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The poll wasn’t scientific and the sample group of veteran Florida fishermen wasn’t large. On top of that, there was only one question: “Would you go hand-fishing in a Florida swamp?” The responses were 100-percent negative and the only variations were the expletives used before the word “no.”
Based on my informal study, I don’t think we’ll ever see Animal Planet’s Hillbilly Handfishin’ shot in Florida. Here are the top five reasons why:
NUMBER 5: Rods and reels
Years ago, Floridians discovered these were much more effective than our bare hands for catching catfish. They can be used at a distance and in most cases completely eliminate the need for sticking one’s hand in a fish’s mouth. Even if it gets destroyed, you can get a new one at Walmart. On the other hand, you have only one other hand. The rod and reel is especially helpful when used in conjunction with . . .
NUMBER 4: Boats
People in Florida are partial to boats and have been for quite some time. These amazing gizmos allow us to travel and fish in lakes, rivers and creeks without getting wet. We’ve also developed padded seats to help us avoid “boat butt.” As an added bonus, boats usually prevent us from getting up close and personal with critters like . . .
NUMBER 3: Cottonmouth moccasins
These guys get a little mean and territorial sometimes, which is a problem when you consider that they are also venomous. But even they steer clear of . . .
NUMBER 2: Alligator snapping turtles
Like us, these charming animals love to fish. They hang out in shallow water using their tongue to attract prey. That giant, sharp beak allows them to snap up their food whole or in chunks. They prefer fish, but will settle for hands or feet when they’re available. In fact, that’s one reason this turtle was named after . . .NUMBER 1: Alligators
This isn’t a stock photo. It wasn’t taken at a gator farm or deep in the Everglades. My friend Terry Tucker took this picture at Lake Iamonia near Tallahassee, but you can find them anywhere in Florida.
Gators aren’t picky eaters. They’ll usually go for whatever happens to be splashing around in the water where they live.
Deer, hogs, raccoons, skunks, possums, snakes, fish, and frogs make up their normal diet. So the occasional person here or there is a nice change of pace.
Sure, a hand-fisherman might not make for a gourmet meal, but the free delivery service is awesome.
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Now, before anybody takes issue, I know they have moccasins, snapping turtles and maybe even a few gators in Oklahoma. (My sources tell me that Okie scientists are also close to developing working boats and primitive fishing tackle as well.)
Still, you have to believe that the reptile population out there is severely diminished. Otherwise, these critters would have long since cleared the gene pool of people dumb enough to wade around the swamp, sticking their hands in stump holes.