They say that you have to take big risks if you want big rewards. Hunter Soileau learned this firsthand when he and Jered Cizek landed a 13’9” long alligator from the murky waters near Sicily Island last week. Not initially realizing the size of their catch, the two would quickly learn how big of a situation they were in when the alligator began to thrash and roll, revealing its enormous girth and might.
As the head guide and operations manager of Full Strap and Stringer Outfitter and Guide Service LLC (fullstrapandstringer.com), Soileau started his day with Cizek and three customers from Arkansas. Having two tags available for alligator hunts, Soileau previously baited and set two lines. The crew loaded up in Soileau’s 1848 aluminum boat and arrived at the first line to find it cut. Moving to the next hook, Soileau found himself perplexed that his line had been severed.
Looking at the second line, Soileau identified a tight grouping of large bubbles. After throwing a drag hook over the bubble location, Soileau and Cizek’s day was about to go from ordinary to incredible. The line went taught, and the water began to churn as the trophy alligator struggled to break free of the hook that snared its tail nearly 12 inches from the tip.
Fighting the line, Soileau and Cizek secured it to the boat. Trying to counteract the fight, they piloted the boat to the bank. Once the tail broke the surface, they were astounded by its girth and added as many lines as possible. When the gator started hissing near the other end of the boat, the monster’s length became a reality.
“It was like something out of ‘Lake Placid,’” Soileau said.
While Soileau and Cizek maneuvered to secure the creature for the kill shot, the contagious excitement made its way to the customers in the boat.
“I was focused on making them safe and ensuring they stayed seated,” Soileau said.
After nearly an hour and a half of fighting the struggling alligator, multiple kill shots were administered to claim victory. While a .22 caliber typically gets the job done, Soileau indicated it took more firepower.
“We started with a .22, but finished the job with a 9mm,” he said.
Maranda Swain of Arkansas was one of the three lucky customers aboard Soileau’s boat that day and is credited with making the kill shot. From catch to kill, Soileau counted almost a two-hour struggle after getting the creature into the boat.
“The adrenaline was pumping,” he said. “I do know that we never would have been able to roll him into the boat if we didn’t have our three customers to serve as a counterweight. I sure felt the strain the next day.”
The record-setting alligator was delivered to a taxidermist on the Northshore after maneuvering it from the boat with a tractor when shoreside. Measurements indicate 71.6 inches around the belly and 53 inches around the base of the tail. After four days in the cooler, Soileau said it weighed 890 pounds. He estimates the gator to be somewhere between 70 and 100 years old.
“It weighed more than 890 pounds when we caught and killed it, but I didn’t have my scale,” Soileau said. “It’s the biggest alligator I have ever seen, and the taxidermist said he has never seen something so big in his long career. I don’t know what this guy has been eating out there!”