The application period to catch and keep a trophy-size alligator gar in Arkansas is open and runs through Dec. 31.
Only 100 tags will be awarded for the 2021 calendar year. This tag is required to harvest an alligator gar longer than 36 inches.
A 10-pound bass or 3-pound crappie might be a bucket-list catch for many Arkansas anglers, but their size pales in comparison to Arkansas's largest fish species. Alligator gar are the second largest species of freshwater fish in North America. They frequently grow longer than 7 feet and weigh more than 200 pounds.
The largest fish ever caught in Arkansas was an alligator gar in the Red River that weighed 241 pounds, over 100 pounds more than the next largest Arkansas catch, a 118-pound paddlefish caught by James Johnson at Beaver Lake earlier this year.
Alligator gar longer than 36 inches must be released unless an angler has a trophy alligator gar tag.
Eric Brinkman is the fisheries supervisor at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's Hope Regional Office and lead biologist on the Game and Fish alligator gar management team. He has led the charge for research of this prehistoric fish species for eight of his 12-year career and has worked with alligator gar since 2005, studying them in graduate school.
"Alligator gar are a very long-lived species," Brinkman said. "Trophy-size gar can be 20 to 60 years old and are critical to the species' survival. It takes more than a decade for females to become sexually mature, and we need to protect these fish so they may spawn the next generation."
Loss of spawning ground is one issue the alligator gar faces. With larger rivers being dammed and channelized for navigation and commerce, many of the species' historical spawning areas have been altered, making it impossible for some gar to produce offspring. Biologists work every year to identify remaining spawning areas and evaluate remaining populations of the fish.
Anyone may fish for alligator gar on a catch-and-release basis, but anglers interested in keeping a trophy gar in 2021 must enter a free online drawing by Dec. 31 for one of 100 alligator gar tags.
Applications are available under the fishing license section of the Game and Fish online license system at https://ar-web.s3licensing.com. The drawing will occur Jan. 2, 2020. Applicants will be notified of the results by email. They will then need to return to the licensing site to claim their tag.