Mississippians will still have 920 alligator hunting permits in 2016, but if a proposed change in regulations gets final approval in April a re-allocation will open more opportunities in the most popular areas.

The state’s Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks gave its OK to a plan brought forward by the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) and alligator project coordinator Ricky Flynt at its March meeting in Jackson. Final approval is expected at the April 20 meeting held at 2 p.m. at the Jackson office of MDWFP.

According to Flynt, the only “significant” change in the public waters hunting season will be reducing the number of permits in the Northwest Zone from 100 to 50.

“The Northwest has always been the least popular zone and has the least accessible alligator habitat,” he said, adding that it has always sold out because hunters who did not get drawn in the more desirable zones would purchase Northwest permits because they were available.

Flynt said of the 50 taken from the Northwest, 20 would be added to both the West Central and Southwest Zones (170 instead of 150), and that 10 would be added to the Barnett Reservoir Zone (80 instead of 70).

One change was also included in the private lands alligator hunting program, and that was adding Lowndes, Noxubee and Okatibbeha counties to areas open during the season.

The public season will open Aug. 26 and end on Sept. 5.

The “first-come, first-served” online drawing will be held on July 19. Times will be announced.

The drawing in 2015 was the first time the MDWFP held a “first-come, first-served” process, and all 920 permits were sold in 39 minutes, but not without a few glitches. The system never crashed but it bogged down.

Said Flynt: “We’ve already quadrupled the capacity of our server. … Everything is a learning process; I think it’s going to be a lot better.”

Flynt said that the new drawing process succeeded in increasing participation in 2015.

“It was a record season in several aspects,” he said. “Increased participation was one of the main goals and we succeeded due in part to the first-come, first-serve purchase process. Participation among permitted hunters increased to 88 percent and 70 percent were successful.”