Thursday, March 10, 2011
March 10, 2011 : Alligator Gar
The Alligator Gar ("Gator Gar"), Atractosteus spatula, is a primitive ray-finned fish. Unlike other Gars, the mature Alligator Gar possesses a dual row of large teeth in the upper jaw. Its name derives from the alligator-like appearance of these teeth along with the fish's elongated snout. The dorsal surface of the Alligator Gar is a brown or olive-color, while the ventral surface tends to be lighter. Their scales are diamond-shaped and interlocking (ganoid) and are sometimes used by Native Americans for jewelry.
Along with its status as the largest species of Gar, the Alligator Gar is the largest exclusively freshwater fish found in North America, measuring 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3.0 m) and weighing at least 200 lb (91 kg) at maturity. Kenny Williams, from Vicksburg, Miss., has broken the record for largest Alligator Gar ever caught using a net. He caught the fish on February 14, 2011. The world's largest alligator gar ever caught measures 8 ft 5 in (2.57 m) long, 327 lb (148 kg) in weight, and nearly 48 in (120 cm) around. The fish is believed to have been between 50 and 70 years old, wildlife officials said. Kenny Williams has donated the fish to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson where it will be on permanent display in the future.
The current world record for the largest Alligator Gar caught on rod and reel is 279 lb (127 kg). The largest taken by Bowfishing is 365 lb (166 kg). The fish is also known for its ability to survive outside the water, being able to last for up to two hours above the surface.
Alligator Gar are found in the Lower Mississippi River Valley and Gulf Coast states of the Southeastern United States and Mexico as far south as Veracruz, encompassing the following US states: Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, and Georgia. They have also been known historically to come as far north as central Kansas, Nebraska, Kentucky, Ohio, Iowa, and west-central Illinois, where the most northerly verified catch was at Meredosia, Illinois in 1922 and an 8.5 ft (2.6 m) specimen, now preserved, was caught at nearby Beardstown. Specimens at locations further south in Illinois have been verified as recently as 1976, with the Illinois Academy of Sciences verifiying a total of 122 captures to that date. They inhabit sluggish pools and backwaters or large rivers, bayous, and lakes. They are found in brackish or saltwater, and are more adaptable to the latter than are other gars. In Louisiana it is common to see these large gar striking the surface in brackish marshes.