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The application period to catch and keep a trophy-size Arkansas alligator gar opened Nov. 1 and closes Dec. 31. Only 200 tags will be awarded for 2022 and they are required to harvest an alligator gar larger than 36 inches.
While not truly a dinosaur, the alligator gar was alive during the Cretaceous Period, and an individual gar takes decades to reach 6 feet long. They are the second-largest species of freshwater fish in North America, second to the white sturgeon.
The gar frequently grow longer than 7 feet and weigh more than 200 pounds. The largest fish ever caught in Arkansas was a 241-pound alligator gar in the Red River. The next largest catch was a 118-pound paddlefish.
Keeping one of the giant trophies requires anglers to have one of 200 alligator gar tags issued this year. AGFC Assistant Chief of Fisheries Eric Brinkman said the tags were increased this year from 100 to 200 to help more anglers pursue the species and gather data on alligator gar locations throughout the state.
Brinkman has been lead biologist on the AGFC’s Alligator Gar Management Team until recently. He has been a leader in research of the prehistoric fish species since 2005, studying them in graduate school.
“Alligator gar can take years to reach this 36-inch mark, and females aren’t able to reproduce until they are 14 years old,” Brinkman said. “With many of their traditional spawning areas lost to channelization and damming of rivers, alligator gar may only have the right conditions to spawn once every few years, so protecting these mature fish is very important to their survival as a species.”
Biologists work every year to identify remaining spawning areas and evaluate remaining populations of the fish.
Anyone may fish for alligator gar on a catch-and-release basis, but anglers interested in keeping a trophy gar in 2022 must enter a free online drawing that ends Dec. 31. Applications are available under the “Fishing License” section of the AGFC’s online license system at https://ar-web.s3licensing.com.
Applicants will be notified of the results by email. They will then need to return to the licensing site to claim their tag. Each tag allows the holder to harvest one alligator gar longer than 36 inches from snout to tail during the open fishing season (closed May 1-July 15).