I’ve fished in places stretching from the Arctic Circle to darn near the Equator and have caught more different gamefish species than I can keep straight in my head. A few, however, remain on my bucket-list, and the alligator gar is one of them.
I’ve been fascinated with this gorgeous creature as long as I can remember, and can’t explain why I haven’t yet put everything else aside and planned a trip that would fulfill this dream.
While their habitat and numbers have dwindled there are still strongholds, Texas being the primary hotspot. I think I’ll head that way next year.
This amazing fish has an incredible biological story. Here are 10 things you might not know about the alligator gar.
- Alligator gar inhabit large rivers, bays and coastal marine waters from western Florida west along the Gulf of Veracruz, Mexico, and north in the Mississippi River drainage as far as the lower reaches of the Ohio and Missouri rivers.
- Distinctive features include a long, broad snout and diamond-shape interlocking (ganoid) scales.
- Because of their huge size and great strength, alligator gar are a popular target for rod-and-reel anglers. A true trophy-class fish measures roughly 7 feet and weighs upwards of 200 pounds.
- In 2011 a commercial fisherman in Mississippi accidentally netted the largest alligator gar ever caught. The fish weighed 327 pounds and measured 8 feet, 5 inches.
- Alligator gar grow slowly. A 7 footer might be 40 years old. The Mississippi record fish was estimated to be 95.
- The fish usually doesn’t become sexually mature until about 10 years old.
- Spawning occurs in shallow areas of flooded vegetation when water temps reach 68 degrees.
- Young gar live on larval fish and insects; mature fish eat whatever they can catch, primarily other fish but occasionally mammals and birds.
- Alligator gar have two rows of very sharp teeth in the broad upper jaw.
- The fish’s roe (eggs) are toxic to humans, animals and birds.
Courtesy of the Texas Wildlife and Parks Department and the International Game Fish Association.
Check out this underwater video of this amazing fish swimming in the aquarium at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.