ORLANDO, Fla. - Friday marks the last day of the 2013 alligator hunting season in Florida and 9 Investigates is looking at the sport's growing popularity.
Professional guide Capt. Phil Waters showed Channel 9 how gator hunting is done. It took him only minutes to hook and reel in a
10-foot, 300-pound predator, but not all hunters are following the rules.
9 Investigates learned that in the first six months of the year, Florida Fish and Wildlife issued 110 citations for things like illegal hunting methods, enticing an alligator with food and buying or selling gator parts.
Experts believe popular cable shows like "Swamp People" can encourage the wrong crowd.
"As a guide, I see all kinds of silly things," said Waters. "It kind of puts the wrong image of what the public can legally come out here and do and what they can't."
At Black Hammock Adventures in Oviedo, Capt. Steve Harper told Channel 9 he's seeing more newcomers to the sport than ever before.
In fact, the state reported a record 17,000 people tried to get a permit this season.
"You also, every now and then, see somebody that you look at and you go, 'Hmm, this is not going to turn out well,'" said Harper, a professional maritime
Only 68 hunting permits were issued for Lake Jesup this year and not everyone who applies actually gets one.
The state randomly selects applicants, and
hunters are supposed to follow the laws designed to prevent gators from being injured or killed inhumanly.
Hunters must hook an alligator on a restraining line and bring it up to the boat to kill it with a bang stick or a knife. They cannot shoot the gators from a distance.
Wildlife officers patrol and randomly check boats, but they also depend on tips from people who see hunters breaking the law.
"You got to follow the rules and a lot of people do get in trouble with the rules," said Waters. "They don't read them and of course they'll look at the TV and say, 'Oh, that's what the rules must be,' and then go out and do it and then end up in jail or ticketed."
Florida Fish and Wildlife doesn't keep track of how many calls it gets for injured or dead alligators.