Joey Kane and his friends thought something was a little fishy Tuesday night when bait and hooks were missing from their trot line in Cleburne’s Buffalo Creek.
The teenagers are used to catching critters such as turtles, raccoons and possums. But they weren’t quite prepared for what came up from the water when they pulled in the line.
“Dang, this is heavy,” Kane recalled saying. “And we pull it all the way up and it’s a big ol’ gator.
“I called my mom and said, ‘We got a gator!’ She said, ‘Leave it alone.’ I said, ‘No!’ ”
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The fearless 14-year-olds — Kane, Craig Kite and Kevin Vaughn — cut the trot line and grabbed the gator’s tail and pulled him out of the water.
Lifting the gator out wasn’t easy.
Vaughn said he climbed on the gator’s back, and the boys strapped its mouth shut. But the struggling critter almost pulled them into the water.
They grabbed a fishing net and put it over the gator’s head to keep from being bitten, but strong jaws bent the frame.
Once, the gator escaped and headed for the woods, but the teens caught him again and decided to call for help.
During a 911 call, one of the boys said, “I have a question. If you were to catch an alligator, what would you do with it?”
The Cleburne dispatcher’s response: “What?”
The boy repeated his question. “Uh, I wouldn’t catch an alligator in the first place,” the dispatcher said.
The call was transferred to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies were sent to find the boys, and eventually a game warden arrived to take charge.
Sheriff Bob Alford said he was relieved that no one got hurt.
The alligator was killed because the game warden said it had “severe injuries” from the hooks on the trot line, Alford said.
Andy Gluesenkamp, a herpetologist with the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife, said 6-foot alligators don’t pose a threat to humans unless they are provoked.
“They spend most of their time hiding and keeping an eye out for their larger 8-foot brothers that like to feast on the smaller gators,” he said.
The 6-foot alligators generally feed on nutria, young raccoons, turtles, frogs and fish, he said.
“It’s a good summer vacation story, but folks should not mess with them,” Gluesenkamp said.