PRATT, Kan. — An angler caught something unexpected in a Kansas river last month. In fact, no one expected to see it.
The Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks said the Alligator Gar was caught in the Neosho River near Parsons, is the first one of its kind to be caught in the state. This fish, which is not native to Kansas, weighed in at 39.5 pounds and was four-and-a-half feet long.
Alligator Gar are normally found in southwestern Ohio, southeastern Missouri and Illinois, south to the Gulf of Mexico, and a small portion of northeastern Mexico. It is a predatory fish sometimes referred to as a living fossil, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks.
Wildlife experts say the Alligator Gar is easy to identify by its broad snout and loosely resembles the American Alligator.
Biologists are now trying to figure out how the Alligator Gar ended up in the Neosho River.
“We’re confident the information from the angler is accurate and the fish was, in fact, caught from the Neosho River,” said Connor Ossowski, Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks Fisheries biologist. “However, that doesn’t mean the fish originated from the river.”
Biologists determined the fish had not been tagged, so it wasn’t part of a formal reintroduction effort. They are now looking at genetic testing to see it if will yield any answers. If genetic testing doesn’t work, biologists said they could also look at microchemistry.
Biologists said microchemistry is performed by comparing a portion of the fish’s bone to elements found in water. It could help biologists determine at least how long the fish had been in the Neosho River.
Right now the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks said it’s possible that the Alligator Gar was released from an aquarium.
“It’s not unlikely that this fish was once somebody’s pet or purchased from a pet store, and simply released into the river once it became too large,” said Doug Nygren, Fisheries Division director for the Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks.