Bowhunter shoots rare alligator gar in Indiana

An alligator gar was caught June 1, 2017, in the White River in southwestern Indiana. (Provided Photo/Michelle Cain)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Bowfishing is a rare sport, but the fish speared in southwestern Indiana may be even more extraordinary.

Indiana Department of Natural Resources says an alligator gar was harvested June 1 in the White River. The rare fish, which was taken legally, measured 63 inches and 55 pounds when examined by DNR fisheries biologists. A species rarely encountered in Indiana, the big fish is the first confirmed by state fisheries biologists in recent history. The biologists have sampled Indiana’s large rivers for the last 30 years with no alligator gar being collected.

Gar species commonly found in Indiana waters are shortnose, longnose and spotted gar.

“In Indiana, we currently have no regulations on take of alligator gar,” said Brian Schoenung, fisheries chief for the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife, in a news release. “One alligator gar found in Indiana waters does not create a management need. However, our biologists will be sampling heavily in the area this fish was discovered to determine if any other alligator gar are present.”

Bowfishing is becoming increasingly popular in Indiana and is legal all year for Asian carp, bowfin, buffalo, common carp, gar, shad and suckers from rivers, streams and lakes or ponds. A fishing license is required.

“Bowfishing is a great sport that requires skill, specialized equipment, and can help use invasive species,” Schoenung said. “Our staff puts on several bowfishing workshops a year to introduce new anglers to the sport.”

Alligator gar were once persecuted and vilified as killers of game fish, but biologists and conservationists now recognize the role the species plays as a top-level predator. Many states have taken interest in restoring alligator gar populations. To augment stockings, some states have implemented protective regulations

A restoration program is not being explored at this time in Indiana.

“Should we find a viable population of alligator gar or as we see more of this species stocked in neighboring states moving into Indiana, we may look to institute management action to regulate take,” Schoenung said. “Such regulations would ensure the protection of alligator gar, while allowing other common species to be harvested.”

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