Kansas fisherman catches first-ever documented alligator gar in state

photo by: Shutterstock

An alligator gar, similar to this one shown in an aquarium, was caught recently in the Neosho River.

A Kansas fisherman recently made a truly surprising catch when he reeled in a nearly 40-pound alligator gar, which is not native to Kansas and which has never been documented here, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, which is investigating the incident.

The alligator gar, a predatory fish often called “a living fossil,” was caught in the Neosho River east of Parsons. KDWP did not identify the fisherman.

Alligator gar, according to KDWP, are distributed from southwestern Ohio and southeastern Missouri and Illinois, south to the Gulf of Mexico, and a small portion of northeastern Mexico.

Fossil records trace them back nearly 100 million years. They are easily identified by their broad, alligator-looking snouts. They are the largest gar species, with specimens weighing more than 300 pounds and measuring more than 8 feet long. According to KDWP, just three gar species are native to Kansas: longnose, shortnose and spotted gar.

KDWP Fisheries biologists are investigating how the fish found its way into the Neosho River; they say it’s possible that it was released from an aquarium.

“It’s not unlikely that this fish was once somebody’s pet or purchased from a pet store, and simply released into the river once it became too large,” said Doug Nygren, KDWP Fisheries Division director.

KDWP notes that transporting and releasing fish or other species in public waters, whether native or non-native, is illegal in Kansas.

“Transporting and releasing fish risks spreading other harmful species such as microscopic zebra mussels, fish diseases, or aquatic vegetation that might be present in the water used to transport the fish,” said Chris Steffen, KDWP aquatic nuisance species coordinator, in the news release.

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