Prairieville’s Hansel Rivere Jr. knew a big gator was prowling about the north end of Lake Verret because of the size of the hole the reptile had dug in a levee near the Five Fingers area.
But he couldn’t get a baited line to hold — the alligator broke two that had been placed near its den entrance.
So Rivere grabbed a bass rod rigged with big treble hook when he saw a bubble trail while tying a third line last Friday, and 45 minutes later he had reeled the 13-foot gator to the boat and was administering a kill shot.
“I was by myself, so he pulled me around a bit,” Rivere said about the fight. “I’ve got rope burns and bumps and bruises all over.”
That he killed the same gator that popped his baited lines was clearly evident.
“That thing had two of my hooks in his mouth,” Rivere laughed. “He was dragging my line around.”
The fight to subdue the giant wasn’t easy. But Rivere, who receives seven tags each year for his 1,000 acres of swamp, focuses only on big alligators. So he’s figured out what it takes.
His snag rig was surprisingly light: He used Berkley Lightning rod spooled with 90-pound braided line on which he tied a leaded treble hook.
To snag the gator, he simply cast the hook to the leading edge of the air bubble, let the hook sink in the 4-foot water and then began snatching it hard.
“That’s really the only way to catch those big gators,” Rivere said. “They pop (baited) lines.”
When the hook sank into the gator, that’s when the fun began.
“I’ve learned you can’t stand on the bow of the boat or he’ll jerk you off of it,” Rivere said. “I basically lay down in the bottom of the boat and brace my feet against the front of the boat — and hang on.”
Rivere said the 13-footer, which Swamp People’s Troy Landry later estimated to weigh between 900 and 1,000 pounds, surfaced pretty quickly after first being snagged and offered him a shot with his .44 magnum.
“I shot and missed him,” Rivere said. “That really enraged him.”
The gator disappeared, and began dragging the hunter around again.
The day was pretty hot and Rivere said he wasn’t up for an hours-long fight. So he threw out another snagging hook tied to a hand line to provide more leverage.
Finally, the gator tired and swam back toward Rivere, surfacing just off the boat before going into a death roll.
Rivere said that’s the point in the fight when many people make a mistake and break their rods.
“When the gator starts to roll, you have to open the reel and let them take line,” he said. “I just let the gator wrap itself up in that braid.” Soon the gator was wrapped so tightly that it stopped rolling. And Rivere ended the fight with his .22.
But that didn’t mean the ordeal was over: He still had to get it in the boat, which proved impossible by himself.
“After about 30 minutes of trying … I realized I couldn’t do it by myself,” Rivere said. “So I tied it to a cypress knee and went to get help.”