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Victorian grabs gargantuan gator, wins tournament

By BY CEDRIC IGLEHART - CIGLEHART@VICAD.COM
Oct. 12, 2009 at 5:12 a.m.

This alligator was captured by brothers Callaway (not pictured) and John Aimone, and friends, in Jackson County (south of Vanderbilt at Menefee Flats on the Lavaca River) on September 11.  The gator was packed in ice and taken to Anahuac for Gatorfest 2009, where it  measured in at 13 feet, 3 inches and took first place.

What started as a simple gator hunt - if such a thing exists - resulted in a major catch for one Victoria resident.

While out on a hunting expedition with his brother and several friends, John Aimone, 23, landed an alligator that earned him first place in the 2009 Gator Fest, an annual statewide alligator tournament held every year in Anahuac.

The 13 foot-3 inch reptile was not only the longest entry but the most profitable, netting Aimone $600 in prize money.

Although he has been a lifelong hunter, Aimone said his game was the first gator he had ever harvested. Matter of fact, it was the first time he had ever tried to hunt for alligator.

To land the monstrous creature, Aimone, his brother, Callaway, and several other friends went venturing in on the Lavaca River in Menefee Flats, located just south of Vanderbilt in Jackson County. Aimone said they used an 8-inch offshore hook and steak as bait, all of which was tied to a rope.

"We had a water bottle attached to the rope just in case the alligator got away and also we could tell where the end of the rope was," he said. "We fed the meat to it and when the alligator swallowed it, we let go of the rope and I shot him with a SKS.

"The alligator didn't move at all after I shot it. It was actually pretty easy to get. We tied it to the trailer hitch and drug it out with a truck."

Aimone and his party loaded the gator into a custom-built box, iced him down to preserve it and drove it to East Texas for last month's event.

Since his initial foray into alligator hunting was so profitable, Aimone has already set his sights on next year's Gatorfest.

"If I get another one that size you better believe I'll be in Anahuac again next year," he said. "My grandfather has a picture of an alligator in Vanderbilt and it's bigger than the one I caught a few months ago, so I'd like to find that sucker."

As for what he plans on doing with his enormous entry, Aimone has that detail worked out as well.

"We're going to be making some boots, some belts, alligator wallets and my mom wants a purse. It's going to get put to good use."

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