Most of us may never get the chance — or even want one — to bag a record-breaking alligator. But for alligator hunter Robert "Tres" Ammerman, the feat was the second luckiest day in his life (the first luckiest day being when he married his wife).
Ammerman has been hunting alligators in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's (FWC) annual statewide alligator harvest for the past seven years. But it wasn't until the last day of this year's season that he found what he later learned was the state's longest documented alligator, breaking a 13-year record. [Image of record-breaking alligator]
Measuring 14 feet, 3 1/2 inches (4.4 meters) long and weighing 654 pounds (297 kilograms), the alligator snagged the hefty honor from a relative that measured 14 feet, 5/8-inches (just under 4.3 meters) and was caught in Lake Monroe in 1997 by a nuisance-alligator trapper. The heaviest alligator on record weighed 1,043 pounds (473 kg) and was taken from Orange Lake in 1989. It was also taken as a "nuisance gator." (The FWC has a program in which certain trappers are permitted to remove nuisance alligators, or those that pose a threat to people, pets, livestock or property.)
Since 1988, alligator hunters like Ammerman have taken part in the statewide harvest, which is a program for the sustainable use of a natural resource. Each year, alligator management units are established with appropriate harvest quotas to provide recreational opportunities for Floridians and non-residents to take up to two alligators per permit.
Ammerman and his two hunting partners – Sam White, his neighbor, and T.J. Schauf, his nephew – took the alligator just after midnight on Nov. 1 from the Lake Washington area of the St. Johns River in Brevard County.
"We slid up on him face-on – it's real hard to tell their size from that angle. As we got to within about 3 feet of him I could tell he was big, and just as he dipped into the water, I threw my harpoon and hit him where the neck and head come together," Ammerman said.
The alligator took off, but attached to the harpoon was a float and about 50 feet of line. That's when Ammerman, White and Schauf got the ride of their lives.
"The line was spinning off my buoy," he said. "He pulled us around the lake for about 45 minutes before we tried to work him up to the side of the boat."
But finally they subdued the big alligator, towed it to shore and entered the record books.