What’s the first thing you do after landing an exceptionally large fish following a long battle?
Stand in silent admiration?
Grab a camera?
Search for the nearest certified scale?
Angler Chad Leonard did none of those things after he fought a massive fish for nearly an hour before dragging it ashore from Georgia’s Alapaha River on September 5. Instead, he reached for his .380 pistol and shot the big bugger.
Leonard and a buddy were fishing for catfish in Atkinson County when something hit his nightcrawler and began stripping the 15-pound test line from his reel.
“Next thing I know, there was a big ol’ fish head coming out of the water,” Leonard later told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
And the head was loaded with teeth. Lot’s of ‘em, too.
The Nashville, Ga. angler said he played the fish for all it was worth, letting it dive, reeling in a little, then letting it run some more. Finally, with the fish and the fisherman equally exhausted, Leonard pulled it on to the bank for his first close look at his adversary.
“He was ugly as hell,” said the 29-year-old angler. “He was all teeth.”
And, that’s when he figured he’d better shoot the prehistoric-looking critter, for his own safety.
After Leonard and his pal, Chad Troupe, tossed the fish in the back of their pickup and drove around to show it off to the denizens of Willacoochee, they eventually ran into the local game warden, who suggested they weigh the fish. When they located a store with a state-certified scale, Leonard discovered that not only did he have a great fish story, but he’d caught the new Georgia state record longnose gar.
The angler’s 30-pound, 4-ounce, 56-inch fish bested the state high mark for the species by nearly two pounds, breaking the 1995 record of 28 pounds, 6 ounces.
But the Georgia record book doesn’t mention if the 1995 fish was subdued by the same rod, reel and handgun combination.