Yesterday I was reading about the Alligator Gar on Passport to Texas. The Alligator Gar is the largest freshwater fish known to Texas and, according to Passport to Texas, can grow up to ten feet long and 300 pounds. I have never seen one this big but can imagine how scary such an encounter might be. What I find most interesting is the Gar’s tendency to swim close to the surface. Apparently the Gar’s gills are poorly suited for extracting the oxygen the fish needs which forces them to “gulp” for air at the water’s surface.
It reminds me of a Brazos River trip I took some years back. It was early spring and I had invited my mom and dad on a short day trip down the river. We put in Squaw Creek at Tres Rios River Ranch in Glen Rose, TX and paddled the short four miles down to the Lake Whitney Recreation Area. The water was warm and without much flow. I remember we had to get out to drag the boats more than usual.
What was really unusual about the trip were the Gars. At every bend we found literally hundreds of Gars beaching themselves in the shallows of the river. Their backs sticking high up out of the water, sometimes 5 or 6 piled on top of each other.
I had never seen this before (or since) and wanted to check it out. In all my river trips I have found Gars to be extremely skittish, more so then most fish. But on this warm March day they couldn’t be stirred. I could paddle right up next to them and they wouldn’t move a muscle. It was so strange that I decided to test their resolve and gently lifted one out of the water with the end of my paddle. That got him to move, but only enough to re-submerge himself. I didn’t want to bother them further assuming this was some kind of mating practice.
In spite of a tremendous amount of time on Texas rivers I have yet to see Gars behave like that since. After reading about them yesterday, I can’t help but wonder if they were all just short of air?