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Alligator gar first found in Kansas

Angler Danny Lee “Butch” Smith caught the 4.5-foot, 39.5-pound (1.37-meter, 17.92-kilogram) fish on September 20 during a routine fishing trip in the Neosho River, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The fossil record of the alligator gar goes back almost 100 million years, hence the nickname “living fossil fish”.

Smith has seen Lepidoptera before – longnose, shortnose, and spotted gar are local to Kansas – but nothing like this. This is because the alligator guys are not from Kansas waters.

“When he got out of the water the first time… I was shocked, I was stunned. I saw guys jump, but nothing like this one did.” Smith said. “It’s a once in a lifetime deal, I’m sure.”

Unlike other rascals typically seen in Kansas, alligator rascals have a wider muzzle and look like an American alligator. The rare fish is found from southwestern Ohio and southern Illinois to the Mississippi River watershed, and extends south to the Gulf of Mexico, according to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.

He’s a boy who has traveled a lot

How the alligator gar got to the Neosho River remains a mystery.

In his 26 years of work with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Regional Fisheries Supervisor Sean Lynott said this was only the second or third time he’s encountered a non-native species of River.

The introduction of non-native species is harmful because they can bring disease and disrupt the ecosystem. It is also illegal in Kansas to release fish into public waters unless the fish have been caught in those waters.

“We don’t know where this fish came from. It’s much easier to move fish if you move water, so we have this concern as well. Where does this water come from?” Lynott said.

Alligators in conservation programs in other states are tagged, but Lynott said they couldn’t find a tag on it. Other gar in the United States are mostly found around large river systems, such as the Mississippi River, but Lynott said there are no connecting waterways for the gar to naturally flow to the river. Neosho.

Go fishing – anything can happen

Biologists will endeavor to uncover the origins of the fish by other means, such as genetic identification and microchemistry tests. Lynott said their best guess right now is that the boy was released by an aquarium or someone who had the boy as a pet.

“We’re pretty confident that this fish wouldn’t have ended up in the Neosho River if it hadn’t been transported and released by humans,” Lynott said.

Alligator gar first found in Kansas
Lynott said the agency has 30 days to determine whether it will recognize the discovery as a state record. The group has yet to come to a consensus, but the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks plans to post its findings on

Smith, who has lived in Kansas – and fished there – all his life, called the experience a mystery. But he was back on the water the next day, having replaced his boat’s oar, which was damaged by the gar.

“Get out there and enjoy the outdoors.… You can’t catch a fish sitting on the couch,” Smith said. “Anything can happen if you spend enough time on the water.”