Since Mississippi’s first alligator season in 2005, just weeks after Hurricane Katrina rolled through, the state’s reptile hunters have honed their skills. Even rookies — and there’s a lucky few drawn every year — seem to have a good knowledge of the sport’s techniques or the good sense to reach out to veterans who weren’t lucky in the drawing.
The vets rarely turn down a seat in a boat, usually offering their own watercraft and specialized equipment for a chance to enjoy a few nights on the water.
Talent is evident in the statistics from the recently completed 2020 public water season, which ran from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7.
What we learned
- Of the 960 permits awarded, only 799 hunters drawn went hunting — the one disappointing statistic because that means 161 permits weren’t used, and there were hundreds of disappointed applicants who weren’t drawn.
- Of the 799 who hunted, 579 registered at least one harvest.
- A total of 3,064 people participated, for an average of 3.8 hunters per permit. There is no limit to the number of assistants or team members each permit holder can have.
- The harvest was 854 alligators, 448 under 7 feet and 406 over 7 feet. Only one gator exceeding 7 feet was allowed per permit.
- Eight of the dispatched gators measured at least 13 feet; 43 measured between 12 and 13 feet; 86 measured between 11 and 12 feet, and 76 measured between 10 and 11 feet. That’s 213 alligators in the double-figure club.
- Another 2,000 gators were captured and released.
- Of the 854 harvested, 796 were taken by rod-and-reel, 34 by bowfishing equipment, 14 by snare pole and 10 by direct harpoon.
- Hunters spent 15,288 hours chasing alligators.
- It took an average of 7.6 hours per alligator captured.
- Of the 799 hunters, 596 rated the experience very enjoyable, 191 rated it enjoyable, and only 12 said it was not enjoyable. The odds are extremely high those 12 were not among the 596 to harvest an alligator. What do you bet?
The big boys
The longest alligator captured came, rather surprisingly, from the Barnett Reservoir/Pearl River Zone, an area known for having one of the densest gator populations in the country, which is not good for producing size. The 13-foot-8 gator was the longest ever reported from the reservoir, but it weighed only 595 pounds. By contrast, the heaviest gator ever recorded in the public-waters hunt was 822 pounds — a lizard 2 inches shorter, caught from the Mississippi River near Natchez in 2015.
No alligators caught this year pushed an established weight record, according to Ricky Flynt, the alligator program leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, so no official weights were registered. Flynt indicated he saw several reports of alligators between 700 and 750 pounds.
The weight records of 822 pounds for males and 319 for females remain on the books.
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Mississippi Sportsman Magazine and MS-Sportsman.com.