An angler in Texas made the catch of a lifetime when he reeled in a 283-pound alligator gar that is now poised to break two world records.
Art Weston caught the enormous fish at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in southeast Texas on September 2. The reservoir, which is located about 140 miles northeast of Houston, is known for producing very large alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula), a distinctive-looking freshwater fish with a long snout and large, pointy teeth.
Weston, a 52-year-old angler who lives in Kentucky, was fishing with local guide and boat captain Kirk Kirkland on Kirkland’s vessel, the Garship Enterprise, when the behemoth latched onto his six-pound test line, reports Fox Weather’s Chris Oberholtz.
With help from Kirkland, Weston spent 2 hours and 45 minutes trying to reel in his big catch, which left him “shaking and visibly fatigued,” as Kirkland wrote on Facebook. Kirkland got severe rope burn on his palms after lassoing the beast.
When they finally pulled the fish to shore and weighed it, the creature nearly tipped over their scale because it was so heavy.
“The scale just kept going higher and higher,” Kirkland wrote on Facebook. “I won’t lie, we both jumped up and down.”
After weighing and measuring the creature—which spanned 8 feet, 4 inches long—they released it back into the reservoir. Now, they’re waiting to hear from the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) about whether the supersized swimmer set two new world records.
They suspect the catch has broken the IGFA men’s six-pound line class record and the IGFA all-tackle record for alligator gar, but they are still awaiting official confirmation. The IGFA celebrated Weston’s catch and described the records as “pending” in a Facebook post.
Weston is no stranger to reeling in monster-sized fish: He holds 23 IGFA records and has others pending, reports the Beaumont Enterprise’s Matt Williams.
The colossal creature was likely a female, because female alligator gars can grow larger than the males, says Solomon David, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Minnesota, to Live Science’s Harry Baker.
David estimates the gargantuan fish to be between 50 and 80 years old, though he can’t say for certain without studying the creature’s ear bone, which would show growth lines akin to the rings of a tree trunk.
Scientists suspect alligator gars can live to be more than 100 years old. They develop quickly, reaching lengths of up to two feet within their first year of life. By the time they turn 20, they can be up to six feet long. From there, growth typically slows down, though it doesn’t stop altogether.
With plenty of food and lots of space to swim around, alligator gars can become enormous—but even so, fish over eight feet long are “a true rarity,” as David tells Live Science.
“If we want to continue to see large alligator gars, we need to conserve them, especially the giants,” he tells the publication. “If we continually remove the largest individuals of a population or species, we remove the genes for large growth, which can eventually result in smaller-sized individuals in a population.”
The largest recorded alligator gar ever caught weighed 327 pounds, per Field & Stream’s Steven Hill. The fish died not long after commercial fisherman Kenny Williams reeled him in at Lake Chotard in Mississippi in 2011, so Williams donated the creature’s body to the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. He caught the fish accidentally, after it became ensnared in a net he’d put out to catch another type of fish—as a result, it didn’t count toward an IGFA record.
In May 2022, angler Payton Moore caught an estimated 300-pound alligator gar at an undisclosed location near Houston. He did not weigh the fish on a certified scale and, thus, was not eligible for a potential IGFA record, per Field & Stream’s Kris Millgate.
The current IGFA all-tackle record for alligator gar is held by Bill Valverde, who hooked a 279-pounder in Rio Grande, Texas, on December 2, 1951.