|This little 6 footer was sunning just to the right of the Manatee Springs junction with the Suwannee River last weekend. A hundred yards away upstream along the spring run, dozens of people were happily splashing and swimming in the main spring.|
The gator was enjoying the quiet solitude and sun in a gooshier, wilder area where swimmers do not go, but there is no physical barrier to prevent him from visiting the spring boil.
|I was after sturgeon photos in my little sit on top fishing kayak, so I paddled past the sunning gator and across the river to where the sturgeon action was strongest. As I drifted along the bank with the current, I came across a much larger gator.|
|This one was stretched out in the water, with most of his body just beneath the surface. The Suwannee is tea colored, but clear in this area and I could see her bulk in its entirety.|
I'm a fisherman, so I must exercise some restraint in my estimation to allow for fudgenicity of measurement.
My self-corrected conservative estimate is 8 feet.
What was so impressive and cautionary about this one, besides a respectable girth, is the fact that it stared me down and held its floating position while I drifted closer and closer.
In fact, when it never changed position or ducked under, I changed my course to give it even more space.
Perhaps a mound of rotting vegetation containing oval gator treasures sat in the swamp behind it ... incubating the next generation.
Whatever the reason, there was an air of territoriality in the gator's attitude and I did not care to challenge that while appearing to be a small creature atop an oddly shaped log.
You get my drift?