Gator season off to a slow start for hunters in Louisiana

WAFB photographer Derron Daquano (middle) with Randal LeBlanc (left) and Mr. Ted (right)
WAFB photographer Derron Daquano (middle) with Randal LeBlanc (left) and Mr. Ted (right)
Randall LeBlanc and Mr. Ted find a gator on the line
Randall LeBlanc and Mr. Ted find a gator on the line
"Gator in da boat! Gator in da boat!"
"Gator in da boat! Gator in da boat!"

KILLIAN, LA (WAFB) - It is the first day of alligator hunting season in the eastern part of Louisiana and the hunters were out early to get a good start on filling their tags, but it turned out to be a really slow start.

WAFB's Tyana Williams and photographer Derron Daquano went out with alligator hunters Randall LeBlanc and Mr. Ted. They have 45 tags to fill around the Amite River.

"I didn't think it was going to have nothing," LeBlanc said after checking several of his lines.  "I just hope we get a monster."

It took a while before they were able to get their first gator, and the buyer said that is what he is hearing from all of his gator hunters.

Some say it could be the weather.  LeBlanc says it's cool down in the water and there's a bit of a high tide as well.  He thinks the layer of algae in the water could also be confusing the alligators.

"I think it's that green stuff, algae.  The smell (of the bait) ain't getting them to come to it," said LeBlanc, who only caught five gators Wednesday.  Much smaller than what he caught on the first day of the season last year.

"A small one.  A real baby," he said after pulling up a tiny gator.  "Pitiful ain't it."

He has to keep whatever is hooked on his line, that is the rule.

"It's just like fishing, you just don't know," LeBlanc said after spotting another small gator on another of his lines.

The 2012 alligator season was affected by Hurricane Isaac.  The storm pushed the start of the season back a couple weeks.  But what's happening this year, LeBlanc says is worse.

"This is my worst year...I hope the other hunters got better luck than I'm having."

On another side of alligator hunting, Wildlife and Fisheries agents say they're seeing a boom of "wannabe swamp people."

Officials say gator hunting licenses are set to eclipse last year's record of just more than 500. They believe popular reality shows are drawing hunters from other states.

Arrests for killing alligators out of season are also on the rise.

The season lasts for 30 days. The season opens for the western part of the state on September 4, 2013.

Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries estimates this season, a total of 34,000 alligators will be harvested.  Those gator's will likely range in size, anywhere from four feet up to twelve feet long.  LWF says the average size gator is seven feet.

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