A 60-year-old alligator gar has been confirmed as the new Brazos River record. They needed a feed store scale heavy enough to weigh the fish.
Texas' Brazos River has a new alligator gar record. Known for producing big gar, the Brazos coughed up a 197-pound, 7.39-foot monster to bowfisherman Isaac Avery of Longview.
Avery's gar beat the old record by more than 4 pounds.
After hauling the fish in, Avery noticed a Texas Parks and Wildlife research tag attached to the behemoth's dorsal fin. He called the agency and they sent fisheries biologist Michael Baird.
Baird helped Avery find a place—a feed store—with a scale that could weigh the beast. It turned out Baird had previously caught, documented and tagged the fish for TPW five years prior to Avery's catch.
"I tagged this fish near Tawakoni Creek, a large Brazos River tributary just down from Waco, back in March 2012 while doing a mark-recapture study," Baird said. "It appears she hadn't moved much since we tagged her in 2012, and she grew approximately 2.55 inches since tagging."
Baird also collected the fish's otoliths (bony structures found in the alligator gar's inner ear) and sent them to the Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center. Biologists then aged the fish by counting the structure's growth rings.
They ultimately aged the gar at 60 years old, meaning that it hatched in 1957.
Interestingly, according to biologist David Buckmeier, alligator gar do not spawn every year, but prefer conditions created by flooding.
"I looked at the gauge data from Waco around that time and sure enough there was a huge flood from April to July in 1957," Buckmeier said. "What we've seen is that fish over the age of 50 typically come from times when these huge flood pulses occurred, and those events likely create giant year classes of these fish."
The Brazos River Authority indicates that a male gar lives for 25 years on average, while females tend to live up to 5o. They usually take 10-14 years to reach maturity.
The Texas state bowfishing record set in 2001 was an 8-foot, 290-pound beast from the Trinity River. The world record is an 8-foot, 5-inch giant that weighed 327 pounds. That fish estimated to be more than 95 years old.
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