Alligator season opens with big catches

MOBILE COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) – Hunting season opened Thursday night, August 14, 2014 for one of our area’s most sought after trophies. For six nights over the next two weeks, those lucky enough to have drawn a tag will be hunting alligators throughout the waters of southwest Alabama. Some of these monster gators can reach lengths of over 12 feet and weigh hundreds of pounds.

As the sun sets over the Mobile River Delta, alligators come out of hiding for a night of hunting. For six nights this month the tables will be turned and they will become the hunted. Southwest Alabama has the healthiest populations of these reptiles in the state which makes for some good hunting.

“We have a very healthy population. We actually just got through doing our population survey this week and the highest number that we’ve ever recorded we got this year,” said Chris Nix, biologist with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The high numbers were evident early at the weigh station as the first alligagtor came in before 10 o’clock. It measured in at just over eight feet and was caught within sight of the causeway on the Blakeley River.

Tag holder Spud Eckman hunted with family and friends. It was his first alligator and he says it was the ultimate challenge.

“I like to fish and hunt so it’s a combination of both of them so it was kind of like a double whammy I guess you would call it,” Eckman said.

It wasn’t long before more alligators came to the scales. Next was a 10 footer weighing almost 240 pounds. This one was brought in by Greg Hudson and his friends from Birmingham.

Nix said that this event draws hunters from all over the state.

“We’ve got people down here tonight from Huntsville, Decatur, Tuscaloosa and Baldwin County so from the top end to the bottom it’s a very popular sport here,” Nix said.

If you’re wondering what’s used to haul in an alligator, well it’s a fishing pole, but with a much bigger hook and a lot more pull. Bow fishing equipment and snares are also allowed, but the hook and line method is by far the most popular.

“It was an awesome fight. I was holding on to the fishing pole for a good hour and a half,” Eckman described.

The third gator to come in was a real monster, dwarfing the first two. Measuring 12 feet, three inches and weighing 480 pounds, the big bull put up a two hour fight before the crew from Baldwin County could claim their trophy.

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“It was pretty intense. We got him hooked up at 8:01 and he stayed on the line for about two hours and got him up and did what we had to do,” said tag holder Jerry Busby. “It took us all to get him in the boat. It was a good time.”

The hunt isn’t just fun for the hunters. Over the years it’s become popular for spectators too who are all welcome to watch the gators weighed in. Scales are open from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. while the season is open and the public is welcome.

The season continues the next two nights and then again next Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The biggest alligator weighed in on the first night measured 12 feet, 11 inches and weighed in at a whopping 644 pounds.

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