It’s not easy to land a giant fish on ultralight tackle, especially when that fish is a toothy dinosaur like an alligator gar. But a skilled angler and a veteran guide teamed up to do just that on Sept. 2. While fishing a large reservoir in eastern Texas with Capt. Kirk Kirkland, Art Weston caught and released a massive, 283-pound alligator gar on 6-pound test. Weston’s gar is now a pending world record, and his record application is awaiting official certification from the International Game Fish Association.
Kirkland and Weston caught the fish from Sam Rayburn Reservoir, northeast of Houston. Weston had booked a trip with Capt. Kirkland with the intention of catching another record fish. The angler from Kentucky has already broken 53 IGFA records—23 of which are still current. Eight of those are line-class records for alligator gar that were all pulled from Texas waterways.
Weston told Fox News that he was hoping to set a new 12-pound-test record when he booked Kirkland for a week of fishing. They accomplished that feat on Weston’s first day aboard Kirkland’s boat, the Garship Enterprise. The 169-pounder they caught should easily top the current IGFA record of 129 pounds, 13 ounces.
With that record theoretically in hand, Weston sized down to 6-pound test. Kirkland took them to a spot with a sandy bottom and few snags, where Weston’s carp bait was inhaled by yet another giant gator gar. He battled the fish for nearly three hours, letting it run as much as possible and doing everything he could to keep the 6-pound line from breaking. He said he started to get worried around the two-hour mark.
“I was dreading it at this point, as I have fought other fish past the two-hour mark and have had the line just randomly break,” Weston told Fox News, adding that he was fully prepared to lose the fish.
Roughly 45 minutes later, however, he was able to get the giant gar close enough to the boat to land it. This was an even more stressful process, one that involved Kirkland roping the fish to subdue it. He was able to get one rope around the fish right away. But then it dove and made another run as the rope burned through Kirkland’s hands.
“He yelled out, and was clearly in pain, but still got her secured at the side of the boat, [which took] over 10 minutes and multiple ropes,” Weston explained.
Back on shore, the duo used a large tripod and a certified scale to weigh the gar, which measured 8 feet, 4 inches long, with a 48-inch girth. The scale registered 283 pounds.
If that weight is accepted and confirmed by the IGFA, it will easily replace the current 6-pound test record of 123 pounds, 9 ounces. More importantly, it should also the replace the current all-tackle world record for the species. That record dates back to 1951, when angler Bill Valverde caught a 279-pound alligator gar from the Rio Grande. (The heaviest gar ever recorded in Texas weighed over 300 pounds, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife, but that fish was not eligible for an IGFA record because it was caught on a trotline.)
“I won’t lie,” Kirkland wrote in a Facebook post. “We both jumped up and down as Art shouted, ‘We just beat a 72-year-old record!’”
Kirkland added that Weston will digitally submit the record application along with photos and weight receipts at the end of his trip. As required, he’ll also send in a piece of the ultra-thin, 6-pound line they used to catch the massive gar.