In the inshore kayak community, the Hobie Pro Angler 14 is a beast in the marsh, perfect for pursuing specks, reds, bass and more — and stable as a rock if standing up and sight-fishing is your thing.
But Daniel Wilson’s plans for his PA 14 earlier this month were likely a little more aggressive than even the most confident Hobie design engineer.
The 37-year-old D’Iberville, Mississippi native who now lives in Mobile, Alabama decided the stealthy paddlecraft would be a perfect platform to target alligators — and that’s just what he did on Saturday, Sept. 1 during the Magnolia State’s alligator season on Bayou Heron south of Pascagoula near the Alabama state line.
After an epic 40-minute battle via rod-and-reel that morning, Wilson finally finished off a 9-footer from the PA 14 that he estimated weighed about 225 pounds.
“It was something I had never seen anybody do, and I wanted to be the first to my knowledge that’s ever done it in a kayak,” said Wilson, who described himself as an avid inshore kayak angler all the from Grand Isle to East Alabama. “Over the course of the last year, I had been seeing the animals in that area and it just struck me as an idea, like, 'You know, I can do this.’
“The kayak community has these stigmas about it, like you’re limited on what you can do, and boaters say we get in their way and can’t do what they do — I just wanted to be the one to say, ‘Yes we can.’”
And he did.
But harvest rules in Mississippi make the task even more monumental from a kayak: You’re not allowed to bait, so gators have to be stalked and hooked, and then noosed with a catch pole before being shot.
But Wilson drew two tags in the state’s lottery harvest system, so that morning he and his fishing partner, Steve Roberts, kayaked down Bayou Heron to see what they might find.
“I just happened to catch a glimpse of him when he surfaced — it was really a lucky chance that I saw the animal,” Wilson said.
But as they approached, a storm moved in and the duo had to push into the marsh grass to ride it out. Incredibly, the gator was still in the area, just beyond a point after the rains moved through.
Wilson eventually got within about 60 feet of the gator, and then cast a weighted 10/0 treble hook from his 6000 Series Penn rod and reel. The alligator submerged and he missed with the first cast, but connected on the second.
“When I felt the hook come tight, I set it and the animal started to move. I thought I had jumped him but I didn’t and set it again,” he said. “Then the fight began, me and him back and forth. It lasted about 40 minutes.
“The last 20 minutes of the fight I had a broken rod — it snapped about 3 foot above the grip.”
Wilson had hooked the animal near one of its rear legs, so Roberts assisted by getting a second hook in the gator so the noose could eventually be slipped over its head.
Finally, Wilson stood up in the Hobie and dispatched the gator with one shot from his 20-gauge shotgun.
Then the real fun began: loading up a gator that size into a 13-foot, 8-inch 'yak.
“We had to figure out how to get him out,” Wilson said with a laugh. “We had an idea, but the logistics of getting a 9-foot animal into a kayak posed a little more difficulty than most people would imagine.”
Ultimately they succeeded, and Wilson brought the animal home to clean. He plans on having lots of gator jerky soon, and is getting a European skull mount commissioned to remember his first-ever gator from a ‘yak.
And he was quick to credit his teammate for the overall success of the trip.
“Steve was a key part in this. It wouldn’t have happened without him. He was an equal part in this process, and gets just as much credit as I do. He was there for the planning, the brainstorming, the preparations and the licensing, the hunt, the processing,” Wilson said. “He was an equal part in this. My key role was I drew the tags and I made the shot.”
If you have a kayak and are crazy enough to consider targeting gators, Wilson had some sage advice.
“Preparation and knowledge are key,” he said. “Don’t go into it blind. Know what the animal is going to do and respect the animal. Prepare yourself ….
“He wasn’t a really big gator, but the first one out of a kayak, he was plenty.”