A Boat Full of Po-Boys: A Louisiana Alligator Adventure!

KipCarson

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 5, 2019
Messages
610
Location
Bossier City, Louisiana
For several years now everywhere I seem to turn I see alligators. Seriously. Working in waterfowl habitat management in the Red River watershed of northwest Louisiana keeps me outside nearly 100% of my days in wet and swampy places. I grew up here, and when I was a kid there did not seem to be that many around. But as time has gone on, the populations have exploded. There does not seem to be one backwater hole, that I come across that does not contain some of the big lizards. I’m constantly bumping into them, I’ve watched them cross the highway in front of my truck moving from one ditch to another, I’ve had them come swimming up right beside me when I was standing in waist deep water putting up wood duck boxes, caught and removed them from my beaver traps, I routinely have little ones pester my bobbers in the spring when I’m bream fishing, etc. They turn up everywhere from city parks to neighborhoods to church parking lots. For my part, I like having them around. They are a comeback. Story of conservation success, but in their case they are getting to be a little bit too successful for most peoples taste!

Speaking of taste, they are quite good to eat! To be frank in many ways there is nothing special about alligator meat. Other than the fact it’s not nearly as cheap as chicken. You are going to pay for it, I think about $14+ a pound at the store I believe. As far as taste goes it’s mostly a blank slate, you can make it taste like whatever you want. It’s very mild and can be cooked a bunch of different ways; fried, blackened, smoked, grilled, stewed or whatever else you can come up with. For me the downside to it is a somewhat chewy texture. One of my favorites is definitely cutting it up in small little nuggets, frying them golden brown, and stuffing them inside a Po-boy. If you don’t know, that’s basically just a big sandwich on French bread, slathered with a sauce like mayonnaise, tartar, sauce, or remoulade, with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and your choice of meat, such as shrimp, catfish, oysters, and often times alligator.

When it comes to alligators, my major frustration has been the lack of access to them. Just because they are here does not mean that it is easy to get tags and just because this is a Louisiana does not mean that we all live in one giant episode of “Swamp people” there is a lottery system in place to allocate tags for many public bodies of water across the state, but I had been unsuccessful in getting any. Until this year, I was finally drawn for tags on one of the lakes here in northwest Louisiana. There are places much closer to my house that I could have gotten tags at, but on this lake in particular, I have several friends who fish it regularly and live on the lake that I knew you would be able to point me in the right. One of them has had alligator tags multiple years, and has successfully caught some giants. This year when I applied, I did it out of habit, assuming that I would not be drawn. But but then I got an email and realized I would have a very busy September.

Season opened up the first week of September right when I was in the middle of trying to fill a trying to fill a much more important elk tag in Colorado. For the most part, I put the alligator hunt out of my mind because I was completely focused on Colorado. After successfully getting home from that hunt, and having a ridiculous amount of butcher work to do on the elk in the evenings after work, and having the wheels come off in some other areas of personal/family/work life I had begun to regret even applying for the tags. I just wasn’t going to have any time to devote to getting them filled. I was able to carve out one weekend to get it done.

Fast forward to September 22nd.
I had contacted my friends who live on the lake who were more than eager to share their knowledge and planned to meet me to point out some areas and watch me. set out lines on Friday after work. Starting on Wednesday I took a bag of chicken leg quarters out of the freezer and set them in the back of the truck to start getting “ripe”. By the time Friday rolled around the smell coming from that bucket would flat out gag a maggot, but was just right for gator bait!

We launched the boat a couple hours before sunset and headed off toward the honey holes. It was a good time and a family affair since my friend Colten brought his 2 little boys along. The boat was plenty big for all five of us, unfortunately, there was not enough room to get away from the smell lol! It got to ride far back in the stern, where at least they sent would be blown behind us until we stopped.
IMG_0295.jpeg
Colton on tiller, the future alligator hunting experts, and Jeromy.

Now I am extremely partial to mountains, but there is a lot to be said for the beauty that can be found along a southern bayou, or Cypress studded lake.
IMG_0283.jpeg
IMG_0317.jpegIMG_0287.jpeg

And the rarest of pictures from me, a selfie…
IMG_0308.jpeg
To me there is always something enchanting about giant old bald cypress trees in a Louisiana swamp.

I was issued three tags and was allowed to keep six lines set. Everyone calls it alligator hunting, but it is basically alligator fishing in my opinion. The basic concept is you have a giant hook tied to a heavy line that is anchored to something very sturdy. You take a piece of rancid chicken, or other bait and suspend the hook above the water. In theory the higher you get the chicken, the bigger the alligator will be that can take the bait. I was not concerned with this, I was looking to catch alligators, not hunting for size. The line is suspended with something like a clothes pin that once the alligator grabs the chicken and pulls it into the water the line will come free, allowing them the ability to swallow the chicken and get the hook buried deep inside them. If you only hook them in the mouth, they would almost guaranteed be free before you got to check the line.
 
I've done similar hunts a few times. Really miss the bayou, hard to match the beauty(minus the biting flies). Looking forward to seeing your success!
 
Cool. When I lived in southern LA for a few years, I remember seeing the baited canals while we were out fishing, along with "we buy gators" sign that popped up at the local bait shop...Gator hunting was a foreign concept to me and it was interesting to see families out collecting gators.

Once saw a family of three generations, including their grandma, loading some giant lizards in their bateau!

Looking forward to the rest of this one! It's a pretty unique share here on HT.
 
The first line I set was where a small bayou runs into the lake. It seemed like a likely spot because any gator traveling in and out of the main lake would pass right by it. Plus, it could be checked from the bridge and would cut off some boat ride time. If the chicken was still hanging we would not even have to come back up in here, only if the chicken was down, we would know we had to go back to it. I was using what I think was a 12/0 hook, attached by a bowline knot to around 40 feet of line. IMG_0474.jpeg

The first set up was hung on the button willow hanging over the bayou on the right side just before the bridge.
IMG_0280.jpeg

IMG_0281.jpeg

The second place we went to set a line was in the back of the pocket, pretty close to where Colton and Jeromy’s houses are. They had both seen an absolute giant there in the last few years. Colton tried to catch him two years back whenever he had drawn the tags with no success. It was a pretty low odds spot, but if we caught one there, it would likely be plus-sized!
Here is a picture of that set up.IMG_0290.jpeg

The cypress grows in extremely dense thickets and creates pinch points with gaps where gators will swim through as they’re cruising around the area. Line #2 was right beside one such gap.
IMG_0287.jpeg

Lots of things to see on the lake, like this cool old triple decker duck blind.
IMG_0310.jpeg

IMG_0311.jpeg
In the foreground of the duck blind pictures, you will see clumps of grass growing. That is a sedge that has taken root on top of large mats of Giant Salvinia. It may look like solid ground, but underneath that is about 4 feet of water. Invasive Salvinia is a huge nuisance and can ruin a good lake. Great gator habitat though…

It only took me a little more than an hour to get all six lines set, most of the places we went, were about a 15 minute boat ride from the lauch. I did not take a picture of all of them, because it was hard to keep my phone clean from the chicken stank, nitrile gloves were a must but the line close together I just kept them on and never pulled my phone out! Here is one more of the 6.IMG_0314.jpeg

We headed back to the launch as the sun went down, excited for an early morning! The only downside was some bad news for me when we got back to the launch by Colton’s place. His dad was there and informed us that the giant gator in the pocket had been caught a few days before. It was 14.5 feet long. Yes you read that correctly.
We were not too discouraged, because there had been 2 big ones seen in there, simultaneously, within the last month. Hope is not lost!
 
Cool. When I lived in southern LA for a few years, I remember seeing the baited canals while we were out fishing, along with "we buy gators" sign that popped up at the local bait shop...Gator hunting was a foreign concept to me and it was interesting to see families out collecting gators.

Once saw a family of three generations, including their grandma, loading some giant lizards in their bateau!

Looking forward to the rest of this one! It's a pretty unique share here on HT.
That’s cool, there is nothing like that in north Louisiana. All of the large scale commercial alligator hunting is done way further south where there is extensive swamps. Around here it’s mostly piney woods and not anything like what most people expect from Louisiana. Commercial hunters like you saw and what people see on television get hundreds of tags and have masses of leased land just for gator hunting. It’s a whole different world, I would not want any more than these three tags I have lol!
 
This is one hunt I've never tried. Looks like a ton of fun. Can't wait for the rest of the story!
 
Ive always wanted to try some streamer fishing down there. Something tells me my 6wt fly rod wont handle a gator lol
 
Cool story so far! Years ago I did this a bit west of New Orleans and had a ball! Beautiful scenery and the food was a bonus.
 
Saturday dawned bright and early and were at the launch just as the sun was brightening the eastern sky. Colton had looked at the bridge line and seen that it was still hanging up, no gator there.
We headed out to the closest line where we were hoping for a big one, no dice. 2 checks with nothing. At least it was a beautiful morning!IMG_0357.jpeg
IMG_0482.jpeg

The third line was also a bust. I had really hoped to fill all 3 tags in one morning but unless all of the next ones caught that wasn’t going to happen.

As we pulled up to line number 4 I got turned around and couldn’t figure out what tree my line had been tied to. A cypress swamp is one of the easiest places I’ve ever seen to get disoriented in. As my head swiveled in circles trying to locate the right tree Colton shouted “LINE DOWN, it’s down it’s down!” He really enjoys catching gators and I think he was more excited that I was! We idled up to the tree and I pulled the old .22 out of the rod box. These few moments to me are the most exciting part, what will be on the other end of the line?! Could be a giant, or could be nothing. Just because they pull down the chicken doesn’t mean they swallow it and get caught. With care I got one the front of the boat and started to put tension on the line, all 35 feet of the excess had been pulled tight and was tangled in all sorts of limbs and aquatic vegetation but I could feel some solid weight on the other end. I definitely had something!
IMG_0394.jpeg

It took me a minute to untangle the line from the limbs it was wrapped up in, but the I was able to gently pull it in toward the boat. Colton says, “There he is!” And I see the bony ridges of a large back appear from behind the tree. If you move slow and cautiously there’s generally not all the splashing and carrying on that you see on TV. Most of the time you can gently pull them to the side of the boat and quickly take care of business. As he got his first good look at his antagonists instead of trying to dive under and get away, he opened his mouth in a threatening manner that makes a person glad they are in a boat and armed! IMG_0487.jpeg

I continued to pull him closer for the shot and just about the time I was going to end it he made one last frantic dive but it was too little too late, I had firm hold on the line!
IMG_0488.jpeg

A few seconds later I had his head back on the surface and the soundtrack of Troy Landry was playing in my head “Choot em, Choot em!” So I did!

IMG_0489.jpeg
IMG_0490.jpegIf hit in the right spot they go limp instantly and we pulled him into the boat.

The first thing you do when you get a gator in a boat Is tape his mouth shut. Because, if you didn’t hit just the right spot they have been know to come alive and go thrashing about, jaws snapping at anything that gets close. Problem was I forgot the tape!! Thankfully we had some zip ties that somewhat worked. They kept trying to slide down the snout and did not want to stay on, but it was ok because he was mostly dead. Mostly.

IMG_0369.jpegIMG_0368.jpeg

He wasn’t a giant but he certainly isn’t tiny either! It became clear that there was still a lot of life in those eyes and the legs were moving a little, it wasn’t mindless nerve movement. He didn’t do much flopping around but a couple of times his head tensed up as I could see him trying to open those jaws!

There’s still a lot of life left in these eyes!71716485374__B55F15E1-0D2F-4680-8F8B-6B712AC0C596.jpeg
We discussed putting his head back over the side of the boat and shooting him again but decided against it. The next 2 lines were a bust too so we headed back to the launch. During the 15 minute ride I held my foot against his head to maintain control in case it did try something but the fight was mostly gone out of him. After getting him on land we did shoot again before we even thought about removing those zip ties!
IMG_0386.jpegIMG_0385.jpeg
This one was exactly 8 feet long. Which was plenty big enough to make me happy! You know how many Po-boys you can make outta that?!!
 

Attachments

  • IMG_0366.jpeg
    IMG_0366.jpeg
    2.2 MB · Views: 8
Last edited:
Before I processed him I knew my girls would love to see a real gator up close and get their hands on him so I put him in the truck and headed to the house. There were several squeals of joy from my oldest when she heard daddy was bringing home a “real ally-gator!” I just love how excited my girls get over seeing all of my animals, I can’t wait until they’re big enough to tag along all the time. It won’t be long!

Stopping by the house turned out to be one of the best parts of the day. I’m slightly wrapped around her finger! Evie, the 18 month old wasn’t nearly as impressed, but Louisa, about to turn 5, had smiles for Days!!
IMG_0408.jpegIMG_0414.jpeg

She then had to take time inspecting every little detail, and even found a tiny leach attached to it which fascinated her! She’s so inquisitive, I love it!
IMG_0410.jpeg

I have a great place to process stuff at work with stainless tables, walk-in coolers and freezers, etc so I took him there to process it. If you’re making things from the hide most often they get split down the back to keep the belly skin intact but I don’t intend to make anything, I’ll just tan the hide for display. I split him up the belly. IMG_0423.jpeg 71717928135__35398921-B246-4014-82D7-A08EB4EAC0D6.jpegI suspect it will end up nailed on the wall inside the garage. An 8 foot gator yeilded 53 lbs of meat.
IMG_0428.jpeg
I will say I’m very glad I didn’t catch 3 in one morning. This was all the gator I care to fool with in one day. I can break down a deer in no time flat, and even though skinning these things is not hard, the overall processing is definitely not in my wheelhouse.

The other lines were still set. We would be at the launch again bright and early Sunday morning to get the lines checked before heading to church. 2 more tags to go…
 
That is awesome! Thank you for sharing this story and the techniques that you use. Alligator hunt/fish is on my bucket list so I very much appreciate your great explanation of how you got this done. With you having two tags left to fill, I'm hoping for more stories and pictures. Keep 'em coming!
 
very nice. boy those swamps have a special beauty to them.

on occasion, i find myself wishing i lived somewhere that provided more ready access to pursue water/coastal based cuisine.
 
Thanks for posting, pics are great. And the 3 level duck blind is something I've never heard of, thanks for showing.
 
Back
Top