November 26, 2012
On Float Tubes and Alligators (and Other Critters That Live Where You Fish)
By John Merwin
I have shared the water fairly often with alligators over the years, especially when bass fishing Florida lakes. It never bothered me much. They were mostly shy, sinking from sight as our boat approached or sliding off the bank if out sunning themselves. I’ve never had an untoward gator incident.
I would not, however, do the same fishing in a float tube.
When tube-fishing I just feel too vulnerable, sort of sitting there, legs dangling down, like a frog or a bass bug. Not that anything would happen, but it could. I feel the same way when tubing northern warm-water lakes, having seen too many very large snapping turtles surface for air or out sunning on a log.
None of these feelings have been helped by the yarns some Florida guides and fish-camp owners loved to tell me as an inexperienced northerner. Like the three guys who got fairly soused one evening and decided to go night-fishing for bass. All that was found in that Florida lake a few days later was their overturned skiff along with most of one guy’s leg.
I suppose it might have happened once, but it’s unlikely. Anyway, my vivid imagination filled in the blanks, and made me shiver.
I would be made more nervous if encountering other things--cottonmouths down south, rattlesnakes farther north, and any one of several highly toxic spiders just about anywhere. Spiders I might encounter just by putting a hand in the wrong place, but that hasn’t happened. I’ve never had a close cottonmouth encounter, and although I’ve rarely seen rattlers along some northern trout rivers where they exist, I’ve never felt threatened and try to remain aware.
Farther afield, I’ve already had a lifetime’s worth of brown-bear encounters while fishing Alaskan rivers. I don’t much care to ever see another one. (See our forthcoming February print edition for details.)
I suppose everybody has one critter or another they might find potentially bothersome while fishing. What’s yours?