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Giant Alligator Gar Photographs

Summary:
Email forward with attached photographs of a very large alligator gar claims that the fish was caught in Broken Bow Lake, Oklahoma and weighed 327 lbs (Full commentary below).



Status:
Genuine photographs - Description is inaccurate

Example:(Submitted, August 2007)
Subject: Fwd: Why you shouldn't swim in lakes in Oklahoma!!!!

Why you shouldn't swim in lakes in Oklahoma!!!!

Caught at Broken Bow Lake Oklahoma.
8' - 10'
327LBS

This is why people just disappear from the lakes in Oklahoma! And yes, this is for real.

Large Alligator Gar on Boat

Large Alligator Gar on Tree



Commentary:
These photographs of fishermen with a very large alligator gar are circulating via email and have also been posted to various online forums.

The photographs are genuine. However, in spite of the claims made in captions overlaying the images, the monster alligator gar was not caught in Broken Bow Lake, Oklahoma nor did it weigh 327 lbs.

The gar was actually caught by Keith Riehn and Robin Parks at the Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Texas in 2005. According to an August 2005 field journal entry published on the Aim Low Productions website, the gar weighed in at 244.5 lbs and was 8' 2" long. The entry describes in detail how the two Missouri bowfishermen made the catch and includes a link to one of the photographs included above. The photographs used in the above email message are also displayed in a photo gallery elsewhere on the site. These photographs do not include the "Broken Bow Lake" captions, which were apparently added later.

A September 2005 Dallas Morning News article also confirms the catch:
Using archery tackle that would suit Luke Skywalker, two Missouri archers won a tag-team version of gar wars at Sam Rayburn Lake, bagging a gigantic alligator gar that weighed 244 pounds. It is the pending Bowfishing Association of America world record. The giant fish is not, however, the largest of its species taken with bow and arrow in Texas.
Seemingly, some prankster has attempted to claim undeserved regional credit by adding captions to the photographs that relocate the catch to Broken Bow Lake, Oklahoma and significantly exaggerate the recorded weight of the fish. A post on the Oklahoma Fishing Stories blog also debunks the hoax. The post notes that the current unrestricted division alligator gar record for Oklahoma is a 184 pound fish caught by Sean Chatham in the Red River, Love County.

The prank message also suggests that giant alligator gar like the one pictured are responsible for the disappearance of people in Oklahoma lakes. There have been some rare reports of humans being bitten by alligator gar when fishing or dangling feet or hands in the water, but these bites are not considered deliberate predatory attacks. Although alligator gar are quite fearsome in appearance, there is no evidence to support the claim that they have ever fatally attacked humans. A Florida Museum of Natural History write-up about alligator gar notes:
Due to its large size and sharp teeth, the alligator gar is capable of delivering a serious bite wound to fisherman or swimmers. However, there is no documentation of attacks on man by alligator gars. The eggs are poisonous, causing illness if consumed by humans.
The largest recorded alligator gar was a 350 lbs giant caught during the 1930's in the Saint Francis River, Arkansas.

References:
FIELD JOURNALS ARCHIVE - BOW FISHING 2005
PHOTO GALLERY - 2005 TEXAS BOWFISHING TRIP
Dallas Morning News: Gar ... gantuan
Broken Bow Alligator Gar Hoax
Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department: Alligator Gar

Last updated: 28th August 2007
First published: 28th August 2007

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen

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