SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - Search crews are expected to go back out to Lake Jesup Tuesday morning in an attempt to find the bodies of two men who disappeared on the lake early Saturday morning.
Florida Fish and Wildlife officials said Monday they switched from search and rescue to recovery mode in an effort to locate Charles Jackson and Jason Cobb.
"Unfortunately, based on the information and the evidence we gathered to date, we're now going to transfer from a search and rescue mode to a recovery mode," said Lt. Jeff Hudson.
Lake Jesup is known for its abundance of gators in the water, but officials told WFTV the gators would not be in an aggressive state right now, because the water temperature is cold.
Officials said alligators are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources for heat. They stop feeding when the water temperature drops below 70 and they become dormant when it hits 55 degrees, authorities said.
Jackson and Cobb left the dock on a 15-foot fishing boat on Friday and disappeared early Saturday morning, authorities said. Their boat was discovered with paddles and life jackets inside.
"We've done searches by vessel, traditional kicker boats and air boats. We've also coordinated search and rescue efforts with
airplanes and helicopters," said Hudson.
Investigators said they believe Jackson and Cobb were thrown from the boat, but they have not been able to confirm exact details as to what happened.
"Perhaps they hit a wave. I think there was a storm that came in," said Hudson. "The type of boat, depending on how they were sitting in there, could have become unstable at that point."
Along with Florida Fish and Wildlife crews and Seminole County deputies, more than 100 volunteers showed up to help with the search.
"A lot of people are coming out here today who are trying to help out. We understand they are concerned, but there also comes a point where the concern becomes a hindrance," Hudson said.
As for the boaters' families, they're not giving up hope.
"They are survivors, they are country boys and they can survive if there is any chance," said family
member Waynne Cobb.
Florida Fish and Wildlife said it plans to search using helicopters equipped with night vision thermal imaging systems.
Lake Jesup is one of the largest lakes in Central Florida and is one of several connected to the St. Johns River. The lake covers 16,000 acres, and its average depth is 6 feet.