the boat where I would sit. The large fishing reel loaded with a giant treble hook was behind me, along with a harpoon. We all had headlamps and handheld spotlights. Everyone had a job to do. Byron drove the boat, Blake was in charge of searching for gators, and I was to shoot or catch the large beast. Byron handled the go-devil motor like a professional, even though this was his first time driving one. The long-shaft motor was handmade out of a 25-hp lawn mower engine. It spit, sputtered and shook but easily propelled the 17-foot, all welded metal boat through the thick vegetation that would easily bog down a normal outboard.

Barely into the hunt, we had a pleasant surprise visit by the local game wardens, who made sure we were all safe and legal. Byron was ogling over their boat and motor, which was like ours but on steroids. It was a packed out Gator Trax made for the toughest conditions, while ours could break down any second or start leaking. 

We couldn’t get close to any gators longer than 6 feet in length. Many times as soon as the spotlight touched their eyes, they would submerge. What was really irritating was when they would stay up until we were almost in range for a shot but then would go deep under the thick grassmat that floated on the water’s surface.

It being after midnight, I was getting tired and started to head back to the landing when Blake persuaded us to stay a little longer. The next island we cruised around had a number of baby gators just shy of 2 feet long. It’s rare to have a large gator around smaller ones but resting 10 feet from the shore was a larger one.

Blake said, “He’s a shooter, look at the size of his head!” 

Byron carefully idled the boat closer to him. Blake couldn’t stay silent and coached me on what to do. I smiled but stayed silent. The moment we were waiting for came. I shot and the bolt fell out of my crossbow before I pulled the trigger, causing the crossbow to dry fire and ripped the strings from the bow. The animal moved under a tree limb a few feet away, so I tried using the long-handled harpoon. It bounced off his thick armored body, and he darted out from the safety of the brush. I was trying to fix the crossbow as Blake suggested for him to use the reel and rod to hook the animal. With accuracy, he swung the huge weighted treble hook just on the other side of his target. He let it drop and set the hook. His rod quickly bent, almost breaking, and he was in for a fight. 

On the other end of the line, I could hear the gator making a huge commotion and pulling hard through the trees and thick grass. Blake struggled to loosen the reels drag and keep a firm grip on the 11-foot surf casting rod. Even though the gator was out of the trees and heavy brush, the line was massively tangled in the trees along the bank where he’d come from. I took off my shoes and socks, grabbed the reel and waded in the muck and under the trees still attached to the dangerous animal. I successfully completed my mission and exited the brush.

I handed Blake back the rod as I climbed back into the boat. As he kept strong tension on the gator, I pulled the grass away that was separating us. Inch by inch I reached down into the water just above the gator’s head anticipating a mouth full of teeth. He finally popped up beside the boat, so I turned to get my handgun to dispatch him and he went back under. This time as I pulled the strong string, it came back weightless. Somehow he managed to come loose. In disgust, we decided to call it a night and head home.

Although the trophy is still at the lake, we called it a successful hunt because of the opportunity and excitement we had. The best part was getting to share moments like this with some great friends.

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