For those who want to catch alligator gar these days, Texas’ Trinity River usually is the preferred destination. But the Rio Grande and Falcon Lake, an impoundment between Laredo and McAllen, also contain plenty of the nation’s second –largest freshwater fish. (Sturgeon top the list.)
"There are some huge --- I mean really huge, world-record-class - alligator gar in Falcon," said Dave Terre, chief of fisheries management and research for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's inland fisheries division.
"What's really cool is that some of the data collected in this study has never been collected before in Texas. It adds so much to our knowledge base for this fish."
According to the Houston Chronicle, the study documents that those border waters afford some of the best in Texas for trophy alligator gar, fish stretching to 7 feet and longer and weighing 200 pounds or more.
A primary reason for the study was to determine if the large predators pose a threat to the lake’s renowned trophy bass fishery. Examination of the stomach contents of nearly 400 gar revealed that almost 90 percent of their diet is carp, tilapia, and gizzard shad. Bass accounted for just 8 percent of the stomach contents.
With plentiful forage and a warm climate, those gar grow large fast. Females reach 5 feet in five years and sexual maturity in seven, about half the time needed in more northern waters.
But the harvest rate is low, with anglers taking just 1 percent of the population annually. That’s partially because the daily limit is one.
With plenty of fish and little harvest, Texas Parks and Wildlife wants to allow anglers on Falcon to take as many as five alligator gar per day.
"We think this proposed bag limit is supported by the science presented in this study, is sufficient to conserve this population long into the future, and it meets the needs and desires expressed by our constituents," Terre said.