In Chambers County, Texas, where the alligator population outnumbers the human population almost 3 to 1, a 14-foot-long alligator has been captured from the waters off of Alligator Alley RV Park in Anahuac. The alligator is just three inches shy of the state record.
David Fontenot, a 56-year-old resident of Zavalla, Texas, who lives part-time at the RV park and works for the City of Mont Belvieu, captured the giant beast with the help of his son-in-laws on Wednesday morning, Sept. 14, just two days before the start of Gator Fest, an annual festival in Anahuac that celebrates alligators and includes a gator round-up.
Catching the alligator before the start of the festival disqualifies Fontenot from competing in this year’s Gator Fest contests, but last year he won a daily weigh-in with an 11-foot, six-inch gator captured at the same RV park.
Fontenot said he had seen the 14-foot-long gator hanging around the boat ramp at the RV park, so he knew exactly where to find him when it came time to bait his hooks.
“There are some big ones out there. They are out there every night at the park. They come up on the banks and swim around the banks. We were kind of concerned about kids and pets in the parks because this thing was so huge,” he said.
To lure the alligator to his line, Fontenot first baited his hook with a chicken and had no luck.
“For some reason, he didn’t want to touch the chicken. I have never seen an alligator not eat something rotting on a line, but this alligator would swim up to it and then swim away. He wouldn’t touch it,” Fontenot said. “He didn’t want the chicken, so I switched to mullet and he took the bait. I guess, living in that water, he had a preference for fish.”
Getting such a massive alligator out of the water proved to be the next challenge. With no way of pulling him into their boat, he and his family members towed the gator to shore and used a boat ramp and trailer to get him out of the water. The alligator was then taken to Porter’s Wild Game Processing in Anahuac where its owner Casey Hedges offered to buy the alligator on the spot as it is the largest he has ever processed.
“That is the biggest one,” said Hedges, who plans to display it in his store after taxidermy.
Already this year, just six days into the 20-day alligator season in Texas, which runs from Sept. 10-30 in the 22 Texas’ core counties, Porter’s Wild Game Processing, has already received close to 250 alligators from Texas hunters.
“We may see a lot more over the weekend depending on the weather. With rain in the forecast, we might not see as much this weekend as we would normally see, it we will still get a lot more,” Hedges said. “Everyone who is hunting alligators is holding on until the weekend for Gator Fest.”
Hedges, who bought the business in 2020 from the legendary Mark Porter, says the most alligators he has processed in a year is more than 700, 606 from Texas alone and the rest from Louisiana.
When asked how he would respond to people who say the alligators should be relocated to other places, Hedges said that is a losing proposition.
“I am a nuisance alligator hunter. If an alligator has ever been fed by a human, it is against the law to relocate it. They have incredible homing abilities. Studies have been done that show a relocated alligator will make their way back to where they were taken,” he said.
As for concerns that alligator-hunting is thinning the population, Hedges said that is also not an issue.
“We have too many. Hunting alligators is about population control. We are not killing near what was being killed during the height of the hide market. At that time, Mark Porter would do 1,000 gators just over the Gator Fest weekend. The amount of hunters actually hunting alligators is way down and the population of alligators continues to grow,” he said.
If you are interested in seeing some of the alligators that are being captured up close, Gator Fest is taking place Sept. 16-18 in Anahuac. The event features food and drinks, beer garden, carnival rides, merchant vendors and airboat rides. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to https://www.texasgatorfest.com/
Earlier this week, Bluebonnet News reported on a Tarkington man catching a 13-foot, 4-inches on a deer lease in Tarkington. Here is a link to the article: