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Texans, It Could Be Your Chance to Catch Giant Alligator Gar in the Trinity River

Richard Hernandez holding a giant alligator gar.
Richard Hernandez holding a giant alligator gar. Photo courtesy of North Texas Fishing Addicts
Every year, Texas Parks and Wildlife hosts a drawing for a chance to catch and keep giant alligator gars out of the Trinity River.

The TPWD Inland Fisheries staff explained the harvest authorization drawing via email, writing that “anglers chosen would receive a non-transferable harvest authorization to harvest one alligator gar from the date of issuance through August 31, 2023." The authorization could be used day or night, and alligator gar could be taken by any legal means, including archery equipment.

These prehistoric monster fish have become a popular catch over the years for North Texas anglers, in part because of how they look and how huge they can become.

“It is a thing,” said Andrew Hollien from North Texas Fishing Addicts. “There’s a few different people that fish for gar. Some do it with bow fishing, they just do it for fun … and there’s some that they just … target the big, big ones up in the Trinity. And once they catch them, they just release them back into the water.”

Alligator gars are a part of the natural Texas ecosystem, and with their growing popularity with anglers, the TPWD is worried about possible overfishing.

“Compared with other sport fish, alligator gar are few in number because they are near the top of the food chain,” the TPWD staff wrote. “Because they are long-lived and reproduce infrequently, alligator gar can only sustain harvest rates of about 5% each year. … If too many fish are taken, populations can quickly decline and only young, small fish will remain. Once an alligator gar population declines, it can take decades to restore.”

Craig Bonds, inland fisheries director at the TPWD, said in the press release that to manage the population, it’s crucial for officials to know how many are being harvested, and that the data from the app and the online portals allows them to better understand the species’ distribution, size and number.

“The Trinity River is arguably the most popular fishery for exceptionally large alligator gar in the world,” the TPWD release said. “The harvest authorization process allows limited harvest opportunity while protecting a majority of spawning-aged fish.”

Before anyone can catch and keep one of these whoppers, they must first enter the drawing from Sept. 1–30 using either the mobile app or by going online. Then there will be a random drawing during early October for the 150 anglers who will be allowed to catch and keep a massive, over 48-inch dinosaur fish.

“A primary goal of TPWD’s alligator gar management is to maintain or improve our populations in Texas,” continued the TPWD staff. “In the Trinity River, this objective includes retaining fishable numbers of the largest, recreationally valuable fish, which attracts anglers from across Texas, the US, and other countries.”

According to the TPWD press release, anglers must have a valid fishing license and can only harvest from the Interstate 30 bridge in Dallas downstream to the I-10 bridge in Chambers County. This includes Lake Livingston and the East Fork of the Trinity River upstream to the Lake Ray Hubbard Dam.

All harvests must be reported to the TPWD either through the My Texas Hunt Harvest app or online within 24 hours, and all the usual regulations on alligator gar fishing in the area continue to be in effect.
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Kate Pezzulli, an editorial fellow for the Observer, is a graduate student at the Mayborn School of Journalism at UNT. Besides storytelling, she likes sailing, working on Jeeps, camping, potting and baking. Voted No. 1 friend in an apocalypse.
Contact: Kate Pezzulli

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