Hours of battling it out with nine fishing rods paid off for four Mississippi hunters. The group pulled in an alligator measuring over 14 feet in length and weighing over 800 pounds. Not a bad haul for alligator hunting season's opening day. The massive gator became a monumental catch when the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks verified that the reptile broke the state's previous length record.
The agency measured the gator at 14 feet, three inches long at 802.4 pounds. The previous record holder was 14 feet, 3/4 inches, captured in August 2017 on the Mississippi River. The new record holder was captured by Donald Woods, Joey Clark, Will Thomas, and Tanner White, with the hunting tag holder being Donald Woods.
As they hit the water on the Yazoo River at nightfall, the experienced hunters saw many gators in the calm water. It was full of eight- and 10-foot alligators, but the men knew those were not the gators they sought. Woods told the Clarion-Ledger that they've been hunting alligators for a long time and have frequently captured 12-footers. So, they were willing to be patient. Eventually, the perfect gator caught their attention.
"We knew he was wide," Woods said the outlet. "His back was humongous. It was like we were following a jon boat." The alligator put up a colossal fight. Once Woods hooked him, the four men spent the next seven hours attempting to wrangle the male alligator into their boat. After the first hook, they held him for an hour until he broke Wood's rod.
"We hooked him eight or nine times, and he kept breaking off. He would go down, sit, and then take off. He kept going under logs. He knew what he was doing. The crazy thing is he stayed in that same spot," Woods said.
Granted, they didn't know exactly how big the alligator was at this point, but they were beginning to get an idea. The stubborn alligator was an immovable force.
"He dictated everything we did. It was exhausting, but you're adrenaline is going, so you don't notice it," Woods explained. "It was more mentally exhausting than anything because he kept getting off."
In the wee hours of the morning, around 4 a.m. to be exact, the hunting crew hauled the gator into the boat. The gator had finally tired of fighting. It was perfect timing, too. They were down to two rods and reels.
"We just knew we had a big alligator," Woods said. "We were just amazed at how wide his back was and how big the head was. It was surreal, to tell you the truth." On top of an impressive length, weight, and head size, his tail measured 66 inches, and his belly was 46.5 inches. The hunters are thrilled with their catch and their new record.
Alligator hunting became legal in Mississippi in 2005 and expanded to public water in 2013. However, the season is only 10 days long, with only 920 permits available. Only one gator can be over seven feet long, and one can be between four and seven feet.
"We're done with chasing big ones this year," Woods said. "I might even call it a career after that, honestly."