OKEECHOBEE — Former 2016 Miss Rodeo Okeechobee Caitlyn Albers found herself helping bring in a 500-pound, 12-foot-long gator on the morning of Sept. 15.
Ms. Albers applied for a public gator tag from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Once approved, she headed out with a crew from Kissimmee River Hunt and Fish, a local guided hunt service.
The statewide recreational alligator hunting season runs Aug. 15 – Nov. 1 each year. The State of Florida limits the number of tags approved each year as part of its statewide alligator harvest program, which has been nationally and internationally recognized as a model program for the sustainable use of a natural resource.
Caitlyn and her crew launched around 6 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 15, and for the first two hours didn’t see much of anything. Then, just like that, the group saw a giant gator surface down the river from their location. As soon as they saw it, the group knew it was an alligator they had been tracking for quite some time now.
“We’ve been tracking this gator for about three years,” said Ms. Albers. “He has been one that eluded us for a long time. So we let the boat float to him, didn’t turn on the motor, just floated over. Then we started fishing.”
It took some time but the group finally got a hook in the gator. The sheer size of the gator made it difficult to bring to the boat. If anything, the gator brought the boat to him.
“I was handed the bang stick as we tried to get him up near the boat and when he surfaced he was just huge,” explained Ms. Albers. “He was absolutely a monster. We couldn’t even get him in the boat, we had to have him halfway in to bring him in. It was exciting brining him in. Each time we reeled him in again and again and he would go back down to the bottom.”
The group made an agreement before the hunt that if they brought back a big gator, Caitlyn would get it mounted. Ms. Albers traded the meat of the gator in exchange for the work of mounting it.
“We’ve been hunting that one for so long, it was a great feeling of we finally got him,” said Ms. Albers.
Kissimmee River Hunt and Fish is owned by Dwayne Powell. More information on the guided service can be found on their website at kissimmeeriverhuntandfish.com.