An alligator hunter took home a near record-setting reptile from Lake Maggiore in St. Petersburg: a 13-foot, 9-inch gator that weighed 770 pounds.
Jovan Johannessen of Clearwater said he spotted the alligator in the residential lake nearly three months ago and was waiting until hunting season to try to track it down.
"I got out of work early [Wednesday], drove down to the lake and found him sitting right there next to the shore," said Johannessen, who has been hunting alligators for 10 years and said it was a struggle to catch the biggest one he's seen in the wild. "It was just an endurance battle, a tug-of-war back and forth."
Johannessen and his father eventually won the fight after 45 minutes.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the gator caught by Johannessen is the second largest on record in the Bay area and eighth biggest in the state. The one topping the list was captured in Brevard County in 2010 and measured 14 feet, 3 inches.
Alligator hunting season in Florida started in mid-August and has already produced some big reptiles. Two Lakeland men, Harris Woodsby and Matt Fellows, took home one from the Kissimmee River earlier this month that was 12 and a half feet long.
"We think that we might not ever be able to beat it," Woodsby said. "We love that we got one that big because it's so rare that a lot people just don't ever get gators that big."
Gary Morse, an FWC spokesman, said finding gators this big doesn't happen often and catching one in a residential body of water like Lake Maggiore is also uncommon.
"Of the alligators caught during alligator-hunting season, anything 12-feet and above is somewhat rare," he said.
Johannessen said he doubts he'll ever catch another one as big as the one he caught Wednesday, but that won't stop him from trying.
"That's the whole goal of it is bigger is better," he said. "I hope I can get that number one spot one year."