It's gator time in Florida, and the bigger the better

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photoOrange County, Fla., Deputy Jason Forgey, Jeff Harris and Jeremy Harris pose with the 13-foot, 737.5-pound alligator they caught in Seminole County.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — It's the middle of Florida's alligator hunting season, and that means sportsmen -- and women — across the state are vying for mammoth creatures that will put them in the record books.

The state's record — a 14-foot, 3.5-inch alligator — is held by an Orlando man who caught the gigantic creature in a Brevard County lake three years ago.

Early last month, hunters outside of Tallahassee came close to topping that when they captured a 14-foot, 1-inch gator in Lake Talquin. That now holds the official spot as Florida's second-largest gator.

Other massive creatures have been captured throughout Florida in recent weeks, including a 13-footer weighing more than 735 pounds caught by an Orange County deputy sheriff and two friends in the Econlockhatchee River.

And a St. Johns County couple reportedly caught a 13-foot, 7-inch alligator in Lake George. But that one didn't make the record book because its size wasn't confirmed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Season ends Nov.1

Florida's alligator-hunting season began Aug. 15 and ends Nov. 1, and so far, it's been a fairly routine one, said Steve Stiegler, a wildlife biologist with the FWC's alligator-management program.

The state issued 6,363 permits this year; each one allows hunters to capture two alligators in designated areas.

Stiegler said male alligators in the 13-foot range are routinely captured during the hunting season, and there's no evidence Florida's gators are getting bigger.

Florida's four largest documented alligators are males in the 14-foot range. The remaining ones rounding out the top-10 list are larger than 13 feet, 5 inches.

The heaviest of the gators was a 1,043-pounder pulled from Orange Lake in 1989.

Female alligators are significantly smaller than males. The largest female captured in Florida came in at 10 feet, 2 inches and was found in Lake Smart in 1981.

So what's the trick to nabbing one of these mammoth creatures?

Finding them really comes down to one thing, Stiegler said: "There's definitely a luck factor."