Pennsylvania angler hooks 3-foot 'gator

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Catch of the Day - Ambridge angler hooks alligator in Beaver River

By Bob Janis , Allegheny Times Staff  

8/02/2002


This 3-foot alligator was fished from the Beaver River on Thursday by Tim Rodriguez, 22, of Ambridge. Times photo by Lucy Schaly  

ROCHESTER - It's safe to go back in the Beaver River.

An Ambridge angler, fishing near the Townsend Dam in New Brighton on Thursday, snagged the 3-foot alligator that's been causing a stir all week.

Tim Rodriguez, 22, of 154 Maplewood Ave. was casting from shore for catfish and bass with his girlfriend, Jennifer Straile, 22, 420 Ohio Ave., Rochester, and his cousin Michael Cancelliere, 12, of Johnstown.

"We had just gotten there when I looked out and saw the alligator swimming around," Rodriguez said. "He had his head above the water, so I started throwing crayfish and minnows on a hook at him."

The alligator ignored offerings that fell wide but grabbed anything that landed near his head, Rodriguez said.

"He would eat anything we threw at him," Rodriguez said. "I had him on the line about four times, but he kept breaking the line. I finally caught him the fifth time on a minnow."

When the gator was brought near shore, Straile said she scooped it up with a net.

"I had the net on top of him on the ground and he was lunging at my arm," Straile said. "So we wrapped his head in a towel, and while I held his nose, Tim wrapped a rope around the nose just like we saw on 'The Crocodile Hunter' on TV." The trio then took their catch to Keener's Sports Emporium, a bait shop at 900 Ohio River Blvd. in East Rochester, where it was placed in a tank of water that normally holds bait.

Ronald Ziegler, who works at the store, stood over the tank watching the reptile.

"It seems like every year we get something exotic," Ziegler said. "We had all the piranhas last year that were caught in the Ohio and this year we have an alligator. I wonder what will come out of the river next year."

The alligator measured 35 inches and weighed nearly 7 pounds, said Dan Keener, owner of the store who held the gator by the neck and tail.

"From what I know about alligators, he's healthy enough that I wouldn't stick my hand near his mouth," Keener said.

Ziegler said that the state Fish and Boat Commission was contacted and that the animal would most likely end up at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

"What they caught was an American alligator, probably about 2 years old," said Ray Bamrick, lead reptile keeper at the zoo. "It was a pet that was either released or got away."

Bamrick said that anyone could own an alligator without a permit as long as the reptile stays within state lines.

"You can probably get them at flea markets or a reptile swap meet," Bamrick said. "If he is brought (to the zoo), we would quarantine him for 90 days to make sure that he is healthy."

Bamrick said that the alligator would then be relocated to a private collector because the zoo has two alligators of its own.

"We can't take everything," Bamrick said. "He'll get a good home. Our role is to care for him until he is placed."

Bob Janis can be reached online at bjanis@timesonline.com.
 
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