Record-Breaking Alligator Gar Just Caught in Texas, and It Was An Absolute Unit

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

Written by Mike Edmisten

Updated: August 9, 2023

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A new world record for alligator gar is now pending. On April 18, Art Weston landed a behemoth alligator gar measuring 90 ½ inches long with a 45 ½ inch girth. The beast weighed 251 pounds!

The gar was caught on the Trinity River near Huntsville, Texas. Huntsville is located roughly an hour’s drive north of Houston. This fish bests the previous alligator gar world record for the 80-pound line class by an astonishing 60 pounds! The anglers that caught the previous record, weighing 191 pounds, also got it on the Trinity River in 2015.

A Record Catch

Weston flew from his home in Union, Kentucky, to Texas, hoping to land some monster alligator gar. He did just that with his go-to guide, Captain Kirk Kirkland. 

Using cut carp for bait, the angler cast his line and then waited for a strike. When the strike came, both the fisherman and the boat’s captain knew it was something big, but they weren’t sure what it was. Weston said, “This particular one was very strong, so we actually suspected it might have been an actual alligator. It actually turned the boat around in a circle when we were fighting it.”

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

The alligator gar is the largest exclusively freshwater fish in North America.

The fight lasted for 25 minutes. The fish was far too large to haul into the boat, but Captain Kirkland was able to lasso the gar when it finally surfaced. The two pulled the fish to the shore, where they had set up a certified crane scale and a game tripod with a winch. 

Kirkland knew all the protocols for documenting record-breaking fish well. After recording the required measurements, he released the fish unharmed. This situation is rare. Most record-breaking fish need to go to a site with certified scales for recording measurements, making it impossible to release them alive.

Kirkland’s certified scale rig on the bank of the Trinity River made it possible to release this mammoth fish. His alligator gar guide service is exclusively catch-and-release.

Kirkland posted a picture of Weston and his record-breaking alligator gar on social media.

The International Game Fish Association, which documents and keeps world fishing records, featured Kirkland on their social media in 2021.

All-Tackle Record

Weston’s fish broke the record for the 80-pound line class, but the all-tackle world record is still intact. A monstrous 279-pound alligator gar was caught in Rio Grande, Texas, in 1951 and remains the current all-tackle world record.

A River of World Records

Texas’ Trinity River, where Weston caught his alligator gar, seems to be a factory for record-breaking gar. Of the 22 conventional tackle world records for alligator gar, 17 were caught in the Trinity River. All 22 records were caught in Texas.

Of the 12 fly tackle world records for alligator gar, eight were caught in the Trinity River. 

Trinity River Fort Worth, Texas. Sunset over the water, orange and golden colors. Green grass and trees in a public park. Peaceful and calm summer evening. Horizontal orientation.

Texas’ Trinity River is the top spot in the world for alligator gar fishing.

Three of the four Junior and Smallfry world records for alligator gar were caught in the Trinity River. All four of the records came from Texas waters.

The Trinity River is 710 miles long, making it the longest river in Texas, with a watershed that lies completely within the state’s borders. The river is the world’s premier location for alligator gar fishing, as seen by the incredible number of record fish that have been pulled from its waters.

Alligator gars grow to huge sizes, as seen with this fish caught in Texas in 2004.

Alligator gars grow to huge sizes, as seen with this fish caught in Texas in 2004.

Alligator Gar

The alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) is the largest exclusively freshwater fish in North America. While the white sturgeon is larger, it is anadromous, meaning it spawns in freshwater but lives most of its life in saltwater, much like many salmon species. Alligator gars live only in freshwater.

The alligator gar is so-named because it resembles an alligator. Like an alligator, the fish has a long body and snout, along with a mouthful of sharp teeth.

The alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) is a ray-finned euryhaline fish related to the bowfin in the infraclass Holostei.

Alligator gars have a long, toothy snout that resembles an alligator.

The word spatula in the fish’s scientific name does not refer to the kitchen utensil. Although alligator gar is edible, many do not care for its flavor. Instead, spatula comes from Latin and roughly translates to “a flat piece,” which refers to the gar’s long, thin body.

Of the seven species of gar, the alligator gar is the largest. The fish’s range includes the southeast United States and Mexico.

Though the alligator gar has fearsome-looking teeth, its bad reputation is wholly undeserved. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reminds those who fear the fish that there has never been a documented alligator gar attack and the fish poses no threat to humans.

The only risk posed by the fish is to anglers who catch it. Alligator gars have sharp, bony scales that can bruise or cut fishermen and fisherwomen. And, of course, removing a hook can be a dicey business with all those teeth. Tools and protective gloves are a must when handling an alligator gar.

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About the Author

Mike is a writer at A-Z Animals where his primary focus is on geography, agriculture, and marine life. A graduate of Cincinnati Christian University and a resident of Cincinnati, OH, Mike is deeply passionate about the natural world. In his free time, he, his wife, and their two sons love the outdoors, especially camping and exploring US National Parks.

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