Wildlife officer thought angler was joking when reporting a rare catch


Justin Wyrick was fishing with a swimbait at Tennessee’s Norris Lake when he made the catch of a lifetime, only it wasn’t what he was targeting.

What Wyrick surprisingly reeled in Monday around 5 p.m. was an alligator measuring 3- to 4-feet long, as reported by KnoxNews and WATE.

When Wyrick or his fishing companion (possibly his father) called the catch into the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, the wildlife officer at the end of the line questioned the legitimacy of the catch.

“He thought the guy was joking,” TWRA spokesman Matthew Cameron told KnoxNews.


But when wildlife officer Rick Roberts arrived on the scene, there was Wyrick pinning the alligator to the ground as he held it behind the head.

“We’re not sure how it got there,” Cameron told KnoxNews. “It did not get there on its own.”

The speculation is that the alligator was a former pet that had been illegally released. Cameron estimated the reptile to be 3 to 4 years old, since they grow about a foot a year.


“Are there gonna be alligators out there? Probably not,” Cameron told WATE. “But once again, it’s possible that someone could have captured another one, brought it into Tennessee illegally and then released it illegally into the water.

“We don’t think it’s something that the public needs to be overly concerned about, but you know, obviously you need to be aware of your surroundings, very similar with other wildlife, just you know what’s out there. If someone were to see another one, don’t approach it, call us. We’ll come and try to capture it and get it somewhere that it is supposed to be.”

KnoxNews reported that alligators are naturally expanding their range into Tennessee from the southern border states, but they are not likely to be found in East Tennessee.

“This is not good alligator habitat,” Cameron told KnoxNews. “They love swampy land and warm water…The winters here get extremely cold…and they don’t prefer deep, clear water. I suppose it could survive here, but it would not be a great habitat for an alligator to thrive in.”


The alligator was taken to the Little Ponderosa Zoo, a rescue facility outside Clinton, until a permanent residence can be found.

As for what Wyrick was fishing for, we can only speculate that it was bass, but we know for certain he wasn’t targeting alligators.

Norris Lake photo courtesy of Wikipedia; photos of Justin Wyrick holding his catch courtesy of Patricia Goins; photo of alligator courtesy of Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Story originally appeared on For The Win

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