Alligator Gar - a threatened giant
Alligator gars are one of the largest fish found in the freshwaters of North America. They are widely sought after by the bow hunters in the Southern parts of the U.S. An average alligator gar weighs about 100-120 lbs, but the larger fish may even reach 300 lbs and may be 7-8 feet long. Big alligator gars in the wild grow to 12-24 feet in length and there have even been reports of gars fighting and eating alligators. Alligator gars are also called as gator gars. The typical characteristic feature of the alligator gar is the long cylindrical body that is covered with hard scales. These scales are diamond shaped and are also interlocking. The upper part of the body is olive brown in color, while the lower part of the body is almost white in color. The anal and dorsal fins of the fish are located towards the rear and are nearly opposite to each other.
The alligator gar derives it name from a large "gator-like" snout that has two rows of large teeth in the upper jaw. The double row of teeth is an easy way to identify alligator gars since they are the only Gars with the double row of teeth. The teeth of the alligator gar are very sharp but small. This allows them to easily catch other fish, which is their main prey. The two rows of teeth are used to shred its victims. These are aggressive, solitary fish. They mostly lurk between reeds and other plant life waiting for food to pass by. The alligator gar is often referred to as "trash fish" because of its tendency towards brackish waters and it's liking for eating just about anything. In the wild, alligator gars feed on fish, waterfowl, and small animals like turtles. In captivity, alligator gars are often fed a carnivorous diet. Spawning usually occurs in April, through till June. Though the alligator gars prefer slow moving ponds and lakes, it needs current while spawning. They deposit their eggs in shallow waters.
Alligator gars can breathe both inside as well as outside water. That is how they survive in the muddy waters of the South. This peculiar feature is because the alligator gar's buoyancy bladder is connected to its throat. This enables the gar to linger just below the surface of the water. This makes them very easy prey for bow hunters. Another curious feature of the alligator gar is that it has a joint behind its head. This allows the fish to make nodding head movements. Most people go after the alligator gars because of their size and the thrill in the hunt. Despite their size and their ferocious appearance, alligator gars pose no threat to fishermen. Gars are typically found floating like driftwood in sluggish waters of rivers, swamps and lakes. Though they are good meat to eat, most people do not eat this meat.
Alligator gars are by far the largest of the gars. Any gar fisherman has to scale up his tackle to suit the size of this fish. Gars are not line shy, so getting hold of a gar is the least of your worry. The big fish must take the line and swallow it before the hook is set. It is a good idea to follow the bobber till it stops. When the fish starts to move again, it is time to set the hook. Preferred bait would include whole mullet, and some people scale the fish before it is introduced as bait.
Alligator gars should never be introduced into a boat till it is confirmed dead. While they struggle, gator gars can really hurt with their little but very pointed teeth. Alligator gars are not very popular among some fishermen because they are believed to devour all other game fish. This is not true and a belief that persists after an ignorant campaign to eradicate the species in the early 20th century. Fishermen who snare a gar usually kill it before returning it to the waters, a behavior that most stop since the alligator gars are now considered to be "threatened". Some states like Texas and Louisiana allow regulated gar fishing. However, fishing for the powerful gar is big game hunting. Bow hunters like to hunt for the gars because of their interesting tendency to put up a good fight.
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