For Walter Heathcock, owner of Fin Twisters Fishing Guide Service out of Venice, the process leading up to alligator hunting season is year-long. It involves constantly scouting and opening new canals on his property with his daughter before the last Wednesday of August. It’s tiring but enjoyable work.
Alligator season is geographically dependent in Louisiana. There is the West Zone and the East Zone. The West Zone opens the first Wednesday in September, and the East Zone opens the last Wednesday in August. Lines cannot be set more than 24 hours before the opening of each season.
Where to set lines
“Scout, scout, scout. Pay attention to detail,” Heathcock said. “Look for slides on the bank. Look for places on the bank where these big alligators will be sunning. If you are coming off the river where there is deep water and current, big gators will be hanging out there.”
The presence of wildlife around a potential area where you plan to bait lines is important, too.
“If there are lots of birds, that’s a good sign,” he said. “When the herons have nests, the gators will hang out under these areas, waiting for the little birds to fall out of the nests.”
“You usually go out the day before to set out a few lines out,” Heathcock said. “You can anchor that line to anything. If there are no trees around, take a bamboo pole and shove it down as far as you can down in that line, so nothing can move it.
“Usually the higher you put it up, the bigger the gator. But, if you set it too low, you will catch small gators. Set it too high, and you won’t catch anything.
“Pay attention to the tide, because, it will come up on your bait. Now your bait isn’t where you thought it needed to be. Also, be careful setting it on a high tide, because the tide will dry out.”
Heathcock primarily uses chicken or black birds as baits on his lines. He also has a special trick that he is confident will attract more bites.
“At the end of the pole, tie a white plastic grocery bag,” he said. “It looks like one of those white birds sitting on that pole. The bag flaps in the end and makes it look like a bird, which attracts the alligator. They get close, and then there is the chicken or the black bird. It does not work every time, but it works sometimes.”
More gators now?
“The difference from when I was a kid to today is the price. People used to make good money catching gators commercially. Now, it’s almost like you are killing them for no reason.” Heathcock said. “The price you can sell them at has dropped terribly. It used to be $20 to almost $30 a foot, and now the same gator is going for $10 a foot. This is the same thing that happened with the fur industry.”
There is more money to be made guiding than commercially hunting alligators. Besides that, the enjoyment of the hunt is not there if it becomes a tedious job.
Heathcock normally will get seven tags annually for his customers.
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