Methods for Harvesting an Alligator
The legal methods of take for alligators include:
- Fishing rods using a weighted treble hook
- Fishing rods using artificial lures
- Baited wooded pegs (must be less than 2 inches long) using a fishing rod or hand-held line
- Hand-line snatch hooks
- Hand-held catch poles or similar devices
- Bang sticks (the only firearm you’re allowed to use for alligator hunting)
Legal methods of take for participating in Florida’s statewide alligator harvest program include:
It is important to note that all points used in any of these methods of take must be attached to a restraining line.
Fishing rods using weighted treble hooks or artificial lures are also legal, as well as hand-line snatch hooks and handheld devices with an adjustable catch loop such as catch poles. Baited hooks are not allowed.
Catch-and-release is only allowed when using snatch hooks and handheld devices with an adjustable catch loop such as catch poles. Therefore, if you are using any other method of take, make sure to only attempt to capture an alligator that you want to keep.
All points used in the above methods of take must be attached to a restraining line and should be capable of fully penetrating an alligator’s thick hide and won’t come out when you pull back against the alligator. Explosive or drug-injecting tips are not allowed.
For more information about methods of take, see the Alligator Harvest Training and Orientation video.
Frequently Asked Questions
Those are commercial alligator trapping methods, and you may not use them during Florida’s recreational alligator hunt. The only firearm you are allowed to use in Florida to take an alligator is a bang stick, and it can only be used when an alligator is attached to a restraining line. If you want to use raw meat as bait, you must wrap it around a wooden peg that is less than 2 inches long. In addition, you cannot use a hook when you are using bait, and you must remain in contact with the bait by holding onto the other end of the line at all times.
Many hunters catch alligators using wooden pegs wrapped with stinky baits that float. Alligators have a palatal valve at the back of their mouth that closes when they go underwater to prevent water from getting into their stomach and lungs. When an alligator swallows the bait and wooden peg, the wooden peg gets trapped behind this valve, allowing you to maintain contact with the alligator and pull it closer to your boat.
Beef lung is often used for bait. This method requires attaching the bait to a wooden peg that is less than 2 inches long using string. A heavy duty braided restraining line is attached to the wooden peg by threading it through a hole in the center of the peg. A fishing rod can be used, or the line can be hand-held or tied to your boat.
To avoid pulling the peg through the alligator’s valve, don’t pull back too hard on the line. Plus, it’s a good idea to get a more secure method of take on the alligator. This will help tire it out and get it alongside your boat so you can catch it with a catch pole or similar device and/or use a bang stick.
An alligator’s head is made mostly of hard bone, and its entire back is protected with bony scutes, so any shots taken on those areas will likely bounce off. Instead, aim for the side of its body, its legs or jowls. The hide in those areas is softer and can be penetrated by darts, points and hooks. However, if you’re using a hook, be aware the point or barb might catch hold but it’s unlikely to penetrate an alligator’s thick hide. To prevent a hook from coming out, don’t allow any slack in the line. Maintain constant pressure by pulling back against the alligator at all times.
Catch-and-release is only allowed when using snatch hooks, handheld devices with an adjustable catch loop such as a catch pole. Therefore, if you are using any other method of take, make sure capture attempts are limited to only those alligators you want to keep.
Once you have an alligator on the line and alongside your boat, it’s recommended you use a bang stick to dispatch it quickly and humanely. Aim for the center of the spine directly behind the skull plate, where the back of the alligator’s head almost meets its neck.
The next step is to slip an adjustable catch loop over the alligator’s snout and pull it tight so the mouth cannot open. Use a catch pole or similar device to pull the alligator’s head over the side of the boat. Then take a stick-like object and push down on the alligator’s snout to further prevent its mouth from being able to open. Carefully and quickly grab the side of the jaw and apply enough pressure to keep its mouth completely shut. Then wrap the snout tightly and securely with electrical or duct tape.
With the top of the alligator’s head facing up, use a sharp knife to sever the spinal cord by cutting across the body between the back of the head and first vertebra. To ensure the alligator is dead, insert a metal shaft into the brain cavity to pith and destroy the brain. Only after these steps is it safe to pull the alligator into your boat.
Delivering a quick, humane kill that results in immediate loss of consciousness and destruction of the brain is part of an alligator hunter’s ethical obligation.