Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tackling a Mighty Gator Area Man, Son Help Bag 590-Pounder

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tackling a Mighty Gator Area Man, Son Help Bag 590-Pounder

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Julavits, Times-Union outdoors editor

The 12-foot, 2-inch dead alligator that arrived by pickup truck at The Fisherman's Dock seafood market on Labor Day was so big it literally stopped traffic on San Jose Boulevard.

So big that proprietor Ben Williams couldn't weigh it on his scales or dress it out on his normal cleaning table or feature it in his display case.

"This thing was just huge," Williams said. "I had at least eight or nine cars stop to take pictures while we were trying to unload it.

"Of course, we don't have scales that go that big, so as we cleaned it, we weighed the pieces."

Those individual pieces added up to a staggering 590 pounds. "The hide -- just the hide -- weighed 73 pounds," Williams said.

It was fitting that the hunters who bagged the beast Sept. 2 during the annual public alligator hunt brought it to Williams for processing of the meat. It was Williams, a tournament bass fisherman and gator hunter himself, who tipped them off to the whereabouts in Crescent Lake of the heavyweight gator.

"You have to give partial credit to him," said Orange Park's Mike Cenci, who accompanied his son Jason, Daniel Perkins and Jeff Sullivan on the hunt. "The gator was right where he said it would be."

Perkins, a student at St. Johns Community College, was among 1,500 people chosen from 7,871 applicants in a statewide drawing to receive a permit for the hunt that continues through Oct. 7. Neither Perkins nor his buddies Jason Cenci or Sullivan had been on a gator hunt before, but Jason's father had. During last year's hunt, Mike Cenci took an 11 1/2-foot alligator.

"The boys' goal was at least an 8-footer," said Cenci, who used his 18 1/2-foot flats boat for the hunt.

Williams first came upon the wide-body gator last spring while fishing with partner Frank Streeter in a bass tournament on Crescent Lake. The gator behaved as if it owned one particular cove, and for all intents and purposes, it did. At one point, the two anglers found themselves only a few feet away from the reptile. It leered at them, not budging.

"He was extremely territorial and unconcerned [by human presence]," Williams said. "Frank and I were agog at how big he was."

Williams, who was also selected for this year's hunt, would have liked a shot at the gator himself, but his permit dictated he hunt later in the season. Figuring someone would target the gator before he had an opportunity, Williams passed on the information to Cenci and the others.

The four hunters set out opening day -- Sept. 1 -- from the west shore of Crescent Lake and motored to a cove on the east shore where Williams said the gator would be. …

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