Hunter Soileau (left) and Jered Cizek stand next to the nearly 14-foot-long gator for scale. Courtesy Hunter Soileau
Louisiana waterfowl guides Hunter Soileau and Jered Cizek helped their clients wrangle a monster of an alligator on Sept. 22. The gator weighed almost 900 pounds and measured nearly 14 feet long.
Soileau, 29, has guided duck hunters since he was 15 and he now manages Full Strap and Stringer Outfitter in Deville. He’d only been guiding alligator hunts for a week when he and 18-year-old Cizek headed out with three clients from Arkansas. It was also Cizek’s first gator hunt. The two guides and three clients were in Soileau’s 18-foot johnboat, which they launched on private water near Sicily Island.
Their first stop was checking a pair of baited lines that Soileau and Cizek had set out the night before. The lines were rigged with heavy treble hooks and had an estimated breaking strength of 1,000 pounds.
“The first line we checked was broken,” Soileau tells Outdoor Life. “Which was really weird because nothing is going to part 1,000-pound test line.”
Three clients from Arkansas were onboard and they helped the guides dispatch the giant gator. Courtesy Hunter Soileau
They checked out the break in the line, and Soileau thought it was possible that the bait had hooked a small alligator, which was then eaten by a bigger gator. Pretty soon he noticed some bubbles coming up near the boat.
“Bubbles coming up from the bottom could only come from a gator or a big turtle as it churned the mud,” Soileau explained. “I told Jered to cast [another] 1,000-pound line with a big treble hook attached to it and drag bottom. That’s when he hooked something, and it started a wild 90-minute fight none of us will ever forget.”
Cizek had hooked the gator in its tail, and when the massive tail broke the surface, they were blown away by its size. He and Soileau tied the line to their boat and threw out a few more heavy lines to get more hooks in the gator. It thrashed and rolled for at least 30 minutes, and Soileau realized he needed to get a hook in its head if they wanted to control it.
So, he quickly fastened a 10/0 treble hook to the tip of a cane pole he had onboard. He wrapped the heavy line around the pole and poked it down in the dark water, feeling for the gator’s head.
“I felt it hit, pulled on the pole to set the hook, and told Jered to haul hard on the line,” Soileau says. “That set the hook into the right side of its head near the jaw.”
Even with all that leverage, the battle went on for another hour or so. They got the alligator close enough to the boat for one of the clients, Maranda Swain, to shoot it several times with a .22, which is usually enough to kill a big gator, Soileau explains. But this gator proved tougher than most, and Swain had to swap out the .22 for a 9mm handgun to finish the job.
The giant gator was taken back to the boat ramp and loaded into a truck. They brought it to a taxidermist, who told Soileau it was the biggest he’d ever seen. It tipped the scales at 890 pounds and measured 13 feet 9 inches long with a nearly 6-foot girth. Soileau estimates the alligator’s age around 70 years old.
“I had no idea that giant of an alligator was around,” he says. “That’s the biggest one we’ve ever seen, and we likely never will see another one that big.”
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