Thursday, September 12, 2013

Magnolia Circle: 13-Foot Alligator Story

In the Magnolia Circle meeting this week, the story about a 13-foot alligator that was trapped in Lake George was shared.  Lou Ann Williams (pictured above and the trapper) is the daughter-in-law of Rosemary Williams of our Magnolia Circle!  The article is featured below, and is available on the Florida Times Union website.

Pictured:  Lou Ann Williams with 13-foot gator (picture from
Couple bags 'monster' gator in Putnam County
by Dana Treen, Posted on 9/11/2013

Ben Williams has been hunting gators for a long time and already has one in Florida’s top-10 record book.

So when he and wife Louann spotted a big one around daybreak Wednesday in the northern reaches of Lake George, he knew it was right up there.

“We first saw him on the surface of the water like a jon boat,” said Williams, 57, remarking on the behemoth that eventually stretched the tape to roughly 13 feet, 7 inches.

The couple live in St. Johns County and own Fisherman’s Dock Seafood Market in Mandarin where they brought the alligator after killing it and hauling it aboard their boat in Putnam County. Williams said they’ll get 200 or more pounds of meat as well as hide and claws from the catch.

Estimating its total weight is tricky, but record-size Florida alligators about the same length weigh 700 to 870 pounds, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission records. Williams called the agency to measure the catch but said they were not able to respond. His other record catch was in 2008 when he snagged a 13-foot-6-inch alligator weighing 839 pounds.

The Williams catch gators under the state’s lottery-style permit system. Between them, the couple had four permits this year.

The Williams’ found him in about 9 feet of water.

“We got real excited,” Louann Williams said. “We started shaking.”

Using a fishing pole, she snagged the big gator with a hook. The trick is to get enough hooks in to get a secure hold. But before that happened, their prey took off.

“You couldn’t see him anymore but you could see the wake,” she said. “It looked like a monster in the water.”

The one line held and the Williams were able to follow it to where the alligator went to the bottom. Then, hooking it again, the two were able to drag it to the surface where Ben Williams used a harpoon then a device called a bang stick with a .357-magnum round to kill it. They tied it to the side of the boat and brought it to a dock where they used a block and tackle rig to hoist it across the stern. The Williams trailered the boat and drove to Jacksonville.

Ben Williams estimated it is the sixth 13-footer he’s caught in the past five years. He said Fish and Wildlife has properly managed alligator populations in recent years.

“Nobody ever gives credit to the fish and game commission for the job they’ve done managing the resource,” he said.

Since 1988 the commission has held a lottery for hunting permits that designates areas and a mid-August to Nov. 1 season, said Tony Young, a hunting spokesman for the agency. Alligator populations hover around 2 million in the state, he said.

“That’s a number our agency is comfortable with,” he said.

Alligators are in all 67 counties in the state, according to commission information.

Steve Stiegler, a wildlife biologist with the agency’s alligator management program, said alligators are larger in the southern reaches of their range, which stretches to South Carolina. That’s due to longer feeding seasons where weather is warmer. Alligators grow about a foot a year under optimum conditions, he said, though more slowly as they age. Alligators the size the Williamses caught Wednesday are big, but not unusual.

On Sept. 1, a 14-foot-1-inch alligator was killed in Lake Talquin in Gadsden County. It is the second longest on official state records. The longest, a 14-foot-3-inch alligator, was killed in November 2010 in Lake Washington. The largest weighed a whopping 1,043 pounds and was caught in Orange Lake in 1989, according to records back to 1977.

Dana Treen: (904) 359-4091


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A New Leaf - September/October Issue

The New Leaf Newsletter by the Duval County Extension office is now available for the September/October issue.  Find out what to plant, how to troubleshoot insects and diseases, upcoming programs, and more to help Jacksonville residents take care of their landscape.