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Fishing for Alligators This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   Just last summer I had my first true fishingexperience. I'm not saying I had never fished before; a good part of my childhoodmemories revolve around the hours spent reeling in bass, halibut, red snapper andother inhabitants of the sea. My dad and I would wake up early, get on a deep-seafishing boat and pass the day in a competition for who could catch the biggestfish. But the summer before senior year was when I had my first experiencefishing for alligators.

Near the end of the school year my dad invited meon a research trip to the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge, a strip of coastal marsh17 miles long in western Louisiana on the Gulf of Mexico. As a member of theCenter for the Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES), he would collectalligator eggs and take blood samples back to the laboratory in SanDiego.

Getting the eggs was relatively simple; biologists for the WildlifeRefuge went out early in the morning on airboats and collected them from neststhat had been spotted earlier. Obtaining a blood sample, on the other hand, wasanother matter entirely.

In order to get a blood sample from an animalwhich spends most of its life in the water, it is necessary to get it to land.Several of the alligators from which the Wildlife Institute and CRES desiredsamples were located in a small, algae-covered channel of water bordered by tallgrass and small bushes.

This is where the fishing rod came into play. Anemployee of the Wildlife Refuge, a young man in his mid-20s who went by the name"Scooter," was the designated caster. The fishing rod, a fiberglassstick designed for catching bass and bluegills, hardly looked fit for the task.Luckily, we were not attempting to catch the huge 13-foot gators, but smallersix- to seven-footers. At this point, things started to getinteresting.

Scooter let fly a cast that sent the hook in a graceful arcover the channel. I stood nearby with a noose-equipped pole, ready to pull thereptile onto shore when it was within reach. A quick tug and flick of the wristand we had one hooked. Scooter pulled on the rod, reeling the alligator in inchby inch. The steady click of the reel pumped my adrenaline and kept rhythm withthe beating of my heart. Closer. As the head came within reach, I slipped thenoose around the alligator's neck and pulled. Success!

The alligatorbegan to writhe and twist as I dragged it up the embankment. Within seconds mydad and other refuge workers pounced on the alligator.

"Hotdamn!" Scooter whistled under his breath in astonishment, wiping the sweatfrom his brow.

"I can't believe it!" I chimed in, my voicefilled with excitement. One person held onto the tail, another the snout and athird took the blood sample from the internal carotid artery at the base of theanimal's neck while sitting on its back. Once the sample was taken and the animaltagged, the alligator was released and the process began anew.

Withinminutes we had another alligator on the end of a line, and soon we were reelingthem in easier than sea bass. One, two, three, four, five alligators. We fisheduntil our arms ached and the heat and mosquitoes drove us from thechannel.

From that day on, the word "fishing" has had a wholenew meaning. No longer do I associate it solely with creatures of the sea, butinstead with that amazing summer day in Louisiana when I caught an alligator. So,the next time you are fishing, watch out for what you reel in - there may just bean alligator waiting for you at the end of your line.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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