First, there was a 12-foot-7 specimen taken from the "borrow pit" below Wilson Dam. Then, the 13-foot-4-1/2, 1,025-pound brute killed a 5-minute boat ride away from Black's Camp on Lake Moultrie near the mouth of the Diversion Canal.
Then, on Sept. 28, three men from Monks Corner outlasted a 13-foot-7 monster near the Lion's Beach area of Lake Moultrie, a gator that produced more than 400 pounds of meat after it was butchered.
"It had to weigh 1,000 pounds, but we had no way of weighing him at that time in the morning when we got him in," said Trevor King, who along with Matt Mareno and his father, Ray Mareno, battled the gator for better than 12 hours, hooking up with him shortly after 11:30 a.m. and finally getting him back to the West Dike Landing just before 1 a.m.
King, Ray Mareno and Patrick Stewart at Anglers Sporting Goods in Moncks Corner had all seen the huge gator while scouting before the season. King and the Marenos spent one day the first week of the season hunting in the Cooper River near Pimlico but didn't see anything in the 10-foot class – the size gator they wanted to harvest.
They headed back on Sept. 28, figuring on checking out some areas of Lake Moultrie, especially the area where the huge gator had been seen.
"Ray and I had talked in length with Patrick, who generally has some good insights of game locations, about a really big gator we had all seen on several occasions, but I hadn't been able to find while scouting recently," King said. "It was possible this monster had already been harvested, but I doubted that could have happened without one of us hearing about it. So we all agreed to take a chance and see if the big boy was still lurking around his old haunts."
King and the Marenos left the ramp at 11:30 in Ray Mareno's 15-foot boat, and they saw the huge gator about 300 yards off the port side of the boat only six minutes into the trip. They played hide-and-seek with the animal for around seven hours, trying to get in bow-and-arrow range for King, before Matt Mareno used a surf rod to cast a weighted treble hook over the animal's back, winding it back and setting the hook.
The gator sounded and laid on the bottom until 7:49 p.m., when it surfaced. They got another grappling hook into him and got him to the surface, where he charged and struck the boat before Matt Mareno hit him with a homemade harpoon tipped with a Muzzy Gator Getter point. Tied to the end of the harpoon line was a buoy, and the trio watched it resurface 50 yards away, then raced back to the landing to get flashlights that King's fiancée had brought and stored in his Jeep.
In 10 minutes, they were back and found the buoy almost immediately, then put a couple more grappling hooks (tied to parachute cord) into the gator and tried to wrestle it to the surface for two hours, with the gator pulling the boat several hundred yards on concentric circles.
With rain now pouring down, they tried to drag the gator into shallow water and finally succeeded, and Matt Mareno was able to put a shot from his 9mm pistol into the animal's head. Two more rounds followed for good measure.
"The first shot killed him," King said. "Matt was holding the parachute cord, and he said he could feel him go limp, but we shot him twice to make sure."
With the gator tied to the boat, they dragged him back to the landing and began the chore of loading him into an 8-foot utility trailer King had towed to the landing.
"We had to put the trailer completely under the water before we could get him in it. Believe me, there will be a winch on the trailer next year," King said. "My trailer is eight feet long, and the gate is four feet long, and he hung off the gate more than a foot.
"We got him loaded, got him to Matt's house, finally measured him at 13-foot-7-1/2 inches, and started cleaning him around 1:30, and we had all the meat off him by 9 a.m."