A bayou in Chambers County, Texas, may be named for turtles, but it is also home to some enormous alligators.
There’s one less alligator now lurking in the waters of Turtle Bayou as a 13-foot and half-inch, 680-pound beast was pulled from the bayou on Thursday, Sept. 28, behind the home of Robert Hennis, 72. Hennis, his son, Joel, Rev. John Bernandini Jr. and Tommy Strawn captured the alligator using legal alligator-harvesting tags provided through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Alligator hunting season in Southeast Texas runs from Sept. 10-30 every year, and the Hennises, avid outdoorsmen, apply for tags. This year they received two tags. The harvesting of the enormous alligator behind Robert’s home took place just two days before the season ended.
“We have been trying to get this gator for 20 years. Every year, a week before the season, we will see him, and then we won’t see him again until after the season is over. This time he bit the wrong hook,” said Joel, a resident of south Liberty County.
They used mullet they caught in the bayou as bait when the chicken they were using for bait failed to hook a gator. Joel said it took four 800-pound paracords to bring the gator up to the surface. The gator broke two lines as he thrashed about and tried to avoid capture.
Once captured, the gator was taken to Porter’s Processing in Anahuac. Most of the meat harvested from the gator is being donated to people at Bernandini’s church. Joel said he and his father took 5-10 pounds of meat from the jowls, which he swears is the best cut on the gator.
As this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime harvest for Joel and his father, they are having a full-body mount made of the alligator’s carcass.
Over the years, Joel has grown comfortable around the gators, even swimming in the bayou during the summer. To the critics of alligator harvesting, who think the alligators should be left alone, Joel said, “They don’t know anything about alligators. We see so many alligators out there all the time.”
In fact, one of Chambers County’s bragging rights, the Alligator Capital of Texas, is that the alligator population there still outnumbers the human population three to one.