As Brent Crawford sweated during the construction of a pier with his neighbor, he took a few minutes to rest and chat with a friend who wanted some advice on fishing. Little did he know that just a few hours later he would find himself struggling underwater, caught by a line with a frenzied alligator gar on one end while his faithful dog held onto him with whatever he could get his teeth around.
A lifelong fisherman, Crawford often gets requests for fishing advice and he’s usually happy to help, according to an article written by David Sikes for the Corpus Christi Caller in Texas. Crawford has been bowfishing the Nueces River since he was a kid, which flows in and out of Lake Corpus Christi. For the past 20 years, he has been living on the lake with his wife, Olivia.
Damon Carrell was the friend looking for advice. Crawford agreed to meet with him later and let him in a on a fishing hot spot. Soon, Carrell returned to tell Crawford about a car-sized fish he had witnessed in a canal that ran between Crawford’s property and the lake.
Crawford decided to go see if he could find the fish himself. He grabbed his recurve bow and headed for the canal where he was taken aback by the size of the fish, one that indeed looked as long as a small car. “Oh goodness,” Crawford said as he recalled the event to the Corpus Christi Caller, “that fish right there was worth chasing.”
Standing from the bank, Crawford could see at least six fish were swimming in the canal, one large female alligator gar with five males surrounding it. Each fish was four to six feet long. Crawford believed a recent rise in the lake water level may have sparked spawning behavior from these fish, the largest inhabitants of the reservoir.
At least 45 minutes passed before Crawford could get a shot at the giant fish; his friend Carrell was long gone at that point. When he did shoot, Crawford thought he missed at first. The line attached to his bow wasn’t moving. He looked down to see that some of the cord had fallen out of the spool and it was laying at his feet.
In a panic, he reached for the nylon cord, thinking it wasn’t attached. But just as he looped the line around his fist, the line tightened and snapped Crawford off his feet and into the canal headfirst.
Bleaux, his trusty dog, seized his pant cuff and planted his paws in the bank in a futile attempt to keep his master from slipping away into the canal fully clothed. Crawford was eventually freed his hand from the line and stood up knee-deep in water grappling the bow.
“At that point I was just trying to keep my feet on the ground,” Crawford said to the Corpus Christi Caller. “There was no doubt who was in control and it wasn’t me. It was a tug of war now.”
Both the gar and Crawford became exhausted after a 45 minute fight, but Crawford was gaining the upper hand. He gradually reeled in the fish. As the distance between the gar and Crawford shortened, Crawford took his chance when it arose and grabbed the gar by the gills.
The fish being too heavy to lift, Crawford sat on it once it was on the bank to prevent it from getting away. He called his neighbor, Jim Costlow, and instructed him to join Crawford on the bank with a pistol he kept in his four-wheeler.
Moments later, Costlow was there and the men shot the fish. They attached a rope to Costlow’s Polaris to drag the fish to the house, but they had to dig out Crawford’s forklift just to hang the catch and weigh it.
Sadly, their scale topped out at 300 pounds, and Crawford didn’t think to contact the wildlife department for an official weighing. He calls it a “big mistake” as the fish would have easily broken the Texas state record for bowfishing an alligator gar. The record currently stands at 290 pounds, while the any-tackle state record is 302 pounds caught in 1953 not far from Crawford’s childhood river.
From the tip of the snout to the tail, Crawford’s gar measured 8 feet and 2 inches. The all-tackle record fish that weighed 302 pounds measured 7 feet and 6 inches.
Although he regrets not having submitted the fish for an official state record, he holds the unofficial state record for largest alligator gar and now has a freezer full of delicious alligator gar fillets.
Special thanks to David Sikes for his information for the story. Read his full report in the Corpus Christi Caller here.
Image courtesy of Brent Crawford