Eufaula Gator Likely To Set Bar For New Georgia Record

Derrick Snelson made a six-year wait for a tag well worth it.

Brad Gill | September 5, 2019

A Lake Eufaula alligator that was measured at 14-feet, 1.75-inches by WRD Technician Matt Skinner will likely set a new bar for Georgia’s state-record gator after paperwork goes through its normal process.

The previous state-record hunter harvested Georgia gator came from in Lake Seminole in 2013. That gator measured 13-feet, 10.75 inches long and was caught by four Decatur County residents, Dr. Daniel White, Alex “Bud” Harrell, Gary Braswell and tag-holder Jim Overman.

Shelby, 14, shows you how big the Eufaula gator was in comparison to her 5-foot, 1-inch body.

It took Derrick Snelson, of Meriwether County, six years before finally drawing an alligator tag for Zone 1A (Lake Eufaula). Derrick was one of only 29 others drawn. With the tag being so rare, Derrick decided it best to hire Lethal Guide Service to take him, his daughter Shelby, 14, and their friend Kirk Nozaki on a guided gator hunt. The Lethal Guide Service guides were owner Darrell Brown and deckhand John Trammell. The hunting party of five met up at Lake Eufaula on Sunday, Sept. 1 and were hunting by 8 a.m.

“We were about 100 yards south of the railroad trestle at the Highway 82 bridge in Georgetown,” said Derrick. “When we first laid eyes on him, it was about 11 o’clock, and we were actually after a smaller one in that little hole. Darrell saw the big gator laying up by a lily pad, and he said, ‘That’s the one we’re going to get right there,’ and I said, ‘Let’s just get this (smaller) one, he’s right here.’ He said, ‘No, we’re going to get that one.'”

On the Lethal Guide Service Facebook page, it states that they set out to harvest a state-record gator five years ago. They obtained that goal and gave Derrick, Shelby and Kirk an adventure they will never forget.

“None of us knew he was that big until it was over,” said Derrick. “We just knew he had a nice-sized head on him. Darrell started going toward him with the trolling motor, and the wind caught us and pushed us in there real fast, and he went under the water and stayed gone for 45 minutes. Then he surfaced 35 yards in front of the boat, and we scared him when he came up, and he barrel rolled on us and went back under, and we didn’t see him again for 45 minutes.”

This game of cat and mouse went on for about five hours. The giant alligator would only stay up about 10 seconds and then go right back down for 45 minutes. Each time the gator surfaced, the hunting team would cast a big treble hook attached to a heavy-duty fishing rod.

“We just stayed at it,” said Derrick. “If it weren’t for Darrell and John, we wouldn’t have gotten that gator because my patience…. I can’t do that. Every time he would go down, I would say, ‘That gator is gone. He’s out of here.’ Then 45 minutes later, he’d pop his head back up. That’s the good thing of going with a guide service. They’ve already seen this happen. This is only my second time going gator hunting ever.”

It was 3:45 to 3:50 p.m. when the team finally got the first hook into the gator. While the team switched out doing battle with the gator on the fishing rod, John attempted to get a larger hook tied to larger rope into the gator. It took 45 minutes before the second hook was attached.

“We finally got the big hook in him,” said Derrick. “Once we got him with the big rope, they pulled him up beside the boat, and I shot him with a crossbow (bolt) through the tail just to have him on a buoy in case he broke off, and we could tell where he went.”

As most gators do, he began to barrel roll at the boat, wrapping himself up in the ropes. However, Derrick was able to dispatch the gator with a shot to the head with a 40-caliber Glock.

“He was a mammoth, it was crazy to see something like that,” said Derrick.

With a 14-foot-plus gator dead at the boat, the work was far from over.

“We got over to some cattails, and it was like 1 1/2 foot deep, and John and Darrell got in the water,” said Derrick. “They gave us his head, his foot, then his back foot, and we kept rolling him over in there inch by inch. I guess it was adrenaline because there is no way we could have put that gator in that boat. There’s no handlebar on him. It was just crazy.”

Matt Skinner with WRD measured the gator at 14-feet, 1.75-inches long.

After getting back to the ramp, they drove to Chattahoochee Fall Line WMA and met WRD Technician Matt Skinner for the official measurement, which was 14-feet, 1.75-inches long. After that, it was off to the processor.

“I don’t know where I’m going to put him, but I am having him mounted,” said Derrick. “That thing (could be) 80 or 90 years old. I’m 39, so just out of respect that he lived that long, I felt like I needed to mount him. I’m not just a ‘go kill something just to say I killed something’ kind of hunter. I’m not just a sport hunter.

“That’s the main reason I am going to mount him, where we can see him from now on. My daughter is all over it.

“We got him packaged up. We are going to eat him.”

The gator weighted 700 pounds, not the heaviest gator ever reported by a hunter. According to WRD Biologist Greg Waters, some have been reported in excess of more than 900 pounds. 

Last season, WRD killed a 50-year-old alligator near Lake Blackshear that was found and observed for weeks languishing and close to death in a ditch. That gator measured 13 feet, 4 inches.

Although Derrick’s gator will likely go down as the longest hunter-harvested gator, Greg Waters said one was found dead by WRD personnel years ago in some private waters near Lake Eufaula that measured just longer than 15 feet.

Alligator hunters in Georgia must apply and be drawn for a permit through a quota system. Only 1,000 tags were available to Georgia alligator hunters for the 2019 season, which opened Aug. 16 and closes at sunrise on Oct. 7. Permits allow hunting in 10 specific zones in middle and south Georgia where alligators are common and numbers continue to increase. All successful alligator hunters in Georgia must validate their gator harvest at a WRD Game Management office during normal business hours. 

The alligator hunting crew with the pending state-record gator (from left): Kirk Nozaki, Shelby Snelson, deckhand John Trammell, Derrick Snelson and Darrell Brown, owner of Lethal Guide Service.

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