PRATT (KSNT) One lucky fisherman fishing in the Neosho River east of Parsons caught something he probably never expected to see – a four and a half-foot, 39.5-pound Alligator Gar according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
Alligator Gar isn’t native to Kansas and has never been documented in the state.
“We’re confident the information from the angler is accurate and the fish was, in fact, caught from the Neosho River,” said Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Fisheries Biologist Connor Ossowski. “However, that doesn’t mean the fish originated from the river.”
According to officials at the KDWPT, Alligator Gar are distributed from southwestern Ohio and southeastern Missouri and Illinois, south to the Gulf of Mexico, and a small portion of northeastern Mexico.
The Alligator Gar is a predatory fish and is sometimes referred to as “living fossils” since fossil records trace them back nearly 100 million years. As the name implies, Alligator Gar are easily identified by their broad snouts that loosely resemble that of the American Alligator. Alligator Gar is the largest gar species with specimens weighing more than 300 pounds and measuring more than 8 feet long.
Just three gar species are native to Kansas: Longnose, Shortnose, and Spotted Gar. Longnose Gar are the most common and largest gar species in Kansas. While the Longnose Gar are common in the state and reach lengths exceeding 5 feet, they are distinguished from the Alligator Gar by its narrow snout and smaller overall size, among other characteristics.
So, the KDWPT fisheries biologists must ask, “What’s an alligator gar doing in the Neosho River?”
Of all the potential scenarios for how this giant came to be in the Neosho River, there’s one hypothesis that rings the truest – the possibility that the Kansas-caught Alligator Gar was released from an aquarium, experts with the KDWPT said.
“It’s not unlikely that this fish was once somebody’s pet or purchased from a pet store, and simply released into the river once it became too large,” said Doug Nygren, KDWPT Fisheries Division director. “These techniques should allow us to determine which mode of introduction occurred.”