Ben Kahlmus and friends pulled in a big alligator from the Pascagoula River in the last days of the season for hunting on public waterways.
Kahlmus and Austin Lowery of the Ocean Springs area, along with Phillip Sullivan of Meridian and David Graham of Eupora, hauled in a 12-foot, 3-inch gator — estimated to weigh between 600 and 700 pounds — from the bayous that connect the east and west Pascagoula River. They caught it near where Interstate 10 crosses the river.
All four entered the lottery and Sullivan won the tag, which is the state’s permission to hunt a gator legally, and they set out. The season lasts only 10 days for hunting on public land. The first weekend they hunted two days. Over the Labor Day weekend, they hunted three days in a row, four to five hours a day.
They caught six smaller alligators and let them go, then they saw this one early Sunday morning and knew it was big by the space between its eyes. They landed it around 4 a.m. Sunday.
The group used fishing poles with three-pronged treble hooks on them.
Sullivan hooked the gator on the first try and the gator went to the bottom. The others followed, throwing in their lines to hook him. Then they were in for a ride, Kahlmus said.
“We had three lines on him. We were in a 17-foot boat and this gator drug us all over the bayou,” he said. “For 30 minutes, it was making the boat spin around. It was incredible, the power that thing had.
“He took us under some trees, and we had to duck. He could have thrown us from the boat pretty easily,” Kahlmus said.
“We worn it out. It was fighting. We were getting worn out too,” he said. “He went to the bottom and sunk and tried to stay down. Finally we got his head up out of the water and shot him.”
Kahlmus said they shot the gator with a 20-gauge shotgun from six inches away and the shot “just bounced off his head. We were stunned that it didn’t penetrate his head.”
He said they had to struggle and pull the gator up a second time and that shot worked. He said they shot it a third time to make sure it was dead. They taped its mouth shut and then began the work of getting a 12-foot gator into a 17-foot boat.
“It took 20 minutes to get him into the boat,” Kahlmus said.
“As far as I know, it is the biggest one caught in the Southeast Zone, as of Sunday. We had to call it in and we talked to someone Sunday and at that time it was the biggest in the zone.”
The biggest in the state was a record-breaking 14-foot gator harvested this season on the Mississippi River, near Natchez.
The four who caught the Pascagoula River gator have had experience.
“We went last year,” Kahlmus said. “David has been a couple of times. It was Sullivan’s first time and he had a good season.”