Texas man catches massive alligator snapping turtle, then releases it back into the wild

The turtle weighed around 200 lbs and was likely over a 100 years old, angler Justin Broomhall estimated.

Justin Broomhall took a Sunday fishing trip to Lake Cherokee with his father and his son. Little did he know they would make the catch of a lifetime. 

The Longview, Texas resident hooked a massive alligator snapping turtle on Father's Day, the biggest he's ever seen. "My dad was like 'Holy smokes, look at the size of that!'" Broomhall said. "My three-year-old son started panicking. He thought it was a dinosaur and kept saying, 'Let it go. Let it go. Put it back!'"

Broomhall was using dough bait in hopes of reeling in a catfish, he said. However, "from [the turtle] being so old and going blind, he's using his smell to find bait," he said. "I guess he felt it, thinking it was some other dead fish and he ate it."

The enormous creature weighed in around 200 lbs and was likely between 100 to 150 years old, estimated Broomhall, who works at Whitaker Plumbing in Carthage, Texas. "I do a lot of lifting. I was a bodybuilder in high school and 200 lbs to me is pretty easy to pick up," he said. "I was struggling with it."

However, since the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department considers the the alligator snapping turtle a threatened species worthy of being protected by the state, Broomhall decided to release the turtle back into the water, unharmed.

"For how old he is and knowing it took him how many years to get that big, he has to live in lakes and rivers. He needs to be free," Broomhall said. "They are good to eat, but that's why they're endangered in Texas."

When Broomhall reached behind the turtle's head and grabbed his shell to hoist the turtle, he noticed the hook was still in its mouth.

"So I just slid off in the water with him and grabbed him by his back leg and grabbed him by his tail," Broomhall said, explaining how they were able to bring the beast in and remove the hook. "My dad pulled me back on land, and I pulled him up about halfway out of the water, and then we threw a rope around his head and flipped him over on his back."

The proud angler shared photos and video of his catch on Facebook and TikTok. However, some social media users didn't believe his shots were real. 

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"Seeing [the turtle] in person is totally different than seeing it in a picture or video," Broomhall admitted. "I mean photos and stuff like that don't make justice to how big his head was and how big his mouth and body was. My hand, from the tip of my pinky to the tip of my thumb measures nine inches, and it still wasn't big enough to cover his head."

Broomhall said it's a Father's Day he'll never forget. "Just being down there with my dad and my son and living on lakes and catching fish and hunting all of our lives, seeing something like that was pretty incredible," he said.