Fishing Freshwater

Massive Alligator Gar Shot in Texas Could Have Been a Record

On Memorial Day, a single homemade arrow fired from a decades old 45-pound recurve bow took down what is undoubtedly one of the largest alligator gar on record. I talked to Brent Crawford, the bowfisherman pictured here, to get the full story behind a gar that could have gone over 400 pounds and easily broken the Texas state record.
Brent Crawford was working on a pier next to his home on Lake Corpus Christi in South Texas when his neighbor Jim Costlow told him he had seen several car-long fish stirring in a shallow canal less than 100 yards from Brent's house. Brent grabbed his bow and followed Jim on foot to the canal.
Brent's bow has a long history. He purchased the Model 252 Indian Archery Recurve Bow in the 1960's with the profits from his 8th grade job of mending fences. Brent designed and crafted the arrow himself. In 1978 Brent utilized his bow and arrow combo to take a 6-foot 2-inch alligator gar on the nearby Nueces River. In 1997 the combo struck gar again when he and a friend used it to take down a 6-foot 7-inch alligator gar on Lake Corpus Christi.
Brent and his trusty Leopard Catahoula hound Bleux and Jim arrived at the canal to find the chocolate water churning with spawning gar. Brent saw several 4- to 6-foot males circling and thrashing around a female that really was as long as a car. Brent told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times newspaper his thoughts upon seeing the beast, "That fish right there was worth chasing."
Brent followed the fish up and down the 30-foot wide canal for almost an hour (Jim lost interest quickly and left) before the right shot presented itself. When it finally did, Brent put an arrow into the gar's head. Although the fish exploded at the shot, Brent thought he had missed her due to the fact that no line was spooling off his reel. He looked down to see a nest of line at his feet. Had the line fallen off his reel? Believing that to be the case, Brent took the rope and wrapped it around his fist. Big mistake.
The fish yanked the line tight and Brent was pulled headfirst from the bank into the 2-foot deep canal. Brent's dog Bleux sunk his teeth into his master's jeans cuff (after several missed bites that landed in Brent's ankle and leg) and pulled tight in an effort to keep Brent from going farther into the canal. Brent said, "I had a monster fish yanking me into the water at one end and a dog eating me alive at the other." The fish pulled Brent an estimated 75 yards before he was able to stand back up on his feet.
Brent fought the fish for almost 45 minutes and gave up nearly 200 yards of fishing line. "It was a back and forth tug of war for a long time. About wore me and Bleux out." Yes, Brent's dog helped him by pulling on his jeans throughout the entire ordeal. At the end Brent was able to grab the fish by the gill plate and pull its head onto shore. Brent then pulled his phone from its waterproof case (a gift from his wife accompanied by comments about his carelessness with electronic devices) and called Jim. The friend returned with Brent's four-wheeler and .32 H&R Mag. Jim put a single shot into the fish just behind its skull.
Just how large the fish actually was became very apparent when the men began trying to haul it from the river. Brent's four-wheeler was barely able to pull it up the bank toward his home. Jim's forklift strained lifting the monster from the ground.
The men tried to weigh the fish on a borrowed scale but backed off when it bottomed out at its 300-pound capacity. This was with only part of the gar onboard. Brent explained, "We only had two thirds of the fish on the scale before it bottomed out and my guess is there was at least 100 pounds of fish still on the ground." Based on this, Brent easily estimates the fish had a live weight of more than 400 pounds.
Brent's gar measured 8 feet 2.5 inches in length and had a girth of 67 inches. Its skull measured 24.5 inches in length and 11.5 inches in width at its widest point.
Cutting into the fish proved to be a difficult task. "We tried cutting into it with a pair of pneumatic metal sheers but they wouldn't open wide enough," Brent explains. "In the end we had to use a grinder with a cutting wheel to open her up." Once opened the fish produced over 225 pounds of filets.
Neither Brent nor Jim were aware that the Texas state bowfishing record for alligator gar is 290 pounds or that the overall state record stands at 302 pounds. Had either of them known, Texas might have a new record. What's the largest alligator gar ever taken? It weighed 327 pounds and was caught in a net in Mississippi last year. See the story here.
Are there any larger alligator gar out there? Brent says yes. "I've seen several fish out on the lake bigger than this one and I have friends over at Choke Canyon Lake that have seen bigger ones there too." Author's note: One of my first blogs for Outdoor Life detailed my jug fishing trip to Choke Canyon Lake. Read it here.
So why have none of these fish been caught? Brent explains, "My taking that fish in the canal was 99 percent luck. I never would have got her in the lake. Big gar like that in the lake go for timber or a snag once they get shot. That either breaks the line of pulls out the arrow. The fish I shot didn't have a chance to either in the canal." Brent has received plenty of hate comments once word of his kill hit the Internet. "They've all said, 'How could I kill a female with that many eggs?' My killing the fish isn't the problem. What is, is the fact that a week after she dropped millions of eggs in that canal the canal was dried up thanks to them releasing water from the lake. Her genes are gone. Wasted because officials thought the water was needed somewhere other than in this habitat. That's the real tragedy."

On Memorial Day weekend Brent Crawford arrowed this massive alligator gar in Texas. He estimates it weighed 400 pounds and could have been a record.