Donald Woods and his buddies were determined to catch a big gator on the opening night of Mississippi’s alligator hunting season. By early the next morning they had done just that. In fact, Woods and his crew landed a massive alligator that measured an official 14 feet, 3 inches and weighed 802.5 pounds. It’s the longest alligator ever caught on record in the state of Mississippi, beating the previous record by more than two inches.
Woods and his buddies were hunting on the Yazoo River in the western part of the state on a calm evening on Aug. 25. They passed up some smaller gators before finding a giant.
“We knew he was wide,” Woods told the Clarion Ledger. “His back was humongous. It was like we were following a jon boat.”
By about 9 p.m. they got a hook into the gator and the battle was on.
Depending on your hunting area and local regulations, there are a variety of methods for alligator hunting. You can spot and stalk them on shore and shoot them with a rifle, you can bowfish for them, or you can snag them with giant treble hooks and fight them to the boat on heavy tackle. When you get the reptile to the boat, you shoot it in the head or bangstick it.
Woods and his crew were using the last method. The biggest and most elusive gators will dive under logs and other cover to get the hooks pulled free.
“We hooked him eight or nine times and he kept breaking off,” Woods told the Clarion Ledger. “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.”
The hunters fought the gator through the night, snapping several rods and burning out reels. By 3:30 that morning the massive alligator was finally starting to tire, and the crew got him to the boat by 4 a.m., seven hours after they first hooked him.
“We just knew we had a big alligator,” Woods told the newspaper. “We were just amazed at how wide his back was and how big the head was. It was surreal, to tell you the truth.”
After such an epic battle, Woods says that he just might retire from chasing giant gators. It’s unlikely he’ll ever catch a bigger one—no one in the state of Mississippi ever has.
Alligators in Mississippi
Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks estimates that there are 32,000 to 38,000 alligators and about 408,000 acres of alligator habitat in Mississippi. The average size of alligators in Mississippi is larger than alligators sizes reported from Florida or Louisiana, according to WFP. In some survey areas, more than 20 percent of alligators counted were more than 10 feet long.
The state has a highly regulated alligator hunting season, which started in 2015. Gator hunting is only allowed under a special permit. The state typically has about 1,000 available permits each year.