On September, 14 Michael Cottingham took a monstrous 13-foot 3-inch, half ton alligator from the waters of Lake Millwood., Arkansas. Here's the story of how this petroleum worker and part-time taxidermist made history by breaking the state record.
Michael is no stranger to huge Arkansas swamp dragons. He was fortunate enough to draw a tag for the state's first hunt in modern history six years ago. On that hunt, he took a 12-foot 6-inch behemoth that now stands as a full-body mount in his cabin.
Last year, Michael helped his friend bring in an 11-foot 2-inch alligator. In the years prior, he helped other friends land several 10 footers. But none of those can compare to the one he caught Friday the 14th.
Michael took to the water that night with daughter Cassie Gonzales, and friends Eric Gonzales, Austin Robbins, Wes Boulden, and Gary Chambliss in his 18-foot-long Alweld boat. A friend told Michael that he had seen a huge alligator while fishing an area of the lake earlier in the day. Michael took his friend's advice and headed into the darkness.
The first gator the group saw was, as Michael explains: "A pretty small one about 12 feet." Despite this lack of size, Michael went after the gator with a snare attached to a 12-foot pole. He got the snare around the gator but the cinch failed and the gator got away. "That was the first lucky thing that happened to me that night," he said.
A couple hundred yards down the lake Michael spotted the glowing eyes of the big gator his friend had told him about. Michael got his snare to within two feet of the monster only to watch the beast sink into the black water. Michael and crew backed off to give the gator time to resurface. They returned a half hour later to find the gator waiting.
Michael eased the snare around the gator and this time the cinch worked. "I got the snare around 'em n' the fight was on!"
Michael and crew fought the gator for more than 20 minutes before they were able to get it close enough to the boat for a safe shot. Once the gator was dead, Michael realized there was no way to get the leviathan into the boat. They tied the gator to the boat the best they could and towed him to the marina.
"It took five of us and a lot of rope and sweat to get him outta the water and onto land. We had to roll him into the trailer. He was just too heavy to move any other way," Michael said.
He called an Arkansas Fish and Game officer to tag his gator as required by law. The Game Warden said he was busy tagging another alligator. Michael said the tagging could wait until morning as the gator was just too big to skin then and there.
The Game Warden asked, "Well how big is he?"
"Pretty sure he'll go over 13 feet."
"Oh man. I'm on my way," the warden replied.
When the warden arrived, he gasped: "I never seen nothing like that. He's prehistoric."
When Michael and friends Matt Wingfield and Cory Dice skinned the gator the next morning Michael accidently nicked the reptile's stomach. Michael noticed several teeth through the cut in the stomach lining. "I thought maybe he'd swallowed some of his teeth when he ate something."
The gator hadn't.
Inside the stomach were the remains of a five-foot alligator. "Looks like he swallowed 'em whole," Michael said.
Gators don't grow to 13 foot 3 inches, 1,380 pounds by eating light.
Michael Cottingham broke the Arkansas state record with a monstrous 13-foot, 3-inch gator he took earlier this month. See the story behind how he landed this monster lizard.