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Lake County man catches massive gator in St. Johns River

Gator estimated to weight 700 pounds

Bill Moody poses with a 13-foot alligator he caught in the St. Johns River with the help of his son, Billy Moody, and his son's girlfriend, Lindsay Cohen.
Bill Moody poses with a 13-foot alligator he caught in the St. Johns River with the help of his son, Billy Moody, and his son's girlfriend, Lindsay Cohen. (Courtesy Bill Moody)

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – It took more than two hours, but a Lake County man was able to pull in a 13-foot alligator while hunting in the St. Johns River.

Bill Moody of Mascotte took Friday off work so he could go gator hunting with his son and his son's girlfriend. The trio arrived at the river around 7 a.m. and started looking for gators. They saw a splash around 8 a.m. and moved over to that area.

When Moody cast his treble hook, it caught on something, but he thought it was a log or stick.

"I snagged something and it just sat still on the bottom," Moody said. "Usually you snag them and they take off, but this guy was not concerned."

The gator was docile until about 10 minutes later, when they managed to pull the reptile to the surface.

At that point, the gator started thrashing and swimming away, dragging their 18-foot bass boat along with it. The animal fought so hard that a second treble hook in its chin came out.

They were finally able to get the gator to the surface a second time and hit it with a bang stick, but once it was dead they had a new challenge: how to lift the approximately 700-pound animal into the boat.

They used a winch and a nearby tree to hoist the gator, but as it was approaching the surface they heard the tree crack.

The hunters acted quickly to get the gator into the boat so the tree wouldn't snap in half. By that point, they'd been struggling with the beast for about 2 1/2 hours.

"Needless to say, we were exhausted and our backs hurt, but it was pretty exciting," Moody said.

Friday's catch was one of the largest they've ever caught, second only to a 13-foot, 4-inch gator hooked in Lake George.

Pictures of the gator have circulated online and drawn some criticism, but Moody stresses that he and his whole family have licenses so they can legally hunt. In fact, he plans to go out again this Friday to use his second hunting tag before the season ends on Tuesday.

"We do this because we really enjoy hunting, we enjoy fishing but we're responsible," Moody said. "We don't go out to take pictures and get people all excited and then throw the gator in the trash. That never happens."

In this case, the meat was too much for Moody and his family to eat so they sent the gator to a licensed processor so it can be sold to restaurants. Moody plans to get the head back so he can have it mounted.

Florida Fish and Wildlife classifies any gator over 9 feet long as a bull gator, and they can be found in several Central Florida lakes. You can see the locations of the bull gator sightings in the map below.


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