The southeastern United States is home to around 5 million American alligators, and over a million of them live in the freshwater of Florida. The apex predators are well-established in the Sunshine State, having inhabited its many marshes, swamps, rivers, and lakes for millions of years, and can be found in all 67 counties.
As such, gators both deserve and demand a certain level of respect. They predate humans’ arrival in what is now the United States by close to eight million years, after all. And really, when a 500-pound reptile that will grow upwards of 2,000 razor-sharp teeth in its lifetime calls dibs, who would even want to debate it?
Florida fishermen, that’s who. Because nothing says “Florida” quite like fighting a giant alligator for a giant fish.
For those unaware, tarpon fishing is purely for sport. They’re highly acrobatic and absolutely massive, making them an exciting catch, but eating them isn’t a good idea. Not only are they strong-smelling fish but their flesh is filled with small, difficult-to-clean bones. Tarpon eating should typically be left to the gators.
But for sport or for dinner, Florida fisherman David Browning wasn’t about to allow an alligator to devour his hard-fought catch. Unfortunately for Browning, however, the gator felt the same way. Allow a human to steal a fish from his water? Unacceptable.
With the fish thrashing through the water, firmly attached to the men’s fishing line, the gator lunged at the tarpon multiple times attempting to steal the fish and score himself an easy lunch. Eventually, the fishermen won, pulling the fish up onto the bridge from which they were fishing to present it in a second TikTok.
Florida Fishermen Release Tarpon Back to Alligator’s Water
In response to the video, many users urged David Browning to keep the fish. Mounting it on the wall of his home would make a fantastic conversation piece. But the fishermen let the tarpon go after snapping a few pictures, releasing it back into the water to give the alligator a shot at catching it.
“Turned it loose. We have stuff like that happen all the time. This is South Florida after all,” Browning explained in the comments. The gator might have a tough time catching the tarpon, however, as it “shot off like a rocket” the moment it hit the water.
Though a thrilling video, and no doubt an even better story, it’s important to point out one fatal mistake made by the fishermen. At one point during the battle, they hit the alligator with the end of a fishing pole in an effort to deter it.
Should you find yourself in a similar situation, do not do this. Except in rare cases of self-defense, it’s illegal to kill, injure, capture, or possess an alligator or its eggs in the state of Florida. Injuring an alligator is a third-degree felony under Florida law.