Alabama Record Posted for Alligator Gar

January 18, 2005

A new Alabama record for alligator gar has been set by Michael Houseknecht of Mobile. Houseknecht caught the Alabama state record alligator gar while fishing the Tensaw River on August 13, 2004. The record fish weighed 151 pounds 5 ounces, the largest fish listed in the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ records. Houseknecht received a certificate from the Department signed by Governor Bob Riley, Commissioner Barnett Lawley, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Director M. N. “Corky” Pugh, and Fisheries Section Chief Stan Cook.

Gars are a primitive group of fish that use their gills, but they also take in atmospheric air. Boaters often see these relatively large fish gulping air on the water’s surface. Gars, along with bowfins, have ganoid scales—rough, primitive scales made of bone and an enamel-like substance. Another characteristic of gars is that their eggs are toxic. Alligator gars are found on the coastal plain of Alabama, and the family includes two other species found throughout Alabama: spotted gar and longnose gar. Anglers seeing spotted and longnose gars often mistakenly call them alligator gars. Adult alligator gars always have two rows of needle-like teeth in the upper jaw, compared to one row in all other gar species.

Houseknecht used fresh whole mullet as bait to catch his Alabama record alligator gar. Because of the sharp teeth, plates and ganoid scales that a gar possesses, a steel leader was used to reduce the chance of the fishing line breaking. A circle hook was used to increase the chance of a hookup with this bony species.

Alligator gar fishing is popular with Mobile Delta anglers because of the fish’s large size. Anglers are encouraged to release alligator gars to increase sporting opportunities for other anglers. The Alabama legal limit on alligator gar is two fish per day; no limits are established for other species of gar in Alabama.

The only other record freshwater fish caught in Alabama during 2004 was a rainbow trout caught by Gene Louis Hester, Jr., of Childersburg. Hester caught a 7-pound, 4-ounce trout in Juniper Spring in Talladega County on June 5, 2004.

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