Gator meat likely will be a staple on the Padgett family meal plan for some time after two cousins caught a 656-pound alligator Sept. 29.
“Fried alligator is about the only way I know how to eat it,” said Kenny Padgett of Cumming. “A lot of the family wants to try it.”
Padgett and his cousin, Ben Yarbrough of Buford, were in a boat on Lake Eufaula along the west Georgia-Alabama line, hunting on a state alligator permit they get every three or four years.
Over the course of the weekend, Padgett said he’d seen about 60 alligators, but none big enough to beat their personal record. The cousins were hoping for a 9-foot prize.
“I was in complete shock. I had no idea that we had hooked into an alligator that big,” Yarbrough said. “It made us more determined because we knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime gator.”
Measuring about 150 inches, or 12.5 feet, their catch was short of the state’s 166-inch record holder. But the overnight adventure of trying to get the gator aboard the boat was worth it.
“We hooked him at about 9 p.m. and we actually got him out onto the boat at about 11 a.m. the next morning,” he said. “We had two fishing rods trying to pull him up after a while, we got him tired and got him up beside the boat and I got a bigger line on him and that’s when we decided to shoot him.”
Padgett thought without having to wrestle the gator, it would have been easier to get him on the boat, but that was just the beginning.
“He was so heavy, he started straight to the bottom and both fishing lines broke and the rope we had him tied with broke, so I tried to grab him, and I grabbed a leg, thought I could hold him, but he pulled me over the side, so I was in the water, sinking, trying to figure out what to do,” Padgett said.
They spent the next two hours with ropes and hooks trying to drag the alligator onto the boat, but the hooks would either straighten out or come loose. Then, it came down to a coin toss.
“[Yarbrough] definitely lost,” Padgett said. “He jumped in and swam down the 10-foot to the bottom of the lake, got a rope around the alligator, got back to the boat and we pulled him up.”
Yarbrough, who was exhausted after hours of wrestling, said he was anxious about diving after the gator.
“I knew in my mind that the gator was dead, but it was still pretty scary,” he said. “It took me a while to get in the water and it took me a little longer to get the rope around the gator.”
Yarbrough was successful and, after much struggle, the cousins finally got the gator tied to the side of the boat and back to land.
“Then we couldn’t get him in the truck,” Padgett said.
Fortunately for the cousins, a ranger happened to be in the area with a tractor and was able to lift it onto their truck.
After having their catch officially weighed and measured, the cousins had the gator processed for meat. They took the head to a taxidermy professional and are still deciding how to use the hide.
Padgett, who shot a 300-pound bear by himself joked the weekend’s catch may be the end of his gator-hunting days.
“I shot a bear a long time ago and it was almost as much work, but I think the alligator actually won out,” he said. “But we’ll go again next time, I’m sure we will.
“We’ll just be a little more prepared and have at least one more person on the boat. Us two together were not quite enough.”
The cousins were planning a weekend feast of gator, which Yarbrough said is tasty if prepared correctly.
“It will definitely be a little sweeter knowing how much it took to get him,” Yarbrough said.