Relentless trio bags a huge prize

The alligator was offloaded for processing (left) at Cordray’s in Ravenel.

Provided

Robbie Strickland (from left), Michael Strickland and Chase Cummins, of Clinton, get the measure of their 12-foot, 7-inch, 770-pound alligator they finally caught Thursday in the Diversion Canal after 7 days of tracking.

MONCKS CORNER -- Seven days of patience paid off for three Upstate alligator hunters who landed a 770-pound giant chased in a reptile version of "Moby Dick."

Chase Cummins, Michael Strickland and Robbie Strickland, from Clinton, snared the animal by using an ocean-strength fishing rod and treble hook in the Diversion Canal.

The trio set out to hunt one specific gator they had identified as the biggest in the water. Hunting for seven days over the course of about two weeks, they followed the animal around the canal, keeping track of him daily with binoculars.

"We thought this was the biggest one we could get," Robbie Strickland, a retired banker, said Friday, a day after the catch was made.

On multiple occasions they got near enough with their 23-foot boat, only to have the gator duck under, Strickland said. "He was kind of skittish."

They finally hooked it Thursday, taking two hours to get it to the boat. The combined strength of all three men was needed to secure the 12-foot, 7-inch monster that fought to break free from the lines they tried to anchor him with.

Strickland's son Michael is a firefighter, and so is Cummins.

"We were all about exhausted," Robbie Strickland said. "We were all pretty happy that we finally got him in." The gator was dispatched with a pistol shot to the head.

Michael Cordray, who processed the meat and hide afterward, said the catch is one the largest he has seen this year out of the 50 or so his Ravenel business has handled. It netted about 250 pounds of edible meat.

"The weather has been really good," Cordray said. He expects this weekend's cold front to slow the animals' movement down some around the Lowcountry, turning them lethargic.

South Carolina's fourth annual gator season, which closes at noon Oct. 8, has proven to be a plus in the down economy, Cordray said. He has kept on as many as 10 employees to help out with processing at a time when it seems the "take" numbers are up.

The state had 6,395 applicants this year for 1,200 permits. Tallies won't be available until later.

Robbie Strickland said his group traveled to Charleston three times in the past two weeks, staying overnight as they tried to land their specific catch. Each time they went out and got close, the gator would duck under for an hour or so. They would then come back and try again an hour later.

Strickland's wife, Charlotte, expects that the gator hide eventually will be put on display in their home. "We already have a room full of deer heads and an elk and a beaver, so it doesn't bother me," she said.

The longest reported alligator harvested in the state during a public hunt measured 13 feet, 8 inches, with three animals tying for that size. One of the largest poundage weights was about 1,025 pounds.

The state Department of Natural Resources does not keep an official size-record tabulation because alligator-hunt figures are hunter-reported, and not recorded at any official weigh station.