The Largest Fish Ever Caught In Texas Is An Absolute Unit

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: September 18, 2023
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Fishing is a big deal in Texas. So, it’s no surprise that thousands flock to the lakes, rivers, and coastal waters each year to cast their lines.

Whether you’re fishing for fun or to put dinner on the table, Texans have been all about reeling in the state’s diverse fish species, such as bass, catfish, redfish, and trout.

But for some fishing enthusiasts, the real rush comes from catching the biggest, most impressive fish they can find. In Texas, there have been some giants caught over the years.

The Largest Fish Ever Caught in Texas
Alligator gars don’t wait passively for prey to swim by – they are ambush predators!

One topic that gets anglers chatting is the biggest fish ever caught in Texas. Several noteworthy catches have made a big splash in the state and worldwide. It’s a major feat for those who caught these massive fish, and something Texans can take pride in.

Today, we discover the largest fish ever caught in Texas and the world. We also explore the fish’s history, characteristics, and conservation efforts to preserve it.

The Largest Fish Ever Caught In Texas

An Alligator gar, Atractosteus spatula, while swimming in a huge aquarium



gar was the largest fish ever caught in Texas. That particular specimen weighed nearly 280 pounds.

©Bill Roque/

The largest fish ever caught in Texas was an alligator gar (scientific name: Atractosteus spatula) weighing 279 pounds. Angler Bill Valverde caught the giant fish at the Rio Grande River on January 10, 1951.

Valverde’s massive catch beat its runner-up in the state by 158 pounds. Angler Cody Mullenix caught the second largest fish in Texas on Lake Texoma on January 16, 2004. The blue catfish weighed 121 pounds., 5 oz. and measured 58″ long.

The Largest Fish Ever Caught Worldwide

The largest fish ever caught worldwide weighed 2,664 pounds. (1,208.389 kg). Angler Alfred Dean caught the great white shark off Australia’s Ceduna coast in 1959. 

This was before Australia enacted today’s strict preservation laws. With protection laws now enforced worldwide, Dean will likely hold the record for a long time. 

As would be expected, this wasn’t an easy catch. It took Dean 50 minutes to win the battle against the giant.

History Of The Alligator Gar In Texas

This spectacular Alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) swims in the freshwater with sunlight rays shining on its body.

Alligator gars have been a significant part of Texas culture and economy for years.

©Cheng Wei/

The alligator gar has a long and fascinating history in Texas. It has been a significant part of the state’s culture and economy for many years.


The alligator gar originated in the southern United States and northern Mexico and has been in Texas for thousands of years. Native American tribes highly valued the fish. They used it for:

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Tools

Early Uses

When Europeans arrived in Texas, they quickly realized the commercial value of the alligator gar. The fish was abundant in the state’s rivers and lakes and highly sought after for its meat, oil, and eggs. 

Alligator gar oil was used in lamps, and the fish itself was often canned and exported to other countries.

Historical Conservation Efforts

Despite its commercial value, the alligator gar was not always treated with respect in Texas. In the early 20th century, anglers and fishermen often viewed the fish as a nuisance, and many were killed indiscriminately. This led to a decline in the fish population, and by the 1950s, the fish was in danger of disappearing from Texas waters.

Fortunately, conservation efforts began to take hold in the mid-20th century, and state and federal laws protected the alligator gar. Then, in the 1980s, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) began a program to reintroduce the fish to areas where it had been eliminated. 

Today, the alligator gar is once again thriving in Texas and is considered an important part of the state’s ecosystem.

Characteristics Of Alligator Gar

alligator gar

While they look almost prehistoric, alligator gars live in freshwater systems throughout North America.

©Charlotte Bleijenberg/

Alligator gars are prehistoric-looking fish found in freshwater systems all across North America. One look at these creatures, and you’ll see why they’re called alligator gars. They have long, tube-shaped bodies, tough scales, and pointy-toothed snouts—just like an alligator. 

Alligator gars are the biggest gar species out there and can easily stretch over 8 feet in length and weigh a whopping 300 pounds. 

Physical Appearance and Size

One glance at alligator gars, and you’ll know immediately that they’re not like any other fish species. They’ve got these big, diamond-shaped scales that overlap like a suit of armor, which makes sense since they need protection from predators. 

Plus, their olive-brown bodies are covered in darker spots and blotches, making them perfect for blending into the murky waters where they like to hang out.

And let’s not forget about their snouts! Alligator gars have serious chompers; their snouts are long and narrow, just like an alligator’s, which is how they got their name. 

And those needle-like teeth? They’re perfect for snatching up prey and swallowing it whole.

Habitat And Distribution


You can find alligator gars in rivers, lakes, and swamps.

©Wilson Anyie/

If you’re on the hunt for alligator gars, your best bet is to hit up some freshwater spots. These fish can be found hanging out in all sorts of habitats, including:

  • Rivers
  • Lakes
  • Bayous
  • Swamps

But they tend to prefer slow-moving, shallow waters with plenty of vegetation to hide in. 

Alligator gars are original residents of the Mississippi River basin and all its little offshoots, including: 

  • The Red River
  • Trinity River
  • Sabine River

But unfortunately, some people have introduced these fish to other regions, like Florida and California, where they’re not supposed to be. This has led to them becoming invasive species, which isn’t great news for the local ecosystems.

Feeding Habits

When it comes to their diet, alligator gars definitely aren’t picky eaters. These carnivores will feed on various things, like fish, crayfish, frogs, and even small mammals. Basically, if it moves and they can catch it, they’ll eat it.

But here’s the thing: alligator gars aren’t the type to chase after their food. Instead, they’re ambush predators, which means they’ll hide out and wait for their prey to swim by before making their move. 

Alligator gars are quick. They’ll strike and snatch up their meal with lightning-fast speed before it even knows what hit it.


When it comes to reproduction, alligator gars love springtime when the water temperature hits around 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit. During this time, the females can lay up to 90,000 eggs. 

The eggs stick to all sorts of things in the water, like plants and other objects. Then, after about a week, they hatch into little alligator gar babies. These tiny gars are born with a yolk sac attached to their bellies, which they’ll chow down on until they’re ready to start eating on their own. It’s like a built-in snack pack.

Alligator Gar Fishing In Texas

Close up of Alligator Gar swimming

Many anglers target alligator gars because of how abundant they are.

©tristan tan/

Alligator gars are abundant in many rivers and lakes, making them a prime target for anglers looking for a good catch.

Fishing for alligator gar has been a popular sport in Texas for a long time, and for a good reason. Many anglers see it as a thrilling and challenging pursuit, which can make for an exciting day out on the water.

Fishing Techniques

The two common fishing techniques used in alligator gar fishing are rod and reel and bowfishing.

  • Rod and reel. Many anglers rely on a trusty heavy-duty fishing rod and reel combination when it comes to alligator gar fishing in Texas. They often spool it with a braided line and use a sturdy steel leader to prevent the sharp-toothed fish from biting through. The preferred bait for catching alligator gar includes live shad or cut bait like carp or buffalo fish. To attract the fish, anglers may suspend the bait from a float or anchor it to the bottom.
  • Bowfishing. Bowfishing is another popular method used by many anglers. This exciting technique requires a specialized bow and arrow, typically done from a boat or while wading in the water. However, with a keen eye and steady aim, bowfishermen can land some impressive catches.

Conservation Efforts For Alligator Gar In Texas

Alligator gar

Because so many anglers go after them, alligator gars are overfished and in need of protection and conservation.

©Jennifer White Maxwell/

The alligator gar is a remarkable fish species that needs protection. Sadly, overfishing, invasive species and habitat destruction pose a great danger. Fortunately, some actions are being taken to help them out, including:

  • Research and monitoring
  • Fishing regulations
  • Habitat restoration
  • Public education

Research and Monitoring

Scientists are doing tracking studies to learn more about:

  • How alligator gars move around
  • Where they go during migration
  • What kind of habitats they like best

Additionally, scientists regularly carry out population surveys regularly to keep tabs on the health and distribution of alligator gar in different waterways. These surveys help:

  • Monitor the number of alligator gars
  • Assess their well-being
  • Pinpoint areas that require special conservation attention

Fishing Regulations

If you’re planning to go alligator gar fishing in Texas, there are some rules to follow. The TPWD is in charge of regulating the fishing of these prehistoric-looking fish.

  • Size limits. The department has set some size limits to ensure the population stays healthy. For example, if you catch an alligator gar less than 48 inches, you’ll have to throw it back. Similarly, if you catch one bigger than 60 inches, you’ll also have to let it go. So, measure your catch carefully to stay within the legal limits.
  • Catch-and-release. If you happen to catch an alligator gar that doesn’t meet the size limits while fishing in Texas, don’t worry. You’ll just need to let it go back into the water unharmed. By releasing smaller or larger alligator gars, you’re doing your part to help protect the species for future generations of anglers.
  • Seasonal restrictions. If you’re planning an alligator gar fishing trip in certain areas of Texas, you should be aware that there are seasonal restrictions in place to help protect the species during their spawning period. 

Typically, from May 1 to June 30, there’s a closed season for alligator gar fishing in these areas. During this time, TPWD prohibits fishing for alligator gars to help ensure that the population is able to spawn without interference. This helps to maintain a healthy and sustainable fish population, so they can continue to thrive.

Habitat Restoration

Efforts are being made to improve the alligator gar habitat in Texas by removing invasive species and restoring natural vegetation. This restoration work helps to provide the fish with the food and shelter they need to thrive. It also benefits other wildlife that shares the same habitat.

On top of restoring natural habitats, efforts are also being made to create new habitats for alligator gars in Texas. 

Fish-friendly structures like brush piles and rock reefs are being built to give the gar new homes. These structures provide the gar with a place to live, support the growth of other fish species, and create new fishing opportunities for anglers.

Public Education

Raising awareness about the importance of alligator gar conservation is a big part of protecting this unique and important species in Texas. Public education campaigns are a great way to educate anglers and the general public about responsible fishing practices and the ecological role of alligator gar in freshwater ecosystems.

Key Takeaways

The alligator gar is a fascinating and significant fish species in Texas that plays an important ecological role in freshwater ecosystems. While it’s a popular catch for anglers, protecting their populations through responsible fishing practices and conservation efforts is crucial.

Fishing regulations are in place to help maintain a sustainable population, including size limits, catch-and-release, and seasonal restrictions. Anglers must follow these regulations to minimize the impact on the alligator gar population.

Conservation efforts for alligator gars involve research, monitoring, habitat restoration, and public education.

Where Is The Rio Grande River Located In Texas On A Map?

The Rio Grande River begins in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado and flows through New Mexico and along the Texas/Mexico Border to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the United States section in Texas, it begins at Big Bend National Park, cutting through canyons and the Chihuahuan Desert.

Texas is located in the south-central part of the United States. It shares a bored with the Gulf of Mexico to the southeast, Louisiana to the east, Oklahoma to the north, Arkansas to the northeast, New Mexico to the west, and the following states of Mexico to the south: Chihuahua, Ciudad Juarez, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Cheng Wei/

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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