Free Loading on the Myakka
March 23, 2017
by Nancy Dobias
Today when I went to Myakka River State Park, I learned there are a lot of freeloaders in that river. A father and his two kids were fishing along the river on my favorite trail, and watching and waiting for a fish to be nabbed on one of their lines was an alligator who was too lazy to catch his own.
The father explained to me that he could always tell when one of them hooked a fish. I thought he was about to say that the bobber would start to move. Instead, he explained that the alligator quickly submerged and then went after whatever was on the hook and was now being reeled to shore. He said that at times the alligator was so exhuberant that he would come charging to shore after that fish. At that point Dad and kids would drop back to safer ground and watch forlornly as the alligator happily snagged what he wanted. Not to be outsmarted by a free-loading alligator, Dad and his kids tenaciously moved to another spot... a bit down river from the alligator. Once the new and "alligator-free" spot was selected, everyone would bait their hooks and ready their lines to be cast out upon the water. However, the free-loading alligator was every bit as tenacious as the family for he had followed them to their new position...was back in place...watching and waiting.... Nearby was a turtle who was also watching the "game" in progress. He looked as though he were tempted to join in the fun too. Fortunately he knew his limits and stayed put.
After I left andcontinued my journey along the trail, I soon encountered a Great Blue Heron who had successfully caught himself a beautiful fish. The bird was dipping the fish vigorously in the river and I wondered if that was to help the fish better glide down the bird's throat. After the heron was satisfied that he had prepped the fish enough, he next danced around on the shore straining to swallow a fish that looked way too big to go down his neck.... Naturally the heron's "catch" had attracted the interest of some alligators who had been cruising the river hoping for a free lunch. They weren't interested in the bird. That would take too much work. They wanted his fish. Perhaps they figured he might drop it when he was splashing the fish in the river. They wanted to be at the ready should that occur.
This didn't happen. The heron was quite experienced with all the gyrations he went through to swallow that fish. Instead the two alligators had to watch glumly as the fish was swallowed whole and their chance to get a free lunch "evaporated" before their eyes.... As I left them, I noticed the alligators had given up and were heading for easier pickings elsewhere..
A few kayakers were coming along and maybe the alligators just wanted to swim out to say, "Hey!" It was a pretty day to be on the Myakka or to be fishing along the Myakka. All were taking advantage of the beautiful day and weather.
One alligator seemed to be a particularily happy soul as he watched the world go by from his special vantage point along the river.... He didn't strike me as a free-loader. Instead I had him pegged for one of those "happy to be alive" sorts...all safe and tucked up into the tall grasses...living the life in his own personal paradise.