Dave's Place: The Everglades Waltz

Gators and sharks and snakes, oh my!

Field & Stream Online Editors

Of course, I'd considered the alligators. Even someone as clueless as I am can't very well plan a fishing trip to the Florida Everglades without the alligators in mind. Take my friend George, for example, who is just about exactly as clueless as me: When I asked him if he wanted to go fishing in the Everglades for a week, he responded, "What about the alligators?"

"Well, I considered that," I said. "But I'm not too worried. From what I understand, it's extremely rare for an alligator to kill an adult human."

"That's good," George said, "but how often do they just tear an arm or a leg off an adult human?"

"I'm not sure, but the folks at the park headquarters said if we use our common sense, we shouldn't have a problem."

"Did they give you any specific idea of what they meant by common sense?"

"No, but they definitely gave the impression that we'd have to do something really stupid to be attacked by an alligator."

George thought about that for a few seconds. "How often would you say you do something really stupid?"

"I don't know," I said. "Maybe twice a day."

"Yeah, me, too."

"C'mon, George. Think of it: 20-pound snook, 50-pound baby tarpon--"

"Ten-foot alligators," he interrupted. After a pause, he said, "Oh, what the heck. Let's go."

* * * * *

I hadn't considered the sharks, however, until I spoke with a Florida tackle-shop owner, who happened to mention them in passing. So when I next spoke to George, I thought I should let him know.

"Apparently, there are also sharks," I told him.

"You never said anything about sharks."

"I know, but according to the guy I talked to, it's not all that uncommon to catch a snook and have it stolen by a shark. But really, that doesn't seem terribly dangerous."

"Maybe," George said. "But what if the shark decides to steal your snook just as you're reaching down to land it?"

"Oh yeah," I said. "I guess you'd probably lose your hand in that case."

* * * * *

Neither had I thought about the cottonmouth snakes, until I received an e-mail from a friend who knew I was going to the Everglades. The message consisted only of a picture of what looked like a big, angry snake, with its fangs exposed, and a note that read: "This is a small one."

"I guess there are cottonmouth snakes, too," I told George. "And apparently, they're known to drop out of the trees and into your canoe."

"Oh my God!" George said. "What do you do when that happens?"

"I'm not sure, but it seems like the most common advice is to jump out of the boat."

"Isn't that where the alligators and sharks are?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

* * * * *

Last night, with the trip only a few days away, George and I went over what we'd need to bring and decided we'd better be prepared for the worst regarding dangerous wildlife. We figured we'd bring a first-aid kit and a cellphone in case we needed to call for help. Also, we decided we'd purchase a long-handled net to keep our hands out of the mouths of sharks and a venom extractor in case of a snakebite.

"I'll tell you what else," I said. "I'm going to have a big knife strapped to my hip. I know the odds are nothing will happen, but if something does, I'm not going to be defenseless."

"Good idea," George said. "I'll do the same."

I thought about that for a few seconds, then added, "I guess we'd better bring a tourniquet, too."

"What for?"

"For when one of us cuts off a hand with a big knife."