The deadline is approaching for alligator gar fishing permits along the Trinity River

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Licensed anglers interested in taking a trophy alligator gar on the Trinity River have until September 30 to apply for a limited number of alligator gar harvesting permits available from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

For several years, TPWD has issued 150 free permits that allow anglers to use any legal means or method to kill an alligator gar over 48 inches – day or night – from a section of the Trinity River. which some experts say is one of the last strongholds for trophy-class fish in North America.

The most common methods used by winning license holders are bow and arrow or rod and reel.

The 400-mile section of river where the restrictions are in place crosses 16 counties between the Interstate 30 bridge in Dallas and the Interstate 10 bridge in Chambers County. It includes Livingston Lake and the East Fork of the Trinity River above the Ray Hubbard Lake Dam. The counties included are Anderson, Chambers, Dallas, Ellis, Freestone, Henderson, Houston, Kaufman, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Navarro, Polk, San Jacinto, Trinity, and Walker.

Anglers can apply for a permit individually or in small groups of up to four people. Permit winners will be determined by lottery with notification made by October 15.

Non-transferable special permits will be valid until August 31, 2023. This is when the application process begins again. Check the TPWD website for more details on how to apply.

Large alligator gar like these are considered the ultimate trophy among bow anglers. Marvin Batson (left) and Bo O Neil of Missouri released these two whoppers last spring from Bill’s Landing on Toledo Bend. The fish on the left weighed 229 pounds and the one on the right 210 pounds.(Rhonda Shivley)

Getting to know Gar

Alligator gar are prehistoric-looking remains capable of exceeding 8 feet in length and 300 pounds in a slow-growing life cycle that can last over 75 years.

Ferocious looking fish are found in major reservoirs and river systems throughout the state. Trinidad has a rich history of wholesale production. It is a must see fishing destination with anglers from all over the world.

Once considered a “raw fish” with no real sporting value, the gator gar was loved by TPWD in 2009. That’s when the agency placed the fish under a restrictive one-fish-per-day limit that applied. recreational and commercial fishing throughout the state. The only exception was Lake Falcon, where the limit was set at five per day.

The restrictive limit was intended to protect fish from the possibility of overfishing that scientists feared would occur under historic no-limit regulations that afforded them no protection. There were also concerns because the fish do not reach sexual maturity for 10 years and require specific spawning conditions that do not exist every year.

In September 2019, TPWD lawmakers further restricted harvesting regulations from the Trinity River by prohibiting the harvesting of any alligator gar over 48 inches and banning night bow fishing on the river without the permit. Alligator Gar Harvest Authorization Special.

No permit is required to catch and release alligator gar from the river with a rod and reel, and no permit is required to harvest fish under 48 inches in length by legal means.

It should be noted that the decision of the TPW Commission to tighten the noose on the harvest of large gator gar on Trinidad was made without any scientific research necessary.

Large baits like carp steaks and buffalo heads make excellent gar bait.
Large baits like carp steaks and buffalo heads make excellent gar bait.(Mat Williams)

Another 2019 rule change made it mandatory for anyone who catches an alligator gar in Texas public waters to report the harvest via the department’s website or mobile app within 24 hours of the catch. Falcon Lake anglers are exempt from mandatory reporting.

Fisheries experts say the harvest data provided through mandatory reporting will provide valuable information they can use to monitor and manage alligator gar populations in the future.

“In order for us to manage our alligator gar populations amid the growing interest of anglers, it’s crucial to know how many are being harvested in Texas,” said Craig Bonds, director of inland fisheries for TPWD. “By collecting alligator gar harvest data through the My Texas Hunt Harvest app and online, our fisheries management team will gain a better understanding of the distribution, size, and numbers of this species and can use this information to help manage a quality fishery in the future.”

Add it up

Annual participation in the Alligator Gar Harvest Permit Draw on Trinidad has fluctuated since 2019, as have angler success rates.

In 2019-20, there were 347 applications for the 150 licenses, including 256 individuals and 34 groups totaling 91 anglers, according to TPWD. These fishermen harvested 71 fish, 25 of which were over 48 inches, three of which were 6 to 7 feet.

The following year – at the height of the pandemic – the number of claims fell to 194, including 139 from individuals and 25 groups representing 55 fishers. These fishermen caught 40 fish, 22 of which were over 48 inches and three were 7 to 8 feet.

In 2021-2022, there were 241 requests from 171 individuals and 30 groups totaling 40 anglers. They killed 44 fish, including 22 over 48 inches – one over 9 feet long and a pair 7-8 feet.

Like the mandatory statewide report, TPWD data shows that anglers have harvested 1,991 alligator gar since 2019-20, including 1,330 fish over 48 inches, 9 feet over (2), 8 -9 feet (12), 7-8 feet (64), 6-7 feet (192), 5-6 feet (399) and 4-5 feet (661).

Fishing rods and reels accounted for nearly 70% of the overall harvest, followed by bow anglers (22%) and passive fishing such as jug lines, casting lines and trotlines to complete the rest.

The data also indicates a downward spiral in the number of alligator gar harvested statewide since mandatory reporting began. In 2019-20, 960 harvests were reported statewide. The number fell to 598 in 2020-21 and 433 in 2021-22.

Bonds said the reason for the drop in reported harvests is unclear.

“At this time, we don’t know if this is a true reflection of a lower harvest, lower compliance with the reporting requirement, or a combination of factors,” he said. he declares. “We intend to promote the harvest declaration requirement through a variety of public engagement strategies with the goal of reminding the public of this requirement.”

TPWD’s mandatory harvest data also sheds light on the best alligator gar fisheries in Texas. Trinity River, Brazos River, Arroyo Colorado, Corpus Christi Lake and Galveston Bay ranked in the top 10 by number of harvests in all three years.

Interestingly, Choke Canyon Reservoir near Three Rivers ranked #1 and #2 in the first two years of harvest reporting, but fell completely out of the top 10 in 2022 despite research data that indicate that the population of large fish is flourishing there.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by email, [email protected].

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