Other Voices

Don't call 'em ugly. Texas' alligator gar deserve respect

This six-foot alligator gar was caught in 2012 on a rod and reel in the lower Trinity River and then released.  It weighed about 160 pounds.
This six-foot alligator gar was caught in 2012 on a rod and reel in the lower Trinity River and then released. It weighed about 160 pounds. Ralph H. Duggins

Matthew Martinez’ story, “Why People In The South Are Interested In Catching This Big, Creepy Trash Fish,’’ reflects a lack of understanding about Texas’ largest freshwater fish — the alligator gar.

(Star-Telegram reporter) Martinez refers to this wonderful native fish as a “trash fish” and “ugly.” I totally disagree. "Trash” means indecent or resembling trash. “Ugly” is defined as unpleasant or repulsive in appearance. By using these descriptions the paper suggests to its readers that these fish are worthless.

Biologists from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, who oversee Texas’ freshwater fishing, have a much different view — one that regards alligator gar as a unique and fascinating resource that deserves respect and thoughtful conservation.

Among all of the states, only Texas has very large alligator gar. Some exceed six feet in length. These fish are slow to mature and can live beyond 60 years. In many states, this magnificent fish has been extirpated. Alligator gar also do not spawn every year, but instead only in those years where rains are sufficient to create flooded shallow vegetation. This makes recruitment of newer generations of the fish a serious challenge.

Alligator gar have been in American river systems for millennia, and we are proud that the largest, and oldest, of these fish exist in river systems of Texas, like the Trinity. Over ten years ago, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Commission implemented rule changes to try to reduce the harvest of these large fish, and we will continue to study whether or not additional restrictions are appropriate to protect those fish.

I urge all fishermen and conservationists alike to take time to learn more about this fascinating species online at tpwd.texas.gov/texasgar.

Ralph H. Duggins is Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and an attorney in Fort Worth.

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