Snatch Hooks & Snares: A Brief but Griping Encounter

 From the Gator's Jaws

 by Captain Phil Walters-GatorGuides.com

Snatch hooks & snares, just as any tool in the toolbox, have their place in the world when used as they were designed for. In other instances, they may not be so useful. Allow me to share my knowledge in a crash course on the use of each tool.

Snatch hooks are legal to use in most states (NO BAIT attached!) as a means to attach a locating or restraining line to a gator. With a line attached, you know where the gator is and may then commence to attaching more lines with the ultimate goal of control via a harpoon line. With multiple hook lines followed by harpoon lines, the gator will come under your eventual control. Below is the situations best suited to deploying hooks:

Please remember that a snatch hook will catch ANYTHING & EVERYTHING  thatís out there and a gator is not likely to remain still (They may run 10 yards or hundreds of yards) so keep in mind a hook may not be wise to deploy in vegetation, rocks, timber or near other obstructions.

As a tool of attaching a restraining line, a hook attached to a rod & reel offers the most range of any legal method. As far as you can accurately throw a hook, you may attach the line, so if you can work close to a lizard or call him near, do so & attach the first line to him. With one line attached, I strongly advise attaching two or more lines (the bigger the gator, the more lines to add. (Also, FEEL the lines as youíre attempting to attach more as your second line might detach the first).  Note: due to the gators thick hide, the hook often does not penetrate the skin; it will merely hooks a scale or scute. I ts imperative once hooked to keep constant pressure on the line and NEVER pump the rod by dropping the tip as this may lead to the hook falling off. Itís much wiser to reel the rod tip to the water then lift the rod up, decreasing a hook drop.

The size of casting hooks that I use are 10/0-12/0 weighted with a few ounces of lead. I put these onto "grouper type" short stout rods rigged with 100-140 lb Power Pro line. Keep in mind the hook must be strong enough to match the line youíre using without bending the hooks barbs. If you hook a very large gator, ALWAYS add lines as more lines spread the load out over a wider range & area, thus reducing the load on each individual line & hook. Another tip is to file the hook point as sharp as you can get it to increase the possibility of penetrating the hide.

Occasionally, in deep water areas (over 10' deep) such as coastal rivers, reservoirs, spillways or canals, a gator might be hooked with a single line then dive to the bottom. This may create a difficult situation as a single line is not enough to control or surface the gator. Additionally, the deeper water along with a moving current and a boat over the top of the gator may make attaching more lines difficult. Here is where a heavier weighted hook attached to rope may be of use. I use a 14/0 attached to a ľ" rope and buoy to drag the area. Often, you must back away slightly from over the top of your target so there may be some scope or angle allowing the hook to bite the flank of the gator rather than bouncing it onto the back of the creature and not allowing it to attach. With the larger hook and heavier line, itís common for this rig to really annoy the gator causing him to bolt so be prepared. (Thatís why the line should have a float attached) On the plus side, itís common for this hook to penetrate the hide and bury the barb which is a very good thing.

Most of the seminars conducted in the many states for the public gator hunters are done so by DNR biologists. While gifted in the subject of biology, few have detailed experience participating in the topic they are discussing. Snares, have a place in the toolbox.  Often Iíve heard for this to be used as a primary tool for the public gator hunter to attach a primary line and on that topic I strongly disagree, however, there a qualifier. For smaller gators under 6', a snare is useful as a first line. After that forget it!

A snare is a basic tool of TRAPPING, not fair chase hunting! However; here is where they are handy for the public season. In Mississippi, two tags are issued with each permit with one tag being restricted for a gator 4' - 7' in length. This "slot" tag must be filled before the unrestricted tag may be used. Itís wise and legal to live catch the gator in this state, measure it to ensure itís of proper slot length and release it alive & unharmed if not of  correct size. (Filling the restricted tag can be a whole lot of fun!)  For both Mississippi and Alabama, the rules state very clear that PRIOR to DISPATCH, a gator must have a line or snare securely attached around a leg or neck in order to guarantee control and prevent loss upon dispatch. While a harpoon is a fast and secure way to attach controlling lines, in these states the rules clearly state otherwise, so the slip snare is a quick tool to engage to meet the rule. Other uses for the snare is to close the jaws of a gator prior to taping shut.

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Captain Phil Walters of GatorGuides.com, often called "The Gator Hunter of the South" has decades of experience guiding hundreds of clients in multiple states to trophy class alligators. His clients at one time possessed 7 of the top 10 SCI record book entries. He has hunted gators from one end of Florida to the other and added Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi to the areas he has hunted.