60-Year-Old Alligator Gar Caught in Brazos River

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Tony Maples Photography


According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, angler Isaac Avery of Longview caught a 197 pound, 7.39-foot alligator gar while bow fishing in the Brazos River on September 9, beating the previous alligator gar record by more than 4 pounds. Texas Parks and Wildlife reports that, after noticing a TPWD research tag on the fish’s dorsal fin, Avery called TPWD Inland Fisheries district biologist Michael Baird, who previously tagged the fish in March 2012. According to Baird, tags returned by anglers provide biologists with information on harvest, abundance, size structure, and survival.

Eisenhower Was President When This Gar Hatched

alligator gar

Photo: Flickr/FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

“We aged the fish at 60, which indicates it hatched in 1957,” said research biologist David Buckmeier. “I looked at the gauge data from Waco around that time and sure enough there was a huge flood from April to July in 1957. What we’ve seen is that fish over the age of 50 typically come from times when these huge flood pulses occurred, and those events likely create giant year classes of these fish.”

According to Buckmeier, alligator gar typically do not spawn every year but prefer spawning habitat created by seasonal inundation of low-lying areas of vegetation–like the floods of 1957. Research on the Trinity River confirmed that the years of highest reproductive success of alligator gar coincided with years of good spring rains.

As big as this fish was, other Texas rivers and lakes hold trophy alligator gar that are even bigger. TPWD reports that angler Marty McClellan set the state bow-fishing record for alligator gar in 2001 with an 8 foot, 290 pound fish from the Trinity River – a record that still stands to this day. The world record, caught in Mississippi in 2011, measured 8’5″ and weighed 327 pounds. TPWD researchers examined otoliths from that fish and estimated its age at 95 years.

Often Referred to as “Living Fossils”

living fossil

Photo: Flickr/FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

Alligator gars are often referred to as “primitive fishes,” or “living fossils” because they have retained some morphological characteristics of their earliest ancestors, such as a spiral valve intestine which is also common to the digestive system of sharks, and the ability to breathe both air and water. Their common name was derived from their resemblance to the American alligator, particularly their broad snout and long sharp teeth.