• 73°
franklin county times

Critters and creatures come out after dark

By By Miles Giles / outdoors writer
July 12, 2002
A recent late night excursion on Okatibbee Reservoir proved to be an eye opening experience. After launching our boat at Gin Creek landing we turned north and headed toward Okatibbee Creek. Since the sun had already set and darkness was upon us we had to employ a strong Q-Beam spotlight to guide us.
After going only a short distance we made our way around the first island on the upper end of the reservoir just north of the Center Hill-Martin road. We had barely rounded the first point of the island when my nephew Justin Giles spotted something unusual. "I think that might be an alligator,"said the young outdoorsman. Whatever it was had eyes as big as half dollars and they glowed like fire as the light shown on them.
I knew that there was an alligator or two way up the creek, but didn't think there would be any this far down in the lake. I advised him that it was probably a turtle or something else. Still, at a distance of 100 yards, I had never seen any eyes glow so bright on the water. The only thing I could compare them with was a deer's eye seen glowing at night. Of course, this couldn't be a deer since it was at water level. Through my infinite wisdom I advised my young protege that this surely wasn't an alligator.
Local gators?
As we approached our unknown creature it didn't move a muscle as far as we could tell. Finally when we got about ten yards from it, the Q-Beam illuminated the water clear enough that we could make it out. There was a large red eye sitting atop a small mound protruding a few inches above the water. Approximately fourteen to eighteen inches in front of that was the top of a snout. Suddenly the water erupted in a fury and the sound of the water thrashing was almost thunderous! "There he is, I told you that was a gator!" exclaimed our newfound alligator expert.
With a renewed fear of the water and darkness, we shined the light around the shallow flats, instead of just at the island banks. To say that we were astonished by the turn of events wouldn't quite do the situation justice. In fact, we spotted at least a half dozen gators cruising the shallows, most likely in search of something to eat! I knew that alligators inhabited a great deal of the Louisiana marshes and bayous, but this was Okatibbee Reservoir.
Okatibbee Creek
Finally making the confines of the main creek channel, we quickly made our way into the woods. While working along further up the creek we started shining the banks in search of bullfrogs. As we did, another boat came slowly up behind us. As we exchanged greetings with the fishermen in the dark, we learned that they were running jugs and set-hooks for catfish, without much success. Seems like the only things biting were the bugs and critters.
As we shined for frogs the other boat stayed a short distance behind, checking their lines. Finally we spotted a nice frog on the bank. As Justin shined the light, I gigged the frog. Just as I stuck him, I heard voices from the other boat. One said, "Look at those big gators beside that boat!" Looking down into the water below my gig, I saw an ominous, eerie sight one I won't soon forget. What looked for all the world like a large snake was actually a massive gator heading straight for the frog.
I don't know what happened to the frog and I'm not too concerned. I was just happy to pull my gig back into the boat without the loss of any of my extremities. I shudder to think what would have happened had I been leaning over the side grabbing that frog. And to think that I had seriously considered hand grabbing them until we had spotted the other gators on the way up here!
One close call like that was enough for me. It was time to head for the safety of the landing. Now I don't know that we were in any real danger, but don't bet on me wading for any ducks or fish in this area in the future. If the boat broke down after dark I sure wouldn't be getting out to swim or walk back, that's for sure!