Massive Alligator Gar, 240 Pounds, Pulled From White River

Aug. 18 2004

ST. CHARLES - The lower White River of Arkansas is a wildlife and fish wonderland, and native John Stortz is well aware of it.

Alligator Gar weighing 240 pounds taken from the White RiverCommercial fisherman Stortz was surprised when he lifted his hoop net from the river on Wednesday, July 28, and saw what it had caught. And he brought in the proof.

Stortz’ catch was an alligator gar 8 feet, 2 inches long and weighing 240 pounds. This is considerably larger than the Arkansas sport fishing record for gator gars - 215 pounds, caught on the Arkansas River in 1964 by Alvin Bonds of Clarksville. The huge White River fish won’t be a state record since it was not caught on sporting equipment, but it’ll be something for visitors to St. Charles to admire and look at with awe.

Stortz said, “Lonnie Smith is doing the taxidermy work on it, and it will be put in the visitor center here.” That’s the headquarters of the White River National Wildlife Refuge with includes exhibits and interpretative material about the region and its creatures.

Stortz, who is 31, was alone when he caught the gar. “I usually go out by myself, but sometimes my boy John goes with me. When I got the net up and saw what was in it, all I could do was wrestle it into the boat. It was a job. I had to put a lot of back into it.”

Stortz said he has been fishing the lower White River “all my life. I’m the son of a commercial fisherman.”

Big fish have become something of a habit for Stortz. A few years ago he landed a 102-pound blue catfish on the Mississippi River, and he’s got quite a few other 60- and 70-pound flathead and blue catfish. He’s had some whopper alligator gar also, including one on display at a local business.

But none approached this latest catch.

Legends abound about the huge alligator gar of Arkansas’ lowland rivers. The fish have declined in numbers, but Stortz’ catch is solid evidenced that the big gator gar have not all disappeared. In times past, some fishing guides specialized in hunting alligator gar on the lower White River and other large streams.

The world record for alligator gar is 279 pounds, a fish caught in the Trinity River of Texas.

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