Hunters across the Palmetto State flooded its swamps and marshes on the opening weekend of alligator season, and two lucky parties’ seasons ended about as quickly as they began.
Dr. Jason Rosenberg of Pawleys Island scored in the first hour of the season with an 11-foot-11, 472-pound beast taken in the Waccamaw River swamp in Georgetown County. A couple of hours later, three fishing guides got together to take an 11-foot-6 beast from the upper Cooper River.
Rosenberg had taken one previous alligator, but this time, his entire family – except for 7-year-old Ruby – wanted to take part in the hunt. Wife Elissa and kids Lainey and Zachary each played a part in the kill and in hoisting the huge gator into the boat.
Shawn Atkins of Gator Getter Guide Service in Bonneau (843-509-4472) had located two huge gators several days before the season, and 30 minutes after the season opened, they spotted one of them a short distance from Reserve Harbor Marina. They had it under control 30 minutes later with treble hooks, bolts from a crossbow and a grappling hook.
Fishing guides Rich Harris, Tom Siwarski and Chris Orvin, all from the Charleston area, carried Siwarski’s father, Tom Sr. – and his gator tag – with them on a trek up the Cooper.
“It wasn’t much of a discussion that the upper Cooper River was where we needed to go,” said Harris. (843-437-7333). “We have all watched grown alligators in the upper Cooper for many years.”
After saying a quick prayer, the gator posse headed upriver in Orvin’s 24-foot boat, and within an hour, they had located several 8- to 9-footers, but it wasn’t until they found a nice slough that changed their hunt for the good.
“A really nice shooter was sitting in there, and Tom was on the bow with a weighted treble hook getting ready to make the first cast, but after a quick swipe of the tail, the gator disappeared,” Harris said.
The crew pulled up to the bank and decided to wait him out. After only 15 minutes, the gator surfaced, looking right at the hunters. Harris didn’t waste any time and buried the first hook in his side with his stout Ugly Stick rod.
“It was like a Bassmasters Classic hookset, except this time the thing on the other end could eat you,” he said.
Over the next 30 minutes, the four hunters repeatedly hooked the gator with weighed trebles and a grappling hook attached to 600-pound test line and battled the beast across the slough. Finally, Tom Siwarski Sr. fired a crossbow bolt into the gator’s neck that finally allowed the hunters to gain control of the animal for a final shot to the head.
“What a brute! It was a thing of beauty to watch these guys work together and make all the right moves,” said Harris.