Mississippi's alligator season opened Friday and it didn't take long for one group of hunters to get tangled up with a gator on the Ross Barnett Reservoir.
"He was 300 yards away and when the light hit him, he went down," said Ashley Harris of Canton. "All we saw was eyes for about three seconds. That's the only way we knew he was there."
Ashley and his crew drove their boats to where they saw the alligator and used side-imaging electronics to locate him. On one pass the gator was suspended. On the next pass, he was resting on the bottom. The group marked the spot on a GPS and then pulled out rods and reels.
I made a couple of blind casts and got a hook on him," Harris said. "The
the only way I could tell it wasn't a log is as soon as I hooked him he
went about 10 feet and slid off into some deep water.
"We got three more hooks in him. All these poles have a 150-pound line on
them and 20 pounds of drag. It's heavy stuff."
Harris, speaking Saturday after only a few hours of sleep, said time was
somewhat of a blur, but after about an hour of fighting the alligator, he
finally tired enough that they were able to pull him to the surface and get a
look at him.
A massive alligator
"We didn't know he was that big, but we knew he was a pretty good one
when we saw him on the fish-finder," said Michael Fielder of Brandon.
"When you see one on there you know it's a pretty decent size. When we
saw him we knew he was pretty large."
They also knew he was strong.
"We were worn out," Fielder said. "We couldn't budge him off the bottom.
"We had four lines trying to get him off the bottom and he wouldn't move.
It was like pulling a log off the bottom. Every once in a while he'd take a
couple of steps, but other than that, he wouldn't move."
The gator was tired enough to come to the surface, but he wasn't close to
giving up. Fielder place another line on the gator with a crossbow and the
gator started dragging the boat.
The fight wasn't over
"He took off and took us through some trees a storm blew down,"
"He had us all tangled up, but we had two boats.
"I got in the other boat and got another line on him. When I got the
other lines on him he really didn't go anywhere because he had so many
lines on him and was so tangled up."
After two hours of battling the big alligator, the hunting party was able to
secure him with two snares; however, he was so tangled in lines and limbs,
they couldn't get him into open water with their trolling motor.
"We had to crank up the 70-horse motor to pull him out," Harris said.
The alligator was dispatched and when they got him in the boat,
they realized what they had.
"We measured him at 13 feet, 9 inches on the boat, but when we stretched
him out he was 13 feet, 8 inches," Harris said. "I'm going to weigh him
sometime this week when I get scales.
"I think this is the biggest one to come out of the reservoir itself. He's
going to go 600, maybe 700 pounds."
Off to a good start?
Ricky Flynt, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Park's
The Alligator Program coordinator, said conditions varied on an opening
day, but a good number of large alligators were harvested.
"It's just hard to tell," Flynt said. "I'm going off social media posts.
"I'm going off other officers. The conditions were pretty good. Everybody
was seeing gators."
However, Flynt said hunters in the Delta may have experienced a setback.
"At least in the Delta, ramps are an issue," Flynt said. "The water is so low
and the ramps are silted in. It's probably concentrating hunters where they
have access. On social media, it still looks like some very nice gators were
taken last night."