Fishing for Dinosaurs
The fact that there have been fish on this planet for ages is no news, but I did not believe that it would be possible for one and the same species to survive for more than 100 million years. I was mistaken about that, a primeval fish, the Alligator Gar, has been able to survive all thinkable catastrophes and changes for such a long time. Even when dinosaurs got extinct the Alligator Gar managed to pull through.
The sun has not risen above the treetops when we slowly maneuvre our boat up the narrow, curvy river. Even the scenery looks primeval! Our guide, Captain Kirk, pulls the boat up at a clay bank; here we are going to place our bite alarms and rods baited with a large piece of carp. When all the rods have been placed along the bank, we sit anxiously waiting for the alarms to set off and the floats to rush down the river …
My heart makes a jump when a big Alligator Gar suddenly appears at the surface, just a few yards from our boat. This river is teeming with monster fish … My heart makes another jump when one of the alarms sets off like a stuck pig, a fish has taken the bait and is on its way down the river. Captain Kirk tells me to wait making a strike until the fish turns up stream again. The mouth of the Alligator Gar is so long and hard that it takes some patience before you can make a proper hooking of the fish!
When the fish has turned and stopped it’s time: I use all my strength to make a strike and get an angry response from the fish. It offers a real show, making some powerful jumps up in the air. When we get it alongside the boat, we can see that this is just a small Gar of about 15kg, Captain Kirk can’t help smiling and calls it a «baby-fish», before he unhooks it by the boat.
The sun is getting higher and the temperature soars. Summer-time in Texas can be intolerably hot! When we move on and find some shade to have a snack, another alarm sets off. It keeps on whining; the fish takes off far down the stream, and we have to leave the shade and follow the fish. The movement of the float tells me that this must be a bigger fish.
Finally, the fish is ready to be hooked. I make a real effort and the fish answers by rushing away from us. Then it stops and resists my effort of trying to pull its head up, which indicates a monster! I’m forced to really use my arm muscles. Eventually, the fish is getting tired and the shadow that appears along the boat is the most brutal sight I’ve seen when it comes to fish! It’s just like a crocodile!
Captain Kirk secures the fish with a lasso around its head, and I can assure you that the fish dislikes this tremendously and it starts banging against the boat; it feels like we are being butted by a bull. We manage to lift the fish inside our boat and bring it to a stone bank for a photo shoot. These fish are so tough and well adapted to various conditions that they can be out of the water for about two hours. It simply starts breathing air just like us, which is probably one of the reasons why the species has survived for such a long time…
At the bank we place the fish on the ground, and now I can see how big it really is: more than two metres long and a girth of a little less than one metre. The mouth is more than half a metre long and full of razor sharp teeth. This is the ultimate predator.
To be on the safe side, I try to keep close to the tail when take photos, but Captain Kirk suggests that I put my face beside the head of the fish for a cool photo. I’m nervous when I carefully approach the front end of the fish, and just before sticking my head forward, the fish throws its head towards me and closes its mouth with a bang! My pulse runs wild; I was just an inch away from having my face mauled by an Alligator Gar. A bit shaken, I stand up and tell everybody that the photo shoot is over…
Now Alligator Gar is quite common in rivers all over Texas. After a period with low numbers due to bow and arrow hunting for this fish, the Gar stock is now on the increase as a result of more research and restrictions on killing fish. The Alligator Gar can weigh more than 300 lbs, which makes it more and more attractive for sport fishing, attracting fishers from all over the world.
Hook used: Mustad Treble ref. 3551-BR