12-hour gator hunt on Choctawhatchee River ends with massive catch for Fort Walton Beach man

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
Scott Fish landed this 435 pound gator in the Choctawhatchee River.

Sometimes you just have to toss out a hook, and that's exactly what Scott Fish of Fort Walton Beach did to haul in a massive gator last week.

Fish and his girlfriend Tifanie Mills put in at Black Creek and headed up the Choctawhatchee River to hunt for a big gator on Sept. 27.

Florida's recreational alligator hunting season runs from Aug. 15 through Nov. 1 each year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Depending on which harvest period you draw, hunters will be allowed to hunt one of the first four weeks. If they don't harvest both of their alligators during their assigned harvest week, they may hunt during the seven-week open period, which runs from Sept. 12 through Nov. 1.  

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Fish, who had already filled one of his gator tags, had one more left to fill. After about an hour fight, he landed an 11-foot-7-inch gator that weighed 435 pounds. 

"It wasn't even the one we were chasing. We were chasing a smaller one, 7- to 8-foot long," Fish said. 

Fish explained they tried to find the 8-footer and it went down.  

"It took me a little while, then I saw bubbles, which isn't common around here because of the current on the river," Fish said. "I saw the bubbles on the bottom, so I threw at it and I ended up hooking him." 

Scott Fish weighed his gator at Destin Fishing Fleet Marina. It measured 11-foot-7-inch and weighed in at 435 pounds. Also pictured is Tifanie Mills and Dylan Blair.

At that point, the gator went down about 15 feet and spun around and went back underneath his 17-foot boat and just sat on the bottom. 

"I took a hook on a rope and threw that down there. I hooked him … that's when he about snatched me off the boat. I wasn't expecting it at all," Fish said. 

Fish tangled with the fish for about an hour when he was finally able to get it with a bangstick about 7:30 a.m. 

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The couple had put in on the river at about 6 p.m. Sept. 26 and had seen several gators. 

"The red eyes, that how you can find them," he said. 

"But when all you see is an eye, you have no clue how big they are," Fish said. 

On average, as long as the weather is warm and not raining hard, Fish says they see about 30, sometimes 50 gators. 

"When it's warm, you see a lot out, but with the colder weather I was surprised," Fish said. 

It took Scott Fish about an hour to land the 435-pound gator.

Gator hunting used to be just at night, but now hunters have 24 hours to get their gator. 

"You can see a lot more bigger ones now," Fish said. 

However, he never actually saw the one he snagged until he got it up to the boat. 

"I was chasing the smaller one … this was completely a different alligator. I don't know what happened to the other one, never saw it again," he said. 

As for the big gator, it put up a fight. 

"I've got rope burns all over my hands. I had to work for it … we had to work for it," he said, noting his girlfriend helped as well. 

"It was all we could do to get him," Fish said. 

Once they got the gator to the boat it took another hour or more to get it on the back of the boat. 

The 11-foot-7 gator about filled up Scott Fish's 17-foot boat.

"It was a chore," Fish said. 

This was the largest gator Fish has killed in his nine years of hunting. 

Last year he got a 10-footer that weighed 290 pounds. 

His plan for this one is to mount the head and tan the hide. 

"And give away as much meat as I can … because I can't eat that much," he said.