A fish story that goes back millions of years: Kansas fisherman lands huge alligator gar
This is a really big fish story: a Kansas fisherman threw a fishing line into the water and caught a prehistoric predator that is nearly 100 million years old.
Danny "Butch" Smith II of Oswego, Kansas, who landed the fish, a six-foot alligator fish weighing 39.5 pounds, knew he had caught something unusual. His fishing buddy identified the fish and said, "You shouldn't be here (in Kansas)," Smith said.
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks officials confirmed the identification and are investigating how the fish, known as a "living fossil," ended up in the Neosho River in southeast Kansas east of the city of Parsons.
They have snouts that resemble American alligators, razor sharp teeth, and can weigh over 10 feet long and up to 350 pounds, according to NationalGeographic.com. While the fish's ancestors may have lived in Iowa or Kansas in prehistoric times, modern alligator garments can be found in the lower Mississippi River Valley, from Arkansas and Oklahoma to Florida, Texas and parts of Mexico, the website says. Safe for humans, alligators do not eat other fish, crabs, turtles, birds and small mammals.
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Danny Smith II shows off a 39.5 pound alligator Gar, four feet tall, that he caught in the Neosho River in southeastern Kansas. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks officials say the fish is not native to Kansas and has not been previously documented there.
Smith knew he'd been fishing for something big last month. "I thought I had a pretty decent flat head," he told USA TODAY. "But it fought and fought, pretty soon it comes out of the water like a plum. The shape of its head really blew me away."
Soon the fish turned back and came to the edge of Smith's boat and he pulled it in. But when the big fish was in the boat, "it ripped open the boat. I was shocked about it," said Smith.
“The fish floated and tilted and destroyed one of my oars. There was a small, flat head of about 10 or 15 pounds in the boat and he wanted to get out of the boat as badly as I did because (the bigger fish) tore things up badly, "he said." (It) has sharp teeth and double rows of teeth in its mouth . "
It's the first time an alligator Gar has been caught in Kansas and likely released from an aquarium, state officials said. "It's not unlikely that this fish was once a pet or was bought at a pet store and simply dumped into the river when it got too big," said Doug Nygren, director of the department's fisheries division, in a press release.
Moving fish across state lines and releasing fish or other species into public waters is illegal in the state.
Smith said state wildlife officials are coming Thursday to conduct an experiment on the head of the fish he was keeping (he gave the fish's body to officials) to determine its age and possibly its origin.
So this fish story is not over yet. "Not yet. It still works," said Smith. "It's just a nature freak. If you spend enough time on the water, anything can happen,
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fish Historical History: Kansas Angler Lands 4-Foot Alligator Gar
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