Bending Branches ProStaffer, Chris Funk, kayak fishes all over the southeastern United States. One of the questions he gets most is: “How about paddling with gators? Are they dangerous? What do we need to look out for?”
Kayak anglers paddle away from this gator (photo courtesy of Chris Funk)
In this video, Chris answers those questions from his experience kayak fishing in alligator country:
One of Chris’s favorite places to kayak is Okefenokee Swamp, where “you’ll see more gators in a day than most people see in a lifetime.”
He has several tips for those who live in or want to travel to fish in areas like Okefenokee, that are prime gator habitat:
Bull Gators are Extra Territorial in the Spring
Spring is mating season for alligators. Chris says, “When the big bulls get those ‘Hey, baby’ eyes, you gotta watch out.” When they’re bellowing and raising their head, they’re warning you to stay away.
Bull alligators are territorial. If you encounter one during mating season, give him space and fish somewhere else.
Cow Gators are Protective of Nests and Their Babies
Once mating season is over, the next time to be wary in gator territory is when the mama gators are nesting, and when their young have hatched.
An alligator nest is a large mound of vegetation near the water. If you see one of these and there’s a gator sticking close to it, she’s most likely protecting her nest. Don’t mess with her! Find another place to fish.
Unlike other reptiles, alligators are protective of their hatchings. So if you see teeny gators swimming around or on shore, don’t go try to pick one up. “Their mama will start hunting you as soon as they start squeaking,” explains Chris. “You don’t know where she’s at, but she knows where you’re at, and she will find you!”
Alligators, like all reptiles, like to bask in the sun (photo courtesy of Chris Funk)
If You Encounter a Gator While You’re Paddling
If you’re kayaking along looking for a fishing spot and see a gator, give it some space. If it’s not moving and goes under water, it most likely will just stay in position. Paddle around it, preferably out of its line of sight.
If the gator is moving and goes under, it’ll likely keep moving in the same direction. Chris recommends you paddle in a different direction! Look for bubbles or other disturbances in the water to give you clues for where its heading.
Whatever you do, don’t paddle over it. Like any other wild animal, it wants its space and could “explode” under you to warn you off.
Alligators Eat Fish…and Dogs
“If you have a fish flapping on the end of your line, that’s a dinner bell” for an alligator. If a gator grabs one of your fish, let him have it. Cut your line and count your losses.
Like any wild predator, some gators learn people are a food source—especially if anglers toss them fish. They’ll lose their fear and start to follow anglers around. These animals can get very dangerous, so if you notice one like this where you’re fishing, don’t stick around. Report it to the local DNR or game warden.
Alligators will eat any animal it can grab, including dogs. While you may love to bring your dog with you on your kayak when you fish, when you’re in gator territory it may be best to leave it home.
What’s the Range of the American Alligator?
If you live and fish in the American Southeast, you likely already know where the gators are. But if you’re new to kayak fishing or new to that area, this map shows its range:
The green area shows gator range (map courtesy of scparc.org)
The eastern Carolinas, southern Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, eastern Texas, and all of Louisiana and Florida have populations of alligators. They love slow-moving rivers, swamps, marshes and lakes.
You don’t need to be afraid to kayak fish in these areas. Learn about gator habits, respect them and give them their space. You’ll be able to get along just fine!
Interested to learn more about them? Check out this Fact Sheet from the University of Georgia.
Do you have paddle questions our friendly Customer Service Team can help you with today? Contact them: 715-755-3405 • [email protected]
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