River Robber

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2003

Last revision: Nov. 12, 2010

Missouri and Osage rivers, but this was the northern edge of their range. They were never as abundant here as in the lower Mississippi Valley and coastal rivers along the Gulf. Therefore, alligator gar haven't been formally classified as rare or endangered in the Show-Me State.

In The Fishes of Missouri, William Pflieger reports the species formerly inhabited the Mississippi River at least as far upstream as the mouth of the Illinois River.

"The only recent records to come to my attention," he wrote, "were two large specimens caught by fishermen in 1965. One, weighing 110 pounds, was taken near Chester, Illinois. The other, weighing 130 pounds, was taken near Cairo, Illinois." A 6-foot, 6-inch, 126-pound alligator gar was also reportedly caught in the 1980s. The fish currently is displayed in the Dunklin County Museum"

"The paucity of recent reports for the alligator gar suggests that it may be declining in abundance," Pflieger continued.

A few additional specimens are documented in back issues of the Missouri Conservationist. The July 1943 edition contains a note that "Two Sikeston boys recently displayed an alligator gar that measured a little over six feet length and weighed 130 pounds, according to Agent W.S. Wickham. The boys gigged the gar in back water and worked three hours to land it."

"Notes from the Field" in the October 1943 issue contained this interesting tidbit: "B.N. Jones, Doniphan merchant, acquired a nice trophy when he speared a 47-pound alligator gar while gigging in the Current River. He was dragged from the boat into 10 feet of water but managed to recover and land the fish. This was the first gar of such dimensions to be taken from the Current in several years."

In the April 1952 issue, fisheries biologist Gilbert Weiss reported, "The alligator gar is not found in large numbers in Missouri." Perhaps they were never common, as some researchers suggest. Yet, man has undoubtedly affected their abundance and distribution. Gator gars, which many people believe harm game fish populations, have been the focus of eradication efforts for more than a century, including a poorly documented effort by the state of Missouri that began sometime in the 1920s.

Gar Wars

By the 1920s, nearly every state in the gator gar's range was waging all-out war on these "monsters." Fisheries reports and fishing books from the era describe gars in vindictive terms. "Certainly if our commercial fisheries

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