A father and son’s giant alligator-gar catch in Alabama has been certified as a new state record.
Keith Dees and his son Huntley were fishing in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, which empties into the Gulf of Mexico in the southwest corner of the state, after Thanksgiving when they landed a record-breaking catch.
The two of them traditionally go fishing on vacation and had already caught several redfish and largemouth bass on their last trip. But what happened next surprised both of them, as Dees described the experience as “a day we will never forget”.
“About 11:30 am we decided to fish another spot. I made a cast and about halfway back to the boat my chatterbait just went limp,” Dees said in a Facebook post. “I tumbled as fast as I could and pulled tight just before I saw a big fish swim past my trolling motor. I had no idea what it was until he showed up about 30 minutes later.”
At first, Dees thought he had caught a redfish, but when the animal finally surfaced, the couple realized it was an alligator gar – a large one, measuring about two meters long.
“When it showed up, I knew it was big, but I didn’t even remotely know it was a state record,” Dees told Outdoor Alabama, the official website for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
“It never occurred to me. I love to cook, so I thought I’d like to catch this joker so we can eat it,” he said. “I have some Cajun friends, and they take it and cut it into steaks and blacken it and make medallions. It’s just delicious. I think I’m going to get some frozen meats in a minute.”
Alligator gars are among the largest fish in North America, commonly growing to about 6.5 feet in length and in excess of 100 pounds, although larger specimens have been recorded.
The alligator gar’s known range, found in the Mississippi River basin, extends from southwestern Ohio, southeastern Missouri and Illinois to parts of the Gulf Coast and small parts of northeastern Mexico.
The fish has disappeared from much of its historical range as a result of habitat destruction and indiscriminate culling.
The animal’s name refers to its distinctive alligator-like snout and sharp teeth. Alligator gars are often referred to as “living fossils” because their fossil record dates back almost 100 million years.
About two and a half hours after hooking up the alligator gar in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Dees and his son finally managed to tie a rope around the giant fish’s head and eventually pull it into their boat.
“When he hit the boat we cut each other like two schoolgirls like nobody would believe that happened,” Dees said.
The couple had the fish officially weighed at the Orange Beach Marina, with the scales showing 162 pounds. This is larger than Alabama’s previous state record for an alligator gar, which weighed 151 pounds. The latest catch was subsequently certified as a state record by the DCNR’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division.
While the father and son didn’t set out to catch an alligator gar, Dees recounted news week it was “nevertheless a decent experience”.
The world record alligator gar was caught in Mississippi, measuring 8 feet 5 inches long and weighing 327 pounds.