Justin Wells of Lufkin, Tom Bass of Dallas, Jarrett Hanus of Spring and Ryan Haltom of Houston set baits to catch an alligator by hook and line. They had scouted the area and knew there was a big alligator lurking about the area where they set their bait. When they returned to check on the bait, they found they had hooked a gator. But which one?
As reported in the Lufkin Daily News:
“We’d gotten word back in the spring time that there was a big gator out there,” said Haltom, a wildlife biologist and land management consultant, “so me and Tommy had gone out there several times and scouted and seen quite a bit of gator activity and videotapes of gators.”
Ranch manager Larry Denson had spotted the big gator, prompting them to get tags for the season, and Thursday night was just “kind of a last-minute deal before the season was over,” Haltom said.
Using the hook-and-line method, the group anchored a rope to a tree, left enough rope so the gator could run with it, and hung a 14-ought treble hook about a foot above the water with their own “secret recipe of chicken and some other stuff.”
“We can’t let too many secrets out of the bag,” Haltom said.
Returning on Friday to check the bait, they assumed a gator had taken the bait, run off and probably drowned.
“He drowned himself,” Wells said. “We believe he just dove underneath the water and got tangled up in a stump, and gators have to come up for air every 15 minutes, so we were pretty sure he was dead, but we still weren’t sure.”
“Once we figured out he was dead and he wasn’t going to get us,” Haltom said, “we started diving down and feeling on him and we realized he was big. We could stand on top of him and we were head and shoulders above the water. That’s when we knew he had to be a big guy.
“The scales kind of change. On his belly there’s big, slick scales, or tiles, and as you get toward their mouth it gets into some softer leather, and we got to feeling around and thought, ‘OK, this is his mouth.’ But when we got to tying him up, we realized it wasn’t his mouth â€” it was his leg.”
Discovering a truck and a rope (400-pound test that broke) wasn’t going to help, they eventually got it out of the water with a tractor and chains.
The gator measured 13 feet, 10 1/2 inches and weighed 880 pounds. They think it has the potential to be a Texas state hook and line record. They are waiting to see.
The men plan to have the gator mounted and donated to a museum or some such thing.