Smith has seen gar before — longnose, shortnose and spotted gar are local to Kansas — but nothing like this one. That’s because alligator gar are not native to Kansas waters.
“When it came up out of the water the first time … I was shocked, I was stunned. I’ve seen gar jump, but nothing like this one did.” Smith said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal, I’m sure.”
That’s one well-traveled gar
How the alligator gar got to Neosho River remains a mystery.
In his 26 years working with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, regional fisheries supervisor Sean Lynott said this is only his second or third time encountering a species not native to the river.
“We don’t know where this fish comes from. It’s a lot easier to move fish if you move water, so we have that concern as well. Where is that water coming from?” Lynott said.
Alligator gar from conservation programs in other states are tagged, but Lynott said they did not find a tag on this one. Other gar in the US are found primarily around larger river systems, such as the Mississippi River, but Lynott said there aren’t connecting waterways for the gar to naturally get to the Neosho River.
Go fishing — anything can happen
Biologists will work to figure out the fish’s origins through other means, such as genetic identification and microchemistry tests. Lynott said their best guess right now is the gar was released by either an aquarium or someone who had the gar as a pet.
“We’re pretty confident that this fish would not have ended up in the Neosho River unless it was transported and released by man,” Lynott said.
Smith, who’s lived in Kansas — and fished there — his whole life, called this experience a mystery. But he was back on the water the next day, after replacing his boat’s oar, which was damaged by the gar.
“Get out and enjoy the outdoors. … You can’t catch a fish sitting on the couch,” Smith said. “Anything can happen if you spend enough time on the water.”