History of the Alligator Gar in Arkansas
The Alligator gar is Arkansas’s largest fish species, as well as the largest freshwater fish in the southeastern U.S., with the largest individuals weighing over 300 lbs. At these sizes, it is the state’s only true “big game” fish species.
Alligator gar populations in the White River attracted anglers from all over the world in the 1940s and 1950s. In recent years, anglers and bowfishers have exhibited a renewed interest in this species due to their trophy potential.
Major flood control projects throughout the 1900s changed the big rivers, leading to population impacts throughout the gar’s historic range. Additionally, popular labeling of this species and its relatives as “trash fish” have led many anglers and natural resource agencies to kill them, with the rationale that they eat sportfish or forage meant for sportfish. Like other apex predators, population levels of alligator gar are usually relatively low. However, at these low levels they are able to help maintain populations of other fish species within sustainable levels. With fossils dating back to the time of dinosaurs it is one of the oldest among the 200+ species of fish found here.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has stepped up efforts to manage dwindling populations of alligator gar across the state. In 2008, the AGFC Fisheries Division formed the Alligator Gar Species Management Team. Over the past decade, this team of biologists has been working to understand the current status of remaining populations. In coming years the team will be focusing on enhancing the species in its native range, through habitat improvements and reestablishment efforts, where appropriate.
If you have information that would help better manage this species, please contact the AGFC at 833-345-0325 or Contact AGFC.