Keith Dees and his son Huntley with the new state record Alligator Gar of Alabama. on Facebook
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources last week certified a massive alligator gar as a new state record. The giant gar was caught on Thanksgiving Day by Alabama angler Keith Dees, who was fishing the water with his 15-year-old son Huntley as part of their annual vacation trip.
Bite was good that morning and the two anglers had boated almost 20 fish – a hybrid of largemouth bass and redfish – in the Raft River, which is part of the larger Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. Suddenly Keith latched onto something heavier. The fish hit his Jack Hammer chatterbait, but it took him and his son half an hour to figure out what was on the other end of his line.
“I thought another big redfish hit,” Keith said in an interview with The Call News. “I was reeling as fast as I could. As it passed I could see something big underwater but [I] had no idea how big. We just followed the fish in the boat because I wanted my $20 bait back.”
Keith used a medium action baitcaster setup lined with a 15lb test that is perfect for trout and redfish but not heavy enough for a giant alligatorgar. He patiently worked the fish and they followed him with the trolling motor as he made run after run.
“For 30 minutes we didn’t know what we had,” Keith continued. “The fish took the line but never left a 200-yard circle. Eventually it came to the surface for air. We went crazy when we saw the size of the fish. But we still had no idea how big it really was.”
Two hours into the fight, Keith and Huntley noticed that the gar was tiring. But they didn’t have a net big enough to handle the fish, so they took a stiff bait rod and wide-gap hook and made a makeshift gaff.
Continue reading: Watch this Texas man catch an 8-foot, 300-pound alligator gar that could have been the world record
“As the fish swim alongside the boat, Huntley takes my $500 rod and hooks the fish,” Keith explained. “I thought the rod would break, but the fish flapped sideways and then floated to the surface before sinking.”
This gave the two anglers just enough time to quickly loop a rope around the gar’s tail so they could reel it into their perch boat. They called an Alabama game warden to see if it was legal to keep the fish. The warden told them it was, but now they had to decide what to do with it.
“Where can someone put a 7 foot long fish?” asked Keith. “We brought it home and put it in an old swimming pool to keep it alive.”
Realizing the gar was a potential state record, Keith and his son took the fish to a certified weigher at Orange Beach Marina, where it weighed 162 pounds. They then took the fish and state records to fisheries biologist Tommy Purcell, who confirmed the species. The state record gator gar was 84.5 inches long and 35.5 inches in circumference.
Continue reading: Giant Alligator Gar: Garbage Fish or Trophy Gamefish?
The fish replaces the current Alabama state record of 151 pounds, 9 ounces. This record was actually a tie between two gar caught in the Tensaw River in 2004 and 2009. The current IGFA world all-tackle record for this species is a 279-pound monster caught in the Rio Grande, Texas by angler Bill Valver in 1951.
“I think anything that draws attention to the delta is positive,” Keith told the state agency after his records were confirmed. “The Delta is a very special place. My son won [Bassmaster] World Junior Championships, State Championships, Angler of the Year and it has made him an extremely versatile angler growing up in the Delta. It’s just a neat, tidy place.”