Trophy tag needed to keep alligator gar

Chelsea Gilliland, Game and Fish fisheries biologist, with a 187-pound alligator gar taken from the Red River before it was released back into the river. (Courtesy photo/Arkansas Game and Fish)

Anglers interested in hooking into an epic-sized trophy fish can apply for a 2024 alligator gar trophy tag until the end of 2023.

Many Arkansas anglers travel to the Gulf of Mexico each year in search of trophy fish like tarpon and sailfish. Most don't know they are passing up a similar opportunity in Arkansas.

Alligator gar, the second largest species of freshwater fish in North America, occurs in many of Arkansas' large rivers. These gar can grow longer than 7 feet from tail to snout and can weigh more than 200 pounds. In fact, the largest alligator gar ever caught in Arkansas weighed 241 pounds, more than 100 pounds heavier than the state's next largest Arkansas catch, a 116-pound blue catfish that once held a world record.

These mega gar are sometimes described as "alligators with fins instead of legs," but gars have actually been around longer than alligators. They have diamond-shaped armored scales covering their body and their face is extremely bony. That long snout is filled with lots of sharp conical teeth.

Alligator gar are air breathers. It allows them to persist in environments where more conventionally respiring fish can't.

Anyone may fish for alligator gar on a catch-and-release basis with an alligator gar permit, but a trophy tag is required to keep an alligator gar longer than 36 inches. It takes decades for these fish to reach these trophy proportions, and harvest must be managed if the gar population is to remain healthy in Arkansas waters.

Interested anglers can enter the free online drawing from Nov. 1 through Dec.31 for one of 200 alligator gar trophy tags for the 2024 season. Applications are available under the fishing license section of the Game and Fish online license system at

The drawing will occur Jan. 2, 2024. Applicants will be notified of the results by email.