If the goal of the switch to an online first-come, first-serve public alligator permit process was to increase participation and harvest, then color the change an overwhelming success.

Statistics released late Friday by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks certainly show that’s the case.

In the 2013 and 2014 seasons, an average of 75 percent of the eligible permit holders participated and the kill was 671 gators in 2013 and 682 in 2014.

This year the participation rate rose to over 90 percent, and the harvest reports indicate a total kill of over 960 alligators, estimated at less than 1 percent of the native population.

All 920 permits were sold in less than two hours, and because the goal was reached while other sales were in progress, a few extra permits were allowed.

MDWFP alligator program coordinator Ricky Flynt, who has grown the hunt over 11 years, attributed the record harvest to several factors, including increased hunter experience and knowledge of good hunting areas.

He also said the weather conditions were exceptionally conducive to hunting and that the moon phase became more favorable as the season progressed.

Included in the record haul were several record alligators including:

* The longest bull gator ever registered by a public water hunt, Angelia Rivers of Ellisville, 13 feet, 7¾ inches.

* The heaviest bull gator ever from public waters and the first to top 800 pounds, Clayton Gibson, of Natchez 822 pounds.

* The heaviest female from public waters, Craig Jones of Mendenhall, 319 pounds.

More excitement was added to the alligator hunting hoopla, when two guys hunting on private land caught a 14-foot, 826-pound alligator that broke all records

Kennie Crechale of Morton and Ronnie Clifton of Petal captured the huge reptile on Davis Island in the Mississippi River.