LITTLE ROCK — One hundred lucky anglers and bowfishermen were successful in drawing this year’s allotment of Alligator Gar Trophy Tags last week. These tags are required to take an alligator gar 36 inches or longer in Arkansas.
Applications for tags were available through the AGFC’s licensing system from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31. Applications and tags for successful applicants are completely free. Each applicant should have received an email notifying them of their results. The successful applicants should log into the licensing system to claim their tag. At that point it will appear on their license, which they can reprint.
As part of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s effort in conserving and promoting this once popular trophy sportfish, fishing for alligator gar 36 inches and longer is only allowed on a catch-and-release basis without a trophy tag.
“You still need a free Alligator Gar Permit if you’re actively pursuing or likely to take a smaller alligator gar any time of the year, but the trophy tag is a way for us to allow one large gar per year for those fishermen who want to pursue them,” said Eric Brinkman, AGFC Alligator Gar Species Management Team chairman, stationed in Hope.
Brinkman says many people who apply for and receive the tags actually are bowfishermen, which is not a catch-and-release sport, but they are able to see what they are targeting and can make the judgement to let large alligator gar swim away if they don’t have a tag or don’t want to harvest that particular fish.
Alligator gar, the second largest species of freshwater fish in North America, occurs in many of Arkansas’s large rivers. The species frequently grows longer than 7 feet from tail to snout and can weigh more than 200 pounds. The largest fish ever caught in Arkansas was an alligator gar in the Red River that weighed 241 pounds, over 100 pounds more than the next largest Arkansas record fish, a 116-pound blue catfish that once held a world record.
Unfortunately, dams placed in many warmwater streams have blocked gar from their spawning areas and degraded spawning habitat. For many decades, indiscriminate killing of trophy gar, which tend to be females, also took its toll on this slow-growing species. The AGFC has been involved in a recovery and conservation effort for these large fish for the last decade. The Alligator Gar Permit and Alligator Gar Tags enable biologists to contact anglers who pursue the species and work with them to learn more about Arkansas’s remaining population and remnants of spawning grounds anglers may have knowledge of.