First alligator of the season in Alabama caught
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) — Chris Nix, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries’ Alligator Program Coordinator, said the 2018 alligator season parameters are the same as last year with 260 total tags statewide – 150 in the Southwest Zone, 50 in the West Central Zone, 40 in the Southeast Zone and 20 in the Lake Eufaula Zone. Hunting is from sunset to sunrise except for the Lake Eufaula Zone, where hunting is allowed during daytime hours as well.
Tonight, FOX 10 was there when the first gator caught in the Southwest Zone this season arrived. The gator weighed about 195 pounds and arrived in Spanish Fort at Wildlife and Fisheries around 9:30. The second gator showed up about 30 minutes later weighing in at about 135 pounds. They both showed up within about 2 hours of the season’s beginning. Matt Seese, who caught the first alligator, says it’s all about a game plan.
“Scouting is the key. Knowing where the gators are but you know we set up we waited until after sunset. Right about the time of sunset, that gator came up and he was close enough,” Seese explained. “Gave us a little bit of a chase, a little bit of cat and mouse, but made a long case, got lucky and snagged him and then the rest is history.”
Season dates for the Southwest Zone and the West Central Zone are sunset on August 9 until sunrise on August 12 and sunset on August 16 until sunrise on August 19. The Southwest Zone includes private and public waters in Baldwin and Mobile counties and private and public waters in Washington, Clarke and Monroe counties that lie east of U.S. Highway 43 and south of U.S. Highway 84. The West Central Zone includes private and public waters in Monroe (north of U.S. Highway 84), Wilcox and Dallas counties.
The Southeast Zone season opens at sunset on August 11 and runs until sunrise on September 3. The Southeast Zone includes private and public waters in Barbour, Coffee, Covington, Dale, Geneva, Henry, Houston and Russell counties (excluding public Alabama state waters in Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries).
The Lake Eufaula Zone includes public state waters only in the Walter F. George Reservoir/Lake Eufaula and its navigable tributaries south of Alabama Highway 208 at Omaha Bridge (excludes Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge). The Eufaula season dates are from sunset on August 17 through sunrise on October 1.
An 8-foot restriction on harvest is in effect for the Lake Eufaula Zone. The other zones have no size restrictions.
Nix said between 60 and 70 percent of the tags are filled annually, but it’s not because of a lack of alligators, especially in the Southwest Zone. Nix said alligator tag holders could have a 100-percent success rate in the Southwest Zone, but some hunters pass up gators only to regret it later.
“The alligators are here,” he said. “You’ve just got to be at the right place at the right time.”
For those not familiar with the areas to be hunted, Nix says scouting can be helpful for one main reason.
“Pre-scouting is good, but pre-scouting for alligators is counter-productive,” he said. “It will be much more useful to scout the habitat and where you might find alligators than trying to look for a particular alligator, especially for people unfamiliar with the waters. And get familiar with the area during the daytime.
“In the Southwest Zone, we have shallow-water bays with tide fluctuations. The West Central Zone has stump flats and water level fluctuations from the reservoirs. If you have a tag from Eufaula, be familiar with the boundary between Alabama and Georgia as well as the boundaries of the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge, which is off-limits to alligator hunting.”
Another helpful tip from Nix is how to determine the size of an alligator while it is still roaming free.
“You can estimate the size of an alligator by the measurement of inches from the bottom of the eye socket to top of the nostril,” he said. “When you change those inches into feet, it will be within one foot of the total length of the gator. If you’re targeting a certain size animal, it helps save time to not hunt an animal that won’t be big enough. We measure every alligator that comes in the Southwest and West Central zones. It’s a tried and true measurement.”
Nix said the one rule that needs to be stressed each season is when hunters can lawfully dispatch an alligator.
“You have to have the animal caught and secured prior to dispatching,” he said. “That means a noose around the head or an appendage that is attached to the boat.”
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