For the second consecutive year, a massive alligator caught in neighboring Alabama has Mississippi’s gator hunters excited about their approaching season.
Facebook pages and other websites have been abuzz about two 900-pound-plus alligators caught on the first two weekends of Alabama’s season, including one measuring 14 feet, 6.25 inches.
Though it is far short of the 1,011.5-pound world record caught last summer in the Alabama River just before Mississippi’s 2014 season, these two were still enough to get hunters’ attention and set goals for the Magnolia State’s season that opens at noon on Friday (Aug. 28) on public waters statewide.
“OK, we need to break 14 feet this year,” posted Ashley Harris on the Mississippi Alligator Hunters Facebook page. “I don’t care who it is, but Alabama is pulling out some big gators.”
A total of 920 permits were sold in less than three hours in an online electronic process in July. They will be trying to beat Mississippi’s records for length — 13 feet, 7 inches, set in 2013 — and weight — 792 pounds, set in 2014 — with dreams of topping 14 and even 15 feet.
Are they out there?
“Undoubtedly, I think we have some 14s and maybe some 15s in Mississippi, but the question is do we have them in legal open waters,” said Bill Terry of Vicksburg, who has never succeeded in getting a permit, but has hunted gators for three years as an assistant to a permit holder. “I personally have seen two over 14 feet, but both were in landlocked sloughs, you know old oxbow-like places, on private lands that public water hunters can’t get to.
“One of those two was as big around as a car tire, I swear, and I know would go at least 850 or 900 pounds. I saw that one sunning on a bank from the Mississippi River levee. I did some quick checking and found out it was on private land and the owner was not interested at all in hunting gators or allowing anyone else to.”
But, Terry added, there is hope.
“That was before the 2011 flood when that whole area was under many feet of water and there’s no telling where that big fellow wound up,” he said. “I’d like to think he ended up in the Yazoo or Sunflower River, or maybe one of the oxbows along the Mississippi River.”
Terry said the alligator should still be alive and swimming, “because if anybody had ever found it or its remains, we’d have heard about it.”
Mississippi’s season lasts 10 days, ending at noon on Labor Day (Sept. 7). The limit is two gators per permit, both of which must exceed 4 feet in length and only one can exceed 7 feet.