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Bald Eagles and Alligators!

Aug 17, 2007
Most of the alligators scurried away with tails splashing and feet churning the shallow water to a muddy paste. I gingerly walked into the water and began wading around the grass, keeping an eye out for the gator 30 yards away that refused to leave his sunning spot. He was a mean looking one, lying on the surface about thirty yards from me; trying to stare me down. It worked! I wasn't about to get any closer to that huge alligator! He had to be at least 11-12 feet long! I am positive that I saw a smile on his face as he was daring me to come closer.

If I hadn't needed bait, I wouldn't have gotten as close to him as I was. As long as he was on top of the water and I was moving away from him I felt relatively safe. Obviously I had taken leave of my senses! I was thrusting my bait net in and around the weed beds trying to catch tiny grass shrimp! The grass banks were full of them and I was bringing up several at a time. As a great bait for blue gill bream and red eared shell crackers, they were unbeatable!

This was the first time I had been on Jessup Lake. While it was a fresh water lake, there was enough salt in it to support sting rays, tilapia and the occasional flounder as well. The wildlife here was something most fishermen rarely witness anywhere else. We had already seen at least a hundred alligators ranging from 4 feet long to 12 feet or more lazily capturing the morning sun. I know now that Lake Jessup has one of the largest alligator populations in Florida and the record for the state is about 13 and a half feet.
As we got back in the boat with enough grass shrimp for the day, we saw a flock of about 20 white pelicans near the location of one of our shell cracker beds. They were apparently not concerned about us at all as they groomed their feathers with their beaks and chatted to each other in pelican language.

Further down the shoreline we saw an egret's nest high in the top of an old cypress tree. Built in the fork of a limb, we could hear the chirps of young birds in the nest, even before we saw the mother flying in with a small fish in her beak. We could now see the baby egrets sticking their heads up above the rim of sticks and twigs as they were clamoring for food! Such a peaceful and serene sight! We watched for a while and were moving slowly with the trolling motor so as not to disturb the little family in the trees.

Ron pulled the trolling motor up and we kept drifting until we could barely see the egrets. We were about to start the gasoline engine, when we saw a large bird about two hundred yards away swoop down and snatch a fish larger than I usually catch, from the water as if it were a minnow. It moved down the bank with its breakfast and settled in the top of a live oak tree. It wedged the fish into a natural cup of branches and commenced to eat.

We had an idea of what the bird was, but it wasn't until we focused in the binoculars we'd use with the egrets that we knew exactly what we were seeing. It was a bald eagle that was staring back at us as we silently drifted past his tree! I've never seen anything as majestic as this great bird as he clamped one foot on the fish as he ate. He didn't seem to mind that we were watching him as we drifted down the lake. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera sufficient to capture that moment, but it's indelibly etched in my memory.

We eventually made it to our bream beds and caught quite a few, but nothing was as exciting and memorable as that morning on Jessup Lake.
About the Author
Bob Alexander is well experienced in outdoor cooking, fishing and leisure living. Bob is also the author and owner of this article. Visit his sites at:
http://www.redfishbob.com
http://www.bluemarlinbob.com
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