LITTLE ROCK – The application period to catch and keep a trophy-size Arkansas alligator gar opens Nov. 1 and closes Dec. 31. Only 100 tags will be awarded for the 2021 calendar year. This tag is required to harvest an alligator gar larger than 36 inches.
A 10-pound bass or 3-pound crappie might be a bucket-list catch for many Arkansas anglers, but their size pales in comparison to Arkansas’s largest fish species. Alligator gar are the second largest species of freshwater fish in North America. They frequently grow longer than 7 feet and weigh more than 200 pounds. The largest fish ever caught in Arkansas was an alligator gar in the Red River that weighed 241 pounds, over 100 pounds more than the next largest Arkansas catch, a 118-pound paddlefish caught by James C. Johnson in Beaver Lake earlier this year.
But all alligator gar longer than 36 inches must be released immediately back to the water unless you possess one of 100 alligator gar tags issued this year.
Eric Brinkman is the fisheries supervisor at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Hope Regional Office and lead biologist on the AGFC’s Alligator Gar Management Team. He has led the charge for research of this prehistoric fish species for 8 of his 12-year career and has worked with alligator gar since 2005, studying them in graduate school.
“Alligator gar are a very long-lived species,” Brinkman said. “Trophy-size gar can be 20 to 60 years old and are critical to the species’ survival. It takes more than a decade for females to become sexually mature, and we need to protect these fish so they may spawn the next generation.”
Loss of spawning ground is one issue the alligator gar faces. With larger rivers being dammed and channelized for navigation and commerce, many