Alligator season gets underway next weekend

Alligator hunting remains a popular event in Mississippi.

The 10-day season for public water begins at noon Aug. 26 and ends at noon Sept. 5. The private-lands hunting season starts at noon Aug. 26 and ends at 6 a.m. Sept. 19.

Alligators are found all across the state, especially south of U.S. 82. The state has divided the public waters for alligator hunting into seven zones, which cover the state.

Hancock, Harrison, Jackson, George, Pearl River and Stone counties are in the Southeast zone.

The state produced a record harvest last year, according to a Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks survey. Nine-hundred eighty-two alligators were harvested on public waters and 693 of 997 hunters harvested an alligator.

Five records were set in 2015:

▪ Clayton Gibson of Natchez harvested an 822-pound gator that became the heaviest male alligator harvested in the state.

▪ Angelia Rivers’ 13-foot, 73/4-inch gator was certified as the state’s longest male alligator harvested.

▪ A 319-pound alligator taken by Craig Jones of Mendenhall set the state record for female weight.

▪ Kennie Crechale of Morton and Ronnie Clifton of Petal set a new weight (826) and length (14 feet, 1/4 inch) for male alligator. It’s the first officially recorded 14 foot alligator in the state.

▪ Jonathon Kent of Greenwood set the record for female length at 10 feet, 1/2 inch.

“Alligator hunting is still a relatively new hunting opportunity in Mississippi, especially on a statewide basis,” MDWFP Alligator Program Coordinator Ricky Flynt said. “I expect that new record alligators will continue to be harvested for years to come. There are some very large alligators across the state and Mississippi’s alligator hunters are becoming more and more experienced each year.

“So I suspect that hunters are learning more and more where to go to find gators and how to be successful.”

For each possession permit, the bag limit is two alligators at least 4 feet long. Only one of them can exceed 7 feet.

The private-lands season is available to landowners whose properties meet specific qualifications within 31 open counties. Three new counties — Lowndes, Noxubee, and Oktibbeha — were added for the private-lands season for 2016.

The MDWFP has a legal waterways clarification for hunters in Hancock and Pearl River counties near the Louisiana state line.

If you are hunting on or near state borderline waters, be advised to cross the state border while pursuing alligators into any water that is not part of Mississippi because it will be considered illegal alligator hunting by the adjoining state. It is the hunters’ responsibility to know their location in state borders.

Flynt expects the usual river level during the season.

“It appears at this point that river levels across most of the state will be at least normal, if not above normal for the season,” Flynt said.

James Jones: 228-896-2320, @_jkjones