Alligator surprises boaters on SPI Bay – Port Isabel-South Padre Press


Special to the PRESS

Riding the shark tail of the infamous tagged Great White named LeeBeth, who recently graced our Gulf, David Dingle caught sight of a 7 ½ foot alligator in the grassy shoreline of the Laguna Madre Bay on Friday afternoon, March 22.

Captain Jonathan Garza of On the Bay Fishing Charters caused a bit of a stir by posting a warning with a video of the encounter in a Facebook group called “South Padre Island Concierge II.”

Garza posted Dingle’s video and commented on people’s need to be aware of their surroundings but then teased followers with the question, “Who wants to go wading?”

Three fishermen were fishing that day with Garza when they heard about the gator nearby. According to Garza, David Dingle, who had captured the video, was cruising the bay on his boat with his girlfriend when he noticed something in the clear water. The captain heard about it and pulled up alongside Dingle’s ship about 10 minutes later.

An alligator was still chilling on the grassy shoreline only a few feet from their boat. It appeared to take no notice of the onlookers and showed no aggression towards them, then swam off after a few minutes.

While the gator posed no imminent danger, the video shocked many Facebook commenters. Several were skeptical that it was anywhere near SPI, even analyzing the clear water and landmarks, but several locals posted corrections very quickly.

The gator had been spotted “in the bay, in front of the Convention Center in an area called Clearwater,” according to a post by Chacho Guevara. Another posted about SPI’s distinct blue water tower in the background as a landmark.

The video unsettled some outdoor enthusiasts and others who were concerned about those who used the area for various sports and recreation.

“I fish this spot often. Although I’ve always heard stories of gators, I have yet to see one. Wild!” posted Edelmiro Rojas.

“Isn’t the scuba diving a few hundred yards away?” asked Captain Arturo Calderas.

Jessica W. Bailey posted, “A lot of people stand out there in their waders to fish. Kite surfing in the bay.”
After watching the video, other users shared that this news changed their minds about being in the shallow waters.

Keena Williams posted, “No paddle boarding for me.”

“And to think we swim in there. Won’t be doing much of that now,” Eliiana Mendez said.

Mary Nelson, the voice of reason in the bunch, posted, “Go to the South Padre Island Birding Nature & Alligator Sanctuary. They have great info on how they were able to cross the bay and survive in an area they normally wouldn’t. They have a bunch of them there, you can see.”

And there are always amateur comedians in the bunch. Jake Reinbolt posted, “Wait til y’all hear about the sharks [shark emoji].”

Babette Thanem won the prize with “Shoot ‘em, Lizbeth,” referring to the most famous line from the reality show “Swamp People.”

Dangerous interactions with these apex predators remain extremely rare in our area. Captain Garza just wanted people to be aware of these potential dangers that visitors and locals only sometimes think about or notice when they’re out enjoying the many amenities the area offers. It’s not so much to scare people off but to warn them to be careful of their surroundings. And entice people to call him the next time they want to fish.

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