COOPER CITY, Fla. – It's an expedition Jim Howard will never forget.
The Cooper City man is an airline pilot by profession and a gator hunter for fun. He's caught alligators in the past. But on Thursday, with a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, he and two friends roped in a nearly 12-foot alligator from Lake Okeechobee onto his 18 1/2-foot Sea Ray ski boat.
"It gets you going," Howard said with a laugh.
It was just before sunset when Howard said he spotted the giant gator in the water.
"I figured I'd try for him. So I put the bait in the water and about 30 minutes later he finally went after it and took it," Howard said.
As the nearly 1,000-pound alligator was sitting on the bottom of the lake, Howard says he then used a grappling hook to pull it close.
"He'll fight really hard at first, of course, and he'll slow down a little bit. And three or four times he'll really wrestle and try to get away," he said.
But by that time, Howard had linked up with a friend and the friend's son, who joined him on the boat. As they pulled the gator in close, they used a bang stick to shoot the reptile in the skull, which is the permitted kill method in Florida.
After an hour and a half of wrestling and pulling with ropes, Howard said they were able to haul in their catch.
Now, like past hunts, Howard said he plans to make purses and wallets from the skin and keep the skull.
His family is getting used to the reptile reminders.
"I think at first they thought I was crazy - and I think they still do," he laughed.
FWC has allowed alligator hunting since 1988. According to FWC's website, the purpose of the hunting is to "provide the public with a much-desired opportunity to hunt alligators in Florida ... and is just one part of FWC's overall approach to managing the population."