Last Thursday, an Oklahoma angler crushed the record for the largest fish ever caught in the state with an alligator gar that weighed a staggering 254 pounds. Paul Easley of Mead snagged the beast of a fish in Lake Texoma last week and was able to have the fish certified by a state wildlife biologist before releasing the eight-foot gar back into the water.
“It did swim off,” Matt Mauck, regional fisheries supervisor for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), told The Oklahoman. “They made their best attempt to get it back in the water alive. She did not appear to need any encouragement to leave.”
Mauck recalled receiving a phone call from Easley on Thursday describing the fish, but initially had his doubts about the fish’s size. After hearing that the anglers measured the gar to a girth of 44 inches, however, Mauck rushed over to Lake Texoma to see for himself if the fish was real. As it turns out, this was no tall fish tale.
“Not only is this a massive fish, but it is also a very special and unique fish,” stated the DWC on Facebook. “Alligator gar are long-lived with only periodic spawning opportunities.”
Officials estimated that the record-sized gar could be upwards of 50 years old. Alligator gar are among the largest freshwater fish in North America, and among the longest-living ones as well. These toothy predators have been known to live well past 70 years. Gar mature slowly and and usually reach sexual maturity in their second decade of life. Due to their large size, older females can lay an average of 150,000 eggs per spawning period.
In Oklahoma, anglers are allowed to harvest one alligator gar per day during the permitted season. Easley decided to release his record-sized fish back into the lake from where it came. In time, perhaps the fish will even break the world record, which is listed by the International Game Fish Association as a 279-pound gar caught in Texas by Bill Valverde. That record has stood since 1951.
Image courtesy Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation