Fact Check

Alligator Gar in Oklahoma

Photographs show an 8'10'', 327-lb. alligator gar caught at Broken Bow Lake in Oklahoma.

Published Jan. 10, 2008


Claim:   Photographs show an 8'10", 327-lb. alligator gar caught at Broken Bow Lake in Oklahoma.

Status:   Real photographs; inaccurate description.

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, March 2007]

Alligator Gar.....in Oklahoma

Okay, this is why people just disappear from the lakes in Oklahoma ! And yes, this is for real.

Click photo to enlarge

Click photo to enlarge

Click photo to enlarge

Click photo to enlarge

I now know where NOT to water ski !!!

Origins:   Most hunting/fishing photographs depicting potentially record-setting catches seem to get matched up with inaccurate and exaggerated descriptions of when, where, and how big by the time they start showing up in forwarded e-mails, and these pictures of a large alligator gar are more of the same.

The text inset into the photographs (and reproduced in some of the e-mail forwards) identifies the fish as an 8'10", 327-lb. alligator gar caught in Spring 2005 at Broken Bow Lake in Oklahoma. Although that information does not stray too far from the truth, all of it (except for the part about the fish being an alligator gar) is inaccurate. An
(and photo gallery) posted at the Aim Low Bowfishing Journals web site by the bowfishermen involved (Keith Riehn and Robin Parks) notes that the catch was actually a slightly smaller 8'2" and 244.5 lbs., and it was made at Texas' Sam Rayburn Reservoir in August 2005.

A Dallas Morning News article on the catch included an account by the two men of the alligator gar was taken:

On Aug. 4 [2005], they were hunting gar at one of their favorite spots, not far from the Highway 147 bridge near Broaddus. Though impressive in size and appearance, alligator gar are not considered a threat to humans. A Texas Parks and Wildlife gar food study done on Sam Rayburn indicated the fish mostly feed

on other rough fish species. Parks and Reihn have found rough fish weighing as much as 20 pounds in the stomach of a big gar.

"We'd been seeing some pretty good alligator gar in the area, but we decided to move to a different spot and try for long-nosed gar," Parks said. "As we were getting ready to leave, a big fish rolled behind the boat, and we decided to make one more pass."

The archers had traded the retriever reels and heavy line they prefer for big fish for spincast reels used to pursue smaller gar species. Bowhunting for fish requires specialized tackle.

Riehn and Parks used an electric motor to ease their boat through the area where gar were surfacing. Right in front of the boat, a huge fish rose from the murky depths like a breaching submarine. Both archers saw the gar at the same time. They shot simultaneously, and both arrows struck the fish right behind its gills.

Parks said he was worried about being able to land the huge fish on spincast reels. His biggest fish before the Rayburn gar weighed about 175 pounds, and he knew the Rayburn fish was much larger.

"The arrow placement was perfect," Parks said. "That really takes the fight out of a big fish. I still followed the fish with my electric motor for three different runs. It came to the surface, and Keith grabbed a third bow that we had rigged with a retriever reel and put another arrow in the fish."

It was 15 more minutes before they gaffed the gar, which measured 8 feet, 2 inches by 44 ¾ inches in girth. Getting it into the boat was no easy chore.

According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, that state's record for an alligator gar is an 184-lb. specimen caught by Sean Chatham at the Red River in Love County in February 2006.

Last updated:   11 January 2008

  Sources Sources:

    Sasser, Ray.   "Gar ... gantuan!"

    The Dallas Morning News.   5 September 2005.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.