Alligator gar hold a special place in Texans’ hearts as the largest and longest-living freshwater species in the state. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) works to ensure healthy populations remain in Texas for future generations to enjoy. As waters warm and alligator gar fishing heats up this summer, TPWD is working with anglers, who play a key role in conservation efforts through proper catch-and-release practices.
“Catch-and-release fishing for alligator gar has become quite popular and data from a current evaluation in progress indicates high survival rates for released fish,” said Dan Daugherty, TPWD Inland Fisheries senior scientist. “We’ve even recorded some fish being caught and released three or four times over multiple years.”
TPWD biologists have put together some best practices for anglers to follow when they head out to the water in search of these massive fish. Alligator gar can grow up to eight feet long and weigh more than 300 pounds. The best available science suggests gar anglers follow these key guidelines to maximize survival:
- Use non-stainless-steel tackle and hooks no larger than 3/0.TPWD recommends the use of single hook styles no larger than 3/0 when fishing for alligator gar. Larger hooks are more likely to result in damage to internal organs, particularly for smaller fish. Stainless steel hooks and leaders have been shown to persist in fish for years, while bronze hooks and leaders degrade relatively quickly.
- Land large fish on shore rather than on a boat.Whenever possible, landing the fish on shore is a better practice than lifting the fish over the gunnel and onto a boat deck. The use of lassos or snares to lift a fish over a boat gunnel may result in internal injury to a heavy fish like alligator gar. If possible, keep the fish in or near the water; fully support the weight of the fish when taking photos before release. Minimize handling time.
- Cut the line or leader on deeply hooked fish.Hooks lodged beyond the mouth cavity (in the throat, gullet or stomach) should not be removed — most studies suggest additional damage is often caused by attempting to remove a deep hook. Long-term survival is more likely if the line or leader is cut and the hook left in place. Non-stainless-steel hooks degrade relatively quickly and can be more easily shed by a gar.
TPWD’s alligator gar webpage provides comprehensive information on the species, including management practices and additional tips for anglers.