Travis Gill, right, Wade Schepper, left and Blake Hammac pulled in a 13.5-foot alligator early Monday. / Travis Gill/Special to the News Journal
(PNJ.com) - Trolling along the coast of Escambia County, Pensacola Beach resident Travis Gill was hunting for an alligator.
Boy, did he find one.
Though he declined to go into specifics on his location - he still has more gator hunting to do - Gill relived the moment he came into contact with a 13.5-foot monster early Monday morning.
"We saw it and crept up with a trolling motor," Gill said of the 645-pound beast. "We threw a treble (hook) at it and when we got up to where he was, we thought it was a log because we couldn't get it off the bottom."
After hooking the alligator with another treble and a harpoon, Gill - joined in the boat by Gulf Breeze's Wade Schepper and Pensacola's Blake Hammac - quickly learned this gator was no log.
Gill fought the alligator for three hours before being able to kill it with a bang stick. The gator was less than a foot off the state record collection of 14 feet, 3.5 inches.
"Once we killed it, we couldn't get it in the boat," Gill said. "We had to tow him behind the boat until we found a piece of land to load him in."
Gill said he had been on the water every night since the harvest season opened Thursday, looking for a gator to fill his two state-issued tags.
Florida issues CITES (Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species) tags for the harvest of alligators through a lottery system.
Gill was issued two Escambia CITES tags, allowing him to harvest two alligators within the guidelines issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Alligators must be harvested between the hours of 5 p.m. and 10 a.m., and unlike the techniques made famous on the History Channel reality TV show "Swamp People," there are laws against setting lines and waiting for the gators to bite.
No "baited hooks, gig-equipped bang sticks, or firearms for taking alligators" are allowed in Florida, according to the FWC web site. The lone exception is the use of a bang stick on a gator already attached to a restraining line.
Alligators must be killed and have the CITES tag attached immediately.
After the excitement of collecting such a large alligator, Gill took a day off from the hunt, but his rest didn't last long.
"With all of this, I took Monday night off," said Gill, who estimates he has caught or been in the boat for a dozen or so gator collections. "But we'll get back out there (Tuesday) and look to fill this second tag."
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