This is how an alligator season should begin. The first night of Mississippi’s public-waters season saw two records broken — separate reptiles that produced new standards for the heaviest and longest gators ever taken in the state.
Biologist Ricky Flynt, the alligator program director for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, certified both records within an hour at a Vicksburg processor.
- The new record for weight is an 822-pound gator caught by Clayton Gibson of Natchez. It beat the previous mark of 792 pounds by 30 pounds.
- The new record for length belongs to Angelia Rivers of Ellisville, who brought in one measuring 13 feet, 7¾ inches to nudge out the previous record by just ¾ of an inch. Check back for the story of this incredible reptile.
Gibson’s heavyweight was caught in an old chute off the Mississippi River just north of Natchez in the Southwest Zone, according to Flynt.
The biologist said Gibson’s gator, which measured 13 feet and ¾ inch, could have held both records had it not been missing a big piece of its tail. Flynt guessed about 6 to 10 inches was missing.
The beast’s belly girth measured an amazing 65 inches, and it was 48 inches around at the widest part of the tail.
The 60-year-old Gibson, who works for a freight company, had two of three sons in his homemade 18-foot dory. It was their first gator hunt, and they quickly had their hands full.
“We’d gone in an area Thursday and looked around and saw about 50 gators, and one really big one,” Gibson said. “Then we went to another area and I saw one that was giant — so big that it was just clearly the biggest one around there.
“That’s where we went Friday night, and I first spotted him a little before 10. We were leaving this one little area, and I turned around and shined the light behind him and I saw those big wide eyes. He immediately went down.”
A little hide and seek continued for a while.
“I’d catch his eyes in the light and he’d go down; then he’d be back up, and I’d catch him again and he’d go down,” Gibson said. “The more it happened the more he got used to us, and we finally got to within 35 or 40 yards and we decided to cast.”
Gibson’s oldest son Parker made the cast and hooked up immediately.
“He got him tight and immediately said, ‘Yep, that’s a big one. I mean a big one,’ and it was on,” Gibson said. “He was pulling us about 2 mph in that river, and finally we got close enough for my youngest son Reeve to get a rod and a second hook in him.That gave us some more control. Now, we weren’t in control, but we had more with two (hooks) than with one. About 30 minutes into the second line, he came up and rolled near the boat.
“That’s when we all needed to change our drawers. Man, he was big.”
And, the gator was mad.
“He bit a chunk off my boat, a thick piece of splash board about a third of the way down the side from the front, and then he started beating my boat with his giant head,” Gibson said. “It was like watching the movie Jaws — you know how that big shark started eating his way up the boat and beating the boat, well that’s what this big gator was doing.
“He was slapping his head on the boat trying to break us. Then he went under and bit into the plywood bottom of the boat, and luckily for me he bit near the edge where I had more wood. He lost a tooth doing that.”
The gator sounded again, going down to lock on the bottom and rest. As it did, Gibson got his snag hook ready.
“When he came up again beside the boat, I was able to get that big ol’ treble in him on the rope, but he went back to the bottom and pulled it loose,” he said. “He straightened it enough to get loose. The third time, though, I got him good, and that was pretty much it.
“The whole fight, start to finish, was about an hour and 20 or an hour and 30 minutes.”
Off course, the work then began.
“You just don’t load a 13-foot, 800-pound alligator easily,” Gibson said. “Like to killed us. We are all so sore and tired it will be a while before we go back to get our second (runt, meaning under 7 feet) gator.”
Rivers and her party were fishing the West Central Zone, just north of Redwood in the Yazoo Diversion Channel when they spotted the long body of their gator.
The alligator weighed 694.5 pounds, and lacked the thickness to match Gibson’s gator. Rivers’ reptile had a belly girth of 60 inches and a tail girth of 44 inches.
Look for the full story later this weekend.