Overnight Friday, the first evening of the 2013 Mississippi alligator season, Beth Trammel’s team found and chased a giant alligator all night, only to have the escape artist get away.
“We hooked him seven times that night, and he got away every time,” said her brother-in-law Sean King of Yazoo City. “We hung it seven times. It broke 150-pound Power Pro braided line twice in a row. Then he broke one of our 10/0 hooks, and then pulled two hooks. I can’t remember what all he did, but he always got away. This lasted at least three or four hours.
“So we gave him a nickname. We called him Houdini because he kept escaping.”
But, after the game of got-him-now and now-we-don’t, the team got even on Saturday night on the same stretch of the Yazoo River diversion canal near the U.S. Highway 61 bridge.
“He didn’t get away from us this time,” said Trammel, of Madison, who held the permit in the West Central Zone. “It was so exciting. There were times I was scared, like once when he started pulling us to the bank, and I started thinking what if he crawls up on that bank ... we’d be eye to eye with this thing that looked like the Loch Ness monster.”
Frightening thought you must agree. After all, the alligator was 13 feet, 5½ inches long and it weighed 723½ pounds.
Big enough that when weighed around noon on Sunday, it became the new state record for heaviest gator ever caught by hunters. It was one inch short of being the longest.
But, alas, it was the state record that got away next.
An hour after being certified as the record by biologist Ricky Flynt, the program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, Flynt weighed in another behemoth, Dustin Bockman’s 727-pounder from the Mississippi River.
Bockman snatched the record from Trammel by 3½ pounds.
That’s OK, Team Trammel said; they have a story and memory that will last a lifetime.
It started on Friday night when the six-member team spotted the big gator cruising in the canal. Everything they tried, however, failed. The alligator always found an out.
“On Saturday night, after a few hours, we decided to go back down near the bridge and see if we could find him again,” Beth’s husband Rob Trammel said. “We didn’t know if we would have a chance after all those hookups but we spotted this big gator in the same area.”
King, of Yazoo City, said he’s almost positive it’s the same alligator.
“I’d say I’m at least 90 percent sure, maybe 95,” said King, the only veteran hunter in the boat. “I don’t think you’d have two big bulls that close to each other. We were in the same area, if not the same spot.”
They gave chase, maneuvered into position and King made it count on his second cast with a rod.
“My first throw, I guess I had a kink in the braided line, and it caught up and the hook fell about a foot short,” King said. “My second cast, it landed about a foot past the gator. I turned the handle twice and I was hooked up.”
That started a three-hour battle and a four-hour ordeal.
“Once Sean hooked up, he handed me that rod and we started after him until Sean got close enough to cast a second rod,” Rob Trammel said. “When he threw it, we got a second hook in it and we both just held on.”
“The first pole was a 7-foot Shimano extra heavy rod, with a Zebco 808 reel," King said. "The second one was the workhorse, a 5-foot tuna stick with a Penn Senator reel. We were using 150-pound Power Pro braid.”
The alligator made its first run a long one, pulling the boat and six people up and down the canal for nearly two hours.
“There were three or four times early on that I was afraid he was going to strip us, you know, take all the line off the reels,” Rob Trammel said. “But we would catch up and get the line back.”
Was it fun, battling the monster in the eerie Delta darkness?
“There was excitement every minute, every second of the time,” Beth Trammel said. “And that comes from the person whose main job was holding a light. I got the permit and it’s in my name, but I was a glorified light holder.”
Over an hour and a half after the hookup, the two men finally got the gator close to the side of the boat.
“We pulled him up and we thought we were going to get him, but no,” said Rob Trammel. “He got his second wind and took off before we could get a snare on him. He took line off the reels, pulling drag pretty quick, so we went after him again.”
This run lasted about 30 minutes, King said.
“When we got him up a second time, we were able to get a snare rope around its left front leg,” he said. “He didn’t like that a bit, and he took off pulling tight the 15-foot snare rope.”
The short but very strong rope enabled the two men to keep the gator close to the boat for the next 30 minutes.
“It was a tug of war, but we were able to keep him within 10 or 15 feet of the boat the whole time,” Rob Trammel said. “With that rope and the two rods, we were able to tire him out pretty quick.
“When we got him back beside the boat again, we were able to get a shot. But that first shot, all it did was make him mad. He went crazy beside the boat and tried to make another run. It took us another 30 minutes to get him back and I shot him a second time.”
The gator went limp and the battle appeared to be over — appeared being the key word. King said the gator came to life again after a minute.
“We got another snare on a leg and thought he was done, but then he started fighting again and he kept moving,” he said. “Finally we got a rope around another leg and shot it a third time. We thought for sure he was done then, but he kept moving and fighting so we kept at it. We finally got his tail up, got another rope around it and the fourth shot ended it.
“He was a tough old gator.”
The group, which also included Beth Trammel’s son, Parker Coleman, and two friends, Tommy and Amanda Jackson, finally could relax and celebrate.
“We were tired because during the final bit, we all had to grab the rope and help pull,” Beth Trammel said. “We all had hands on ropes and poles near the end.
“Of course, we all had a part in getting it in the boat. That was the hardest part of the whole thing.”
For the first little while, King said, the six of them, four men and two women, tried to get it aboard the boat.
“We weren’t getting anywhere and all our snares and ropes were already on the alligator,” he said. “We badly needed one we could get on its head to pull it in the boat. All of a sudden we hear this boat coming and saw the lights, and these two guys who had been alligator hunting came up.
“We got them to come over and we asked them if we could borrow a snare and they let us use one. Then, one of them came over and got in our boat with us and helped us pull the gator in the boat.”
The assist shortened the trip considerably.
“We had already decided that we were going to pull the boat and gator down the canal to the bridge and then try to pull it up the hill,” Rob Trammel said. “We had launched way up the canal at a private ramp on the Sunflower River. We were a lot, lot closer to the bridge. We were going to the bridge, get the gator up on the bank and then try to catch a ride.
“We really didn’t have a plan. We were lucky those two guys came along. Saved us a lot of work and a heck of a lot of time.”