By Kathleen Kalina
President of Womenhunters
Out of the deep comes a 9ft monster, you pull back your bow and the battle is ferocious…..
The Alligator gar ( Latractosteus spatula) is not related to alligators, but is named Alligator gar because of its many teeth that can clamp down like an Alligator. It is the largest of the garfish in North America found in the Mississippi River and the Trinity River of Texas. Other lakes and rivers in Texas and Louisiana sport some very large ones. The genetics that create the largest of these monsters are demonstrated in these few areas. Alligator gar can be taken by angling, but the largest are often taken by bowfishing. The bowfisher finds that night time is the best. Halogen lights mounted to the front and sides of a large jon boat with a platform are necessary for the night time hunt. The boat must be 20-25 ft long to wrestle with and land a creature that is 6-9 ft long and snapping at the humans in the boat.
Because this is such a ferocious beast, the bowfisherman uses large floats that spin out with the arrow. The battle to keep the behemoth on the line sometimes requires another arrow from a boat mate. When the fish is finally pulled in along the side of the boat, a large wire noose is pulled around the head and is tightened. The gar is snapping all the time he is under the control of humans. Someone has to knock him out, just as Marlin fisherman must do to subdue a toothy animal.
The boat must have a large space free of gear in the center of the boat. The thrashing can tear up a boat that isn’t organized properly.
This boat looks a little small
These fish are prehistoric once living in the seas and inland rivers during the cretaceous period before the big dinosaurs walked the earth. There were many even larger gar looking fish during that time, but the alligator gar is the last to survive the test of time. The alligator gar is among the top ten prehistoric fish to be alive today.
Unlike other gars, the Alligator has dual rows of teeth. Its able to breathe in air on land for two hours because its swim bladder is in its throat. The gar opens its mouth and draws in air.
Its thick armored skin is very hard to cut and protects this beast from enemies. The scales are diamond shaped interlocked together making it hard to pierce with an arrow.
The large Alligator gars are 8 to 10 and 50-70 yrs old. It can weigh 300lbs with a girth of 48 inches. It is a fierce predator laying in wait on the surface for hours and looking like a log until it sees a large fish or blue crab to eat. It lunges quickly and takes it prey. They have been known to grab a hunter’s downed duck or even attacked decoys. People have been bitten while swimming or during the fight to get him in the boat. There are no reported human deaths.
They can inhabit freshwater, brackish and saltwater. It’s been known to travel up the Mississippi River as far as Illinois.
Some alligator gar have been found to be in the black market and sold to Japanese dealers for $40,000. A man attempting to bring gar into Asia was put in jail. The meat is considered a delicacy in Asia. The alligator gar found in ponds and put there by hobbyists are quickly destroyed by fisheries authorities due to its large appetite on other fish that are needed in Asia. There is no need for live Alligator gar in Asia.
Large Alligator gar cought in 1950's
The gar is a solitary creature until spawning season from April to June. It is then that several males will follow a female until she expels eggs and then the males fertilize while it sinks to attach to the substrate. A large gar can expel 130,000 eggs. Spawning takes place in flood plains where the small offspring are safe until the can swim into the deeper river. Their eggs are bright red and poisonous for humans.
Alligator gar with arrows still in them
The only predator for the Alligator gar is the American Alligator and even then it will only go after gars under 6ft.
Studies in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have endangered populations due to Dams and dredging. Overfishing has also taken its toll. In Texas there is a healthy population of gar with some giants coming out of the Trinity River.
Boat with platform for bowfishing
In the southern states, Alligator gar are served in restaurants and considered to be a delicacy.
It’s illegal to keep Alligator gar in an Aquarium or to export one.
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