Alligator Gar
(Atractosteus spatula)

IGFA All-tackle World Record: 126.55 kg / 279 lb 0 oz - Rio Grande, Texas, USA
 


365 lbs - 9 ft 6 in
Kirk Kirkland - 1991
© Kirk Kirkland


Kirk & (Pappy) Byron - June 2006
© JJPhoto.dk


137 lbs
Steve Ryan & Dale Rothstein, USA - June 2004
(From Fishing Facts)
© Kirk Kirkland


225 lbs
(Kirk &) Doug Stange, USA - June 2005
(From the In-Fisherman TV Show)
© Kirk Kirkland


96 lbs
Johnny Jensen, Denmark - June 2005
© Florian Läufer

I started fishing as a child, learning how to fish for largemouth bass, which is what my dad was fishing for - from that I progressed to fishing for catfish and all types of sea going fish. My dad moved our family in 1978 to Lake Livingston to pursue a life long dream of fishing for a living. I was at the ripe old age of 10 when we started fishing for largemouth bass, catfish and other local fish. About 1983 there was a really large spawn of the alligator gar on Lake Livingston, there was literally thousands of baby alligator gar everywhere, and in about 2 years they where in the 20 to 25 lb class.

We started catching them everywhere, and it was about this time that I met and elderly fisherman who fished in the Trinity Bay near Houston - and lo and behold he fished for alligator gar every morning in a little 12 foot row-boat. He would take small pieces of Styrofoam and tie about 20 to 30 feet of strong line to it with a leader of steel cable and a small treble hook - he would then take small carp from 1 to 2 lbs, row out into the school of gar and throw these floats into the school of fish. Then, when a fish would take the bait and run with it he would wait about 30 minutes and row out and catch the Styrofoam and hold for on the ride. He would get the fish along side of the boat club it in the head and at the end of a morning session he would have 3 to 5, 100 to 150 lb alligator gar to sell in Houston at the local seafood market.

I thought to myself: hey, I have these fish in Lake Livingston so why don’t I catch them there - and that's when me and my father started trying to catch these large elusive predators. We tried just about everything to catch them, but the system that we were shown in the Trinity Bay worked best - we started catching lots of these large fish with our biggest being taken in 1991 a 9 ft 6 in long fish that weighed 365 lbs.

It wasn't until about 1997 that someone wanted me to take them fishing for alligator gar. We had really been successful locally and our name was out there as someone who was crazy since all we fished for was those nasty old alligator gar.

About the year 1999 I moved to Lake Sam Rayburn to fish for catfish as I sold them live in a store I opened near the lake. It was there that I met a Dutch angler Jack Schoutan, who had travelled to Texas for the last 3 years attempting to catch an alligator gar. He had not caught a single fish in 3 years, so my father and I took him to our local spot on the lake where the FIRST HOUR he caught 2 of 120 and 140 lbs respectively - he was so very happy - it was this Dutch angler that let me know that there was a broad base of anglers from all over the world who would pay to come catch alligator gar.

At this time I thought, “boy, they must be crazy”, fly half way around the world to catch a nasty ol’ gar. We decided to get a web site up and running. It was a very crude web site as anyone that saw our first one can tell you, but we started to have more and more response from anglers from Holland and England - we still had very little response from local anglers from the US as they wanted to catch bass, catfish and other game fish, not realizing they where passing the best thing up: the alligator gar, a large freshwater predator able to obtain lengths of 8 ft or better, and weights of over 200 lbs with fish being caught over 300 in some places. It was still a very hard sell to local anglers as they have been raised all their lives looking at gar as trash fish.

I went quietly along guiding anglers from all over the world until an outdoor writer named Steve Ryan from Chicago heard of me and booked a 2-day trip. He left with some awesome photographs and memories to last a lifetime catching a P.B. of 138 lbs - he went back to Chicago and wrote a story for the Fishing Facts magazine a North Eastern publication, and from there my business took off. I was offered Tackle sponsorships from Shakespeare Tackle co., makers of Ugly Stick rods, Tohatsu outboard motors, Power Pro braided fishing line.

After this I did two outdoor TV shows with the In-Fisherman crew and OLN crew + I hosted Johnny Jensen, a well known outdoor writer from Denmark, who did numerous articles on my guide service in lots of overseas magazines, and from there I have had the response from not only foreign based clients but also US anglers.

We manage to catch lots 100 lb plus fish each year; with fish over 200 lb being taken also each year. Our fishing is really getting better as we are having lots of small fish coming on in the last few years, with many in the 30 to 70 lb class. We normally take several fish up to 100 lbs each week, with the chance of a really large fish up to 150 lbs.

The alligator gar is unlike any other large predator type fish as they breathe air from the surface, so while you are fishing the will come to the surface to gulp air letting you see what kind of size fish you are fishing for. In a normal day you will see from 30 to 100 fish rise to the surface to gulp air, and with from 3 to 5 bites, your day will start with a run down the scenic and wild Trinity river with wild boar, deer and other wildlife running from the banks of the river at the sound of the approaching boat.
 

Kirk Kirkland