Texas is home to many fish species, some of which are giants, like the alligator gar. If you’ve ever looked down or swum near an alligator gar, it’s likely given you a scare, but these long alligator-shaped fish are docile! They aren’t aggressive and no recorded attacks have ever occurred on humans. But, just how big do they get? Follow along to discover the largest alligator gar ever caught in Texas.
What is the Largest Alligator Gar Ever Caught in Texas?
Texas has a lot of impressive fish records. On January 1, 1951, Bill Valverde caught a 279-pound alligator gar in the Rio Grande River. He’s held onto this record for the largest alligator gar ever caught in Texas for over 70 years! Although other gar species live in Texas, none come close to the alligator gar.
Until recently, the second largest gar caught in the state was a hybrid gar caught by Shelton Shoemake on June 27, 2018, in the Trinity River using a live mullet. It weighed 70.22 pounds and was 70 inches long! However, in 2023, the largest alligator gar ever caught in a lake in Texas, was caught in Lake Corpus Chrisiti and weighed 207 pounds!
A 302-pound alligator gar was reported caught in a Houston, Texas, bayou in 1953 using a trotline. However, that catch was released and not verified, so it is not on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s list of records. Like they say: Document, document, document!
About Alligator Gar
Alligator gars are long fish with a rich history. They are often called living fossils for a reason. The alligator gar’s early ancestors have been traced back about 100 million years, from the Early Cretaceous. Possibly the most impressive part is that this ancient fish species hasn’t changed much! Follow along to learn more about these massive, but docile creatures.
Size and Appearance
So, what do alligator gars look like, and just how big can they get? Alligator gars are about 6 feet long and weigh over 100 pounds. While 100 pounds is the average, they can easily surpass 100 pounds, as seen by the largest alligator gar caught in Texas. Alligator gars are the largest of the gar species. They have torpedo-shaped bodies and small sharp teeth. On their upper jaw, they have a double row of teeth. They also have yellow-green bodies that fade to yellow or white vertically. Alligator gars have thick and bony scales and broad snouts.
Don’t let their sharp teeth and alligator-like features scare you, alligator gars are slow and docile creatures. They are harmless to humans and won’t try to take a bite. Instead, alligator gars hunt for forage fish and waterfowl. While they sometimes actively hunt, scientists believe alligator gars are sluggish scavengers. They are ambush predators, waiting for animals to come closer to the surface. Although alligator gars mainly consume fish, they have been recorded eating turtles and small mammals near the surface of the water. Sadly, alligator gars sometimes consume man-made objects like fishing tackle, non-organic bait, and boat engine parts.
As you can imagine, there aren’t many animals that would hunt an alligator gar. They are slow fish, but they are also very big and heavy! Still, occasionally, they are attacked by large American alligators. Young alligator gars less than 3 feet long are vulnerable to large fish species, but not for long.
Distribution and Habitat
Alligator gars have a large natural range. You can find them throughout the Southern United States and parts of Mexico. They may also possibly be native to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Alligator gars live in brackish water, marshes, and rivers. While not native to China, alligator gars are an invasive species. They’ve also been found in Singapore.
The Largest Alligator Gar Caught in the World
Although the largest alligator gar caught in Texas was massive, it’s not the world record. Instead, the world record goes to Kenny Williams, a commercial fisher. It was an absolute accident. While Kenny Williams was wrapping up for the day, a large fish got stuck in his net. He used his strength to haul this massive fish and brought it back to shore. He planned to donate the fish to an aquarium, however; it passed away before he could donate it. The large alligator gar was found in a Mississippi Lake. It weighed 327 pounds and was likely between 50 to 75 years old. It measured 8 feet and 7 inches with a 47-inch girth. Imagine accidentally catching a world record!
Many people have come close to beating this record, however, they were never verified. For instance, Payton Moore, a YouTuber, and angler, caught an enormous alligator gar in a Houston bayou. It likely measured over 8 feet long and may have weighed 300 pounds, but Moore let it go. So, it’s likely even larger alligator gar exists.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © TKBackyard/Shutterstock.com
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