‘It’s the thrill of catching a dinosaur’; local snags 13-foot gator

Published 10:21 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Photo submitted/Nicole and Anthony Prather bagged a 13-foot, 650 pound alligator during a hunt on the Mississippi River Friday night.

Photo submitted/Nicole and Anthony Prather bagged a 13-foot, 650 pound alligator during a hunt on the Mississippi River Friday night.

Anthony Prather went hunting for a monster and found him — all 650 pounds of him.

The 27-year-old Prather, of Brookhaven, loves the outdoors.

“That’s all I do — work, hunt and fish. I love it,” he said.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

He fishes for cats on the Mississippi and has shot his share of deer and turkey in the Lincoln County woods. But he’d never grabbed a gator and he was itching to give it a try.

However, it’s not as easy as just loading up the boat and heading out to catch one. Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks sells only 920 permits in seven hunting zones across the state for a 10-day season that ends Sept. 5.

Alligator season helps keep the reptiles from overpopulating, Prather said.

Only 170 permits were available in the southwest zone and it’s first come, first serve.

“It’s really hard to get them,” Prather said. “This was my first year to get one and I was very excited to get it.”

So with his $183 permit in hand, Prather took his wife, Nicole, and his best friend Luke Weeks, of Brookhaven, and two other buddies to a spot near Port Gibson, south of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River. It was a 10-mile ride down the river to the area they were heading to Friday night.

Prather had gone alligator hunting with someone two years ago but they didn’t have any luck then. So he prepared himself for the hunt this time.

“I studied up on it and asked around with people with a lot of experience,” he said.

Photo submitted/Nicole and Anthony Prather

Photo submitted/Nicole and Anthony Prather

He believes luck had a lot to do with it, too.

“Within two hours of being there, we’d already found our gator and shot him,” he said. “I never would have thought it’d be that quick.”

And though it was quicker than he’d expected, it wasn’t easy.

They used spotlights to scan the water’s edge, looking for the glow of gator eyes.

They met the monster’s stare around 8 p.m.

“He was one of the first gators we’d seen,” he said.

They used a reel and rod to toss a treble hook — a three-pronged hook — at him, but missed. The gator went under. “We just waited him out,” he said.

When he came back up, Prather and Weeks both tossed hooks at him and connected.

“The fight was on then,” he said.

It took 45 minutes of pulling to get a shot lined up. Prather aimed his 20 gauge shotgun and took what he called a perfect shot. Then the target started to roll, breaking two of the three lines they had in him.

“We knew we had a monster,” he said.

The creature finally started to sink. That meant they had a gator on the line and he was somewhere 20 feet below them on the murky bottom of the Mississippi River.

They called for some friends who were out there hunting as well and waited for help to arrive.

An hour later they finally got a few more hooks in him by tossing it in his direction and dragging the bottom.

It took six men about two hours to get him into the boat.

“I didn’t know how big he was,” he said. “I just knew he was big.”

The alligator measured 13 feet and weighed 650 pounds. Wildlife officials aged him at 50 years.

A permit allows for a limit of two alligators per season — one over 7 feet and one under. Prather is headed back out this weekend to try for the smaller one.

“It’s the thrill of catching a dinosaur,” he said.

Prather had the 13-footer processed and plans to fill his freezer with the gator meat. “We’re going to eat him,” he said. “Alligator sausage. Fried alligator. Shish kebabs. I eat what I kill. I don’t waste any game.”

The head will be his trophy. He’s going to have it mounted with its mouth open.

“He’s going to be beautiful, they say,” he said.