Jackson County Gator Hunters Land "The Big One"

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A limited number of hunters will be on the Pascagoula River this weekend, searching for alligators.  This marks the second half of the state's limited alligator hunt.

Last weekend's opening of the season was a record-breaking trip for one group of Jackson County hunters.  They they hooked and landed a state record alligator, nearly 14 feet long and 633 pounds.

"Really and truly I'd have never dreamed that I'd been in a boat trying to catch an alligator," said Jack Hamilton of Wade.

He hasn't always been comfortable around gators.

"The weird thing is, when I was coming up as a kid, I was scared to death. Terrified."

He's apparently overcome those fears. The proof is in the 13 and a half foot,  633 pound alligator Hamilton and his fellow hunters snagged and killed last weekend.

The gator, which is a new state record for the largest, was landed with a custom built fishing pole, using a large treble hook and 150 pound test line.

"You just snag and hang on for dear life. That's the way it works," said gator hunter Corey Hunt.

"He did hand me the pole. I was able to fight the gator quite awhile," said Hamilton, "And it's a fun experience, but it's also a tiring experience."

So you know, once the gator is worn down, it's shot and killed before being loaded onto the boat.

Those who recreate on the Pascagoula River may be happy to see "big daddy" gone. But don't celebrate so soon.

"We know that there are some alligators out there that exceed 14 feet. But being able to be lucky enough to catch one, much less be able to get it restrained to the point that you can harvest the alligator is quite a feat," said wildlife officer Ricky Flynt.

"Biggest one I've ever caught. Really, the biggest one I've ever seen," said Hamilton, still not believing his luck.

"We knew how big he was when he came up to the top for the first time. It was okay, yeah, he's huge," said Corey Hunt.

"It's an amazing animal. It's about the closest thing we have to a living dinosaur," says Flynt, "Jackson County itself is home to 25 percent of the state's alligator population."

That impressive population is now one impressive gator smaller.

Mississippi has offered an alligator hunting season since 2005. Although gators were once on the "endangered species" list, they are now abundant and several states offer hunting seasons.

Alligator permits in Mississippi are issued by lottery through the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, which strictly controls the limited hunts.

Hunting is allowed over two weekends on the Pearl and Pascagoula Rivers.  A total of 120 permits are issued for each river yearly.