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TPWD Information on alligator gar #9814494 03/11/14 05:07 PM
Joined: Feb 2001
Posts: 170
LHodge Offline OP
OP Offline
Joined: Feb 2001
Posts: 170
Information resources on alligator gar can be found at http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/newsmedia/releases/news_roundup/alligator_gar/.

Larry D. Hodge
Re: TPWD Information on alligator gar [Re: LHodge] #9814777 03/11/14 07:03 PM
Joined: Apr 2012
Posts: 458
duckhuntr35 Offline
Joined: Apr 2012
Posts: 458
Ya but it is still a knee jerk reaction to a problem

Texas trophy alligator gar guide
# 1 guide for IGFA World records for alligator gar/longnose
Re: TPWD Information on alligator gar [Re: LHodge] #9815063 03/11/14 08:30 PM
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 78
Texas Outlaw Offline
Joined: Aug 2012
Posts: 78
Thanks for the link, Larry. But where is the data that says the Alligator Gar is in trouble?

Re: TPWD Information on alligator gar [Re: Texas Outlaw] #9815208 03/11/14 09:31 PM
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 910
winchester44 Offline
Pro Angler
Pro Angler
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 910
Below is an excerpt from a recent TPW's commission meeting with Dan Daugherty, Ph.D giving comments
about the status of the alligator gar in TX. Dan Daugherty is a research biologies for TPW's
Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center.

If you don't want to read all of it here are the conclusions I drew if we can assume
this biologist research is valid:

-Alligator gar are more likely not to spawn than spawn in any given year
-They may not have spawned since 2007 and the spawns going back to 1990 have been weak
-The population cannot sustain more than a 5% harvest long term

Based on the factors above and the length it takes them to grow to sexual maturity, It seems
to makes some sense to protect them when spawning conditions do finally occur. They believe that 70-77%
of the harvest is by bow fishing and if you will read below that seems to be the focus of
the protection efforts as the largest fish are the mature females that produce the most eggs.
However, I think the criticism that the language it is far too open
ended is spot on. It would seem to give TPW the ability to close whole fisheries at will.
They really need to tighten up the language, but in principle it seems like additional protections
might be merited.



NOVEMBER 7, 2013



COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Having finished an ultimate item, we're now at the ultimate item, Briefing Item 14, which I'm excited to hear, the Alligator Gar Update, Dan Daugherty.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: All right. Having finished an ultimate item, we're now at the ultimate item, Briefing Item 14, which I'm excited to hear, the Alligator Gar Update, Dan Daugherty.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Good morning, Commissioners. For the record, my name is Dan Daugherty. I'm one of the research biologists at Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center with our Inland Fisheries Division and I'm pleased to be here this morning to provide you guys this update. I apologize in advance because I'll be pointing at this screen back here because it's the only one that we all can see from time to time.

I know a number of you are new to the Commission since the last briefing, which I believe was in November of 2010; so I just wanted to begin by briefly mentioning why Alligator Gar are really an important fisheries resource here in Texas. First, the species has undergone a significant range reduction. You can see in blue the historic range encompassed 14 U.S. states and the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Yellow you see here is the current distribution of the species, including eight states in the U.S. and the Gulf Coast of Mexico.

So most of the Midwest drainages they're now extirpated from. Fortunately, Louisiana and Texas are two definite stronghold states for Alligator Gar that remain in the United States; but really what makes Texas unique is that we have continued trophy fishing opportunities in Texas. Louisiana, while they're ubiquitous throughout the state, they are commercially fished and remain recreationally unmanaged. So we're the only state that really provides both a large number of populations and the trophy fishing quality.

So in an effort to keep that trophy potential here in Texas, we began managing Alligator Gar actively in 2009 with the institution of the one per day regulation. Within our Inland Fisheries Division, we prioritized Alligator Gar as a species for research and management and we identified the particular data needs that we really needed to address going forward with our management, what the critical data needs were.

Some of those are what I'm going to talk about today. They include estimating harvest, quantifying reproduction of Alligator Gar in our systems, understanding habitat use and movement patterns in our systems, and determining the appropriate geographic scale of management. That's a new area that we're getting in to, and I'll talk about that at the very end.

To this end, we've conducted a number of experiments in a number of systems, number of studies, special management projects with our management staff, research projects within our research program to address these data needs and that's what will be the focus of the talk today. So the first thing I want to talk about was estimating harvest. The first thing you need to do though is to put harvest into some kind of context so we know what is sustainable. So the first thing we had to do was develop a population model and so what we're doing is taking information like life span, the rate at which the fish die, the growth rate of the fish, and then also harvest, fecundity, the number of eggs produced, the survival of those offspring, so on and so forth and we put that into a population model and if we keep everything constant except for harvest, we can simulate what happens when we change harvest on the population.

And you'll see here in this picture -- well, I'll come back here. You have time and years here across the X axis and the number of fish in the population across -- along the Y. The three trajectory lines that you're seeing on that graph are showing the change in population abundance at three different harvest rates and those are 5, 10, and 15 percent. You can see that if we harvest at 5 percent per year, the population is able to maintain itself. Essentially, that's a harvestable -- sustainable harvest rate.

Whereas when you increase harvest to 10 and 15 percent, we see appreciable declines over time in those populations and we're talking at 10 percent harvest, that's about a 50 percent decline in fish numbers over a 25-year period and at 15 percent harvest, we talking about over a 70 percent decline over a 25-year period.

These are very low harvest rates. When you think about bass, you think about Crappie, you think about other species, catfish, typical harvest rates for those species are 20 to 50 percent. So we're showing really very, very sensitive -- that Alligator Gar are very, very sensitive to overharvest and so maintaining a sustainable harvest level is very important.

So given that graph was showing us that our harvest goal was 5 percent or less, that was a rate that was sustainable. With that, we can now go out into the populations and determine what our harvest rates are currently and how we do this is typically tag release return studies and you can see in that upper picture, that's an Alligator Gar with the -- with what's called Floy tag or a spaghetti tag and we go out and we tag a large number of fish, release them back into the population, and then solicit our anglers at -- through the media and through boat launch signs such as you see in the lower picture, to report tag returns -- or to report catches of those tagged fish back.

And so for every 100 fish that we have tagged out in the population, the number of fish that come back reported from anglers gives us an idea of harvest or exploitation. We've conducted those estimates in three systems -- the trinity, both in the Middle Trinity and the Lower Trinity; the Middle Brazos; as well as Choke Canyon Reservoir. And you'll that all of our current rates of harvest are below that 5 percent threshold that we were talking about before. The Trinity is 2 to 4 percent, Brazos is right around 2 percent, Choke Canyon is at 2 percent.

So currently, we believe that our one Alligator Gar per day limit is effective at the current rates of harvest. However, that doesn't mean that future harvest rates are going to continue to increase. We know that our popularity of our fisheries is increasing. Excitement and popularity of Alligator Gar as a species, as a destination fishery in Texas. We know that our current -- our harvest levels in the future may continue to rise, so it's very critical that we continue to monitor harvest rates as we progress in time.

The next thing I wanted to talk about was quantify and reproduction and what we really need to know related to that is how often are Alligator Gar spawning, how variable are those spawning events from year to year, and what kind of factors, environmental factors, in the system are influencing the success of those year classes or that reproduction effort in a given year.

And so over the last few years, we have developed the techniques. I'm not going to talk in great detail about this because I don't have time, but we've developed the techniques to be able to accurately age Alligator Gar and when you can accurately age Alligator Gar, you can take a sample of fish, you can age each individual fish, and you can put that -- you can put that into a year class. So a three-year-old fish caught in 2013 was produced in 2010. So we can put -- you take a sample and you can compartmentalize each individual based on the age into what year class it was part of.

And what you're seeing here is essentially an age distribution that's compartmentalized into what year those fish were produced and so the larger -- you start to -- you can take this and turn it into a reproductive success measure. So the larger bars are showing years there was really good reproduction going on. The small bars, obviously very weak production going on. Somewhere in the middle is an average over time.

And so we've done this for the trinity River. We've aged over 100 fish in that system and there's some really interesting data to point out in this illustration, which I'm going to talk about now. The first thing I would like to call your attention to is this is a 46-year chronology. So the oldest fish that we've aged in this sample was 46 years old and that's bringing you back into the 1960s. And what you can see first is there are 17 missing bars on that graph out of the 46 years. So 37 percent of the time, either reproduction did not occur or reproduction was completely unsuccessful. So four out of every ten years, Alligator Gar in the Trinity River, based on our samples so far, have not had successful reproduction.

The next thing I would like to point out is that if you look kind of over time --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Say what you just said again. I'm sorry. Just say that statistic.

MR. DAUGHERTY: The last point?

COMMISSIONER JONES: Yeah, one more time.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Okay. There's 17 missing year classes on here. If you look at the graph, there's 17 times where there's no yellow bars. So what that's telling you is, is that based on our sample, no reproduction -- either no reproduction occurred in that year or the reproduction that did occur was unsuccessful. So four out of every -- that's 37 percent of the time, which is roughly four out of every ten years on average.


MR. DAUGHERTY: The next thing I would like to point out is that if you look over time, trends and time, you see that prior to 1990, we had a rather abundant string of strong year classes. From 1964 to 1990, there was -- there were nine strong -- very strong year classes produced. If you look in the 23 years since then, which is roughly about the same amount of time, we're talking about two and particularly one really strong year class produced in 2007.

So what that's telling us is that in recent history, we've had frequently less strong reproduction. The last 20 years or so has been really supported by one strong year class of Alligator Gar in that system. The other thing I pointed out was it's important for us to look at influential factors of things that we think are influencing the spawning success of Alligator Gar.

One thing that we noticed is there appears to be some pretty strong links to hydrology in the system or how often the system is flooding or water levels in the system. You can see here is a couple illustrations in recent history. 2007 was that very strong year class that I talked about that's pretty much supported the population over the last 20 years in terms of new recruits to the stock. That was the year we had very high water levels in the spring and spring is the spawning time for Alligator Gar. We show that as a very strong signal in the population age distribution. However, the years that follow -- '09, '10, and 2011, drought years we're all quite familiar with that. We have very, very, very little production of Alligator Gar. So it alludes to strong links between hydrology and reproductive success of Alligator Gar.

The next study that I want to talk about, which also has some links to hydrology, is a habitat moving -- habitat and movement study that we conducted in the Lower Trinity River in 2009. The Lower Trinity River being, just for clarity, being the Livingston Dam tail race to the Coast. So 180 kilometers or 110 miles roughly of river there. We tagged 51 fish with these telemetry tags you can see in this picture. That allows us to follow the fish around in the system for the duration of the study, and we did that for a 22-month period.

And what we found, a lot of the behavior and movement that we saw of fish, habitat use behavior and movement that we saw for the fish that we had tagged was really related to flows. And so there's another, you know, mention of hydrologic links. In normal -- under normal flow conditions, main channel pool habitats, so the deeper water. You can see here in yellow on these channel bends and so on and so forth, were very important habitat for Alligator Gar. An individual would move between pool habitats over a home range of roughly 37 miles of river or roughly a third of the river reached.

The interesting thing was in the winter in the cold water period, those fish would also use main channel pools during normal flow conditions; but they would select a single pool and pretty much spend the entire winter there. So it shows the importance of these pools for over wintering habitats. Fish are very lethargic. Probably not moving around, not feeding. These are areas that are providing them protection from current and so on and so forth at those low metabolism periods.

During high flow, we saw a completely different pattern of habitat use. As you can see in the picture, those fish would use the highlighted habitats in yellow. When the water would -- when the water levels would increase and the banks would flood, it would flood old channels like this Oxbow lake here in yellow. Those fish would move out of the main channel and utilize those Oxbow habitats or off on the floodplain. And what those really provide is velocity refusal. The velocity in the main channel of the river under flood conditions is very, very high. Those fish would move to the off channel areas where the flow rates were reduced. Another thing important in terms of reproduction is when those flow rates occurred in the spring and those habitats would flood in the springtime, they provided important connections to optimal spawning habitat and in this inset picture, you can see what really kind of constitutes optimal spawning habitat for Alligator Gar.

These back water areas, low velocity, flooded vegetation, that occurring during a warm water period in the spring when the temperatures are optimal for spawning are absolutely important. And likely, this is what the scenario was in 2007 when we produced a strong year class. Likely, these areas that you see in the picture now would be dry when we don't have high flow events.

The last thing I want to talk about is a new area of research for us that's come kind of as a result of some of the results of the studies that I've talked about already, is the management scale for Alligator Gar. I mean the question we're talking about specifically is at what geographic scale do we need to manage these populations?

We can use some of that information I just talked about to kind of illustrate why this is important. If you look at the distribution of the fish that we had tagged in our telemetry studies, so each of these little black dots that you see is a location that a fish was tagged in that study, tagged and released. We had essentially a Upper River Group and a Lower River Group and those fish pretty much stayed in the those areas for the entire 22- month study period.

So essentially, the Upper River fish never interacted with the Lower River fish. Conversely, the Lower River fish never really interacted with the Upper River fish. So one question we have is do we have distinct groups within -- along that river continuum such that we would want to be managing those groups independently?

The other interesting thing that we came across is these few fish that were tagged, I think there were six individuals total that were tagged in the very lower portion of the Trinity River, 78 percent of those fish ventured out into Trinity and Galveston Bay at some point during the study. That we thought was kind of curious since we think of Alligator Gar is a freshwater fish for the most part, they appear to be using the saltwater habitats. And so we started investigating this a little farther talking to the Coastal Fisheries folks and Coastal Fisheries, as you know, has a long-term gillnet data set that they collect in the spring and fall every year and low and behold, the gillnet efforts in Galveston Bay have netted over 2,000 Alligator Gar in the coastal habitats over the last 25 years.

And so we started looking beyond that. Well, what did we see on the other -- you know, all the bay systems. They've netted over 24,000 Alligator Gar in the coastal bays in the last 25 years. So there's a lot of Alligator Gar in our coastal habitats. Not just our freshwater rivers and reservoirs as well. And so in our lower river systems that are directly connected to these bay habitats, you know, we don't know how -- we don't know how the -- these river fish and these bay fish are interacting.

It may be that they are distinct populations. It may be that the river fish are utilizing habitats in the bay that are critical for the river populations to persist or vice versa. So we're very interested in trying to figure out what scale of management we should be working with here. Is it a whole system level or some localized level related to that?

So going forward, we're going to continue to monitor harvest of Alligator Gar. That's critical to maintaining our trophy fishery quality. We're going to work -- continue to work on determining the flow rates in our river systems that ensure periodic successful reproduction of Alligator Gar and the results of that study I just talked about, which by the way is going to be conducted in another system that we'll be able to characterize, we're going to do that in the Lower Guadalupe and San Antonio Bay system. That will address our needs to be able to understand managing at the proper geographic scale for Alligator Gar.

And with that, I really thank you for your time and interest and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: Just a quick comment. Whenever y'all go to catch some of these and stuff, I grew up down there in that part of the world. I'd be interested in going out. I might drag another Commissioner.


COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: How old do these Gars get to be? What's their natural life pattern, I guess?

MR. DAUGHERTY: Well, interesting enough, a couple years ago there was one that was -- it was actually caught in a gillnet in Mississippi and they sent the -- well, let me back up a second. The way you have to age these fish is using the otoliths and so what you do is you have to sacrifice the fish and you essentially cut the skull open. It's essentially the inner ear bone, equivalent to the inner ear bone. Take that piece, take that structure out. You section it. You look at it under a microscope and they have what are called annuli, just like tree rings. And so you have to count up the tree rings and it gives you the age.

This fish I was speaking about in Mississippi was caught in a gillnet. I can't -- does anyone know the length on that? Nine, eight, close to nine feet in length, 346 pounds or something like that. It was just huge. And they actually sent the otoliths to our Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center to have it aged and we aged -- two individuals aged it. One aged it at 90 years old. One at 94.



MR. DAUGHERTY: So, yeah. Independent ages, so we know it was -- it was a geezer. There's no doubt about that. We have aged fish in Texas up to 60, but they are definitely one of the most long-lived fish out there.

COMMISSIONER JONES: A couple of questions. Have you done any study or are you doing any study of the fish in inland waters? Not rivers, but lakes --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- and ponds and whatnot?

MR. DAUGHERTY: Yes. If you recall from the slide that I gave on that different harvest estimates, Choke Canyon Reservoir was on that list. We have just completed three years of market capture on Choke Canyon Reservoir. We tagged I think 676 fish in three years in that system.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Do they -- are they a predator to other fish in -- particular on inland waters and ponds and whatnot?

MR. DAUGHERTY: Alligator Gar are definitely are piscivorous. Meaning that their diet is other fish and probably small mammals and ducks and all kinds of things. They are an apex predator. You know, similar to a shark in a marine environment. The information -- I mean, you know, this is not a well-studied species. You know, this interest in Alligator Gar has really kind of ramped up in the last 10 to 20 years; so we don't have that really long, long, long history like Largemouth bass management or research.

However, there have been three or four studies of diet for Alligator Gar and the credible research out there suggests that they are an opportunistic feeder. And really what that essentially means is, is that they are feeding -- their diet is consisting of what is available in the environment proportionally speaking. So if you have a large number of forage fish and very few sport fish, which is typically -- you know, there's typically a large base of forage and a lower base of sport fish. You would see that in the diet. The Alligator Gar would be eating a large number of foraged, relatively few sport fish. They're not targeting any particular species. They may -- there have been some data out there on White bass in the springtime when White bass congregate in the upper portions of reservoirs, you may see an uptick in the diet in White bass; but it's just an opportunity thing.

So to answer your question, yes, they do -- I mean they obviously do eat fish. The favorite diet items based on research has been rough fish; so carp -- nonsupport species, carp, buffalo, sucker, freshwater drum are probably the top four species that Alligator Gar are known to eat.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And I guess to follow up, have we determined one way or the other whether if you stock, for instance, a private tank, pond, whatnot and there's Alligator Gar present, whether they will consume what you've stocked, whether it's catfish or bass or whatever, I mean?

MR. DAUGHERTY: I can't say that we would know that for sure. I don't think there's been any data out there to say one way or another in that particular instance. If you're talking particularly about our State stockings of reservoirs, I doubt there would be much issue between Alligator Gar and the stocked individuals because of the fact that usually our stockings are conducted into complex habitat; so it's providing cover to the -- let's say, for instance, we stock, you know, fingerlings of Largemouth bass. Those individuals are stocked into cover. So Alligator Gar typically are not found in the dense cover. They're found out in the open -- more open pelagic water and so likely the fish being stocked into the habitat, the complex habitat, they're not going to interact that much.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, I'm curious about this because during the last -- during the -- well, I guess we're still in a drought. But during the summer, couple of summers ago when we got literally no rain and lakes, ponds, and whatnot dried up all over the state, the pictures that you-all have in the hallway out here, I have a lake that did that in my hometown on my family's place and the last fish standing were the Gar.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Right. Doesn't surprise me in the least. I mean you --

COMMISSIONER JONES: And what's interesting about that is I was particularly interested when you were indicating that, you know, you were discovering that they -- we thought they were freshwater, but now looks like they may be able to survive in saltwater, brackish, and freshwater.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Uh-huh, right.

COMMISSIONER JONES: And, again, during that drought, they were the last fish in the little puddle as big as -- as big around as that --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- area of the --

MR. DAUGHERTY: Yes, sir.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- floor, probably 3 feet by 4 feet and the water was only --

MR. DAUGHERTY: Inches deep.

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- 2 inches deep, 3 inches deep. You could see their backs, you know, and very little oxygen in there obviously; but they were surviving.

MR. DAUGHERTY: The other interesting thing is Alligator Gar do breathe atmospheric oxygen.


MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Because there was a trail. There was -- I think they walk because -- I'm not kidding you. There was a trail in the mud about 2 inches deep from where one apparently was outside of this little puddle of water and --

MR. DAUGHERTY: He made is way back in?

COMMISSIONER JONES: -- he made his way. You could see the trail where he made his way over to the little mud puddle. So I'm sitting there thinking how did he get from there to there because there's no water? But you could definitely see the trail that he made to get to the water source.


COMMISSIONER JONES: So they are a fascinating fish.

MR. DAUGHERTY: They are. They are.

COMMISSIONER JONES: But I am concerned because if -- I'm concerned about whether if they populate a lake, a pond, a whatnot, will they eventually consume all of the fish, the other fish that are in there?

MR. DAUGHERTY: Just thinking primarily from a biological standpoint, typically that doesn't occur because essentially it's -- I mean it's detrimental to the stock of fish. If they eat themselves -- literally eat themselves out of house and home, you know, they're just -- they have nothing else to eat, so typically that doesn't occur. In a small, very enclosed --

COMMISSIONER JONES: Well, if you would like a place -- if you would like a place to study that, I've got a place for you because I have no doubt that when the rains came back, the first fish that popped out of wherever they hid their, you know, larva or whatever it is they do --


COMMISSIONER JONES: -- I have no doubt they're back in there.

MR. DAUGHERTY: I believe it. I believe it. I mean, well, and you know as we've talked about before, you know, the -- when you have a high flow event or you have connection of things like ponds to, you know -- where did the water come from that filled your pond? I mean it must have -- it came from a stream or --

COMMISSIONER JONES: There's an artesian well.


COMMISSIONER JONES: But the evaporation of the drought zapped the water.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Oh, okay.

COMMISSIONER JONES: It couldn't -- it couldn't sustain the lake.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Right. Well, you get a -- you know, like we said before, when you get a high flow event, rain event connects, you know, rivers and ponds and backwater areas and so on and so forth, that is a key a lot of times for fish like Alligator Gar to move up into those areas. A lot of times they get -- they move up in those areas. They stay there. They may spawn. They may just take advantage of those areas for the low velocity that -- you know, getting out of the high flow event in the river. And then they lose the connection when the water goes back down and they're essentially stranded and that's -- I'm sure that's exactly what you've seen and maybe some young fish, too, if the spawning -- if the high flow event occurred during a spawning period.

And they will -- I will put my last paycheck on the fact that they'll be the last fish in the water if you don't get another connecting event. No doubt.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Bill, are you sure yours were Alligator Gar and not Longnosed or Spotted?

COMMISSIONER JONES: No, I think they were -- they were Alligator Gar. I'm positive.

COMMISSIONER SCOTT: How much wine was involved on that?

COMMISSIONER JONES: No, no. I've got --

COMMISSIONER DE HOYOS: Before the fish started walking, how much wine was involved?

COMMISSIONER JONES: I've got pictures to prove it. I'm telling you that fish -- I thought somebody had taken a motorcycle and driven out across the -- I said, well, who's been out in the middle of this lake and I look in the little water.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Commissioner Morian I think has comments or questions.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: I've got a couple of questions. Are you monitoring the method of harvest at all?

MR. DAUGHERTY: We are doing some. Dan Bennett, who is one of our management biologists over in Tyler, conducted -- has been working really close with a lot of the boat fishing clubs over there on the Trinity River over the last four to five years and he's collected some pretty interesting data. He conducted an angler survey -- well, he conducted a survey, an angler survey, over there and based on the results of his survey, suggested about 70 -- 77, I want to say, percent of the Alligator Gar harvest was by bow anglers. The remaining --


MR. DAUGHERTY: 77 percent. The remaining 23 percent was hook and line, jug line, so on and so forth, yeah. So the majority of our effort is definitely coming from the bow angling community.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I've seen an increase in traffic on the Trinity River where the bow hunters are looking for the trophy Gar and, you know, harvesting the oldest. I don't know enough about them to know if that's sustainable, but it looks like there's going to be a problem at some point if you can take one Gar a day and all you're taking with a bow, obviously it's a terminal event. But taking the oldest fish, it seems like that's going to be a problem sooner than later; so we need to look, at some point, look at method of harvest I would think and then also look at the size and the number.


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: And be interesting to see what your studies, the future. I find it very interesting, which leads to my next question. It looks like putting this data out to the fishing community as we learn about these fish, would be an important component because people don't know about them. I mean they don't know that fish might be 60 years old.

MR. DAUGHERTY: We've done a lot of out -- we've tried our best to do a lot of outreach events.


MR. DAUGHERTY: It came from the very start, even the ones that I did myself, the personal experience I can speak from, a lot of people didn't even realize there was a difference between an Alligator Gar and Longnose Gar and Spotted Gar. I mean they thought a Gar was a Gar was a Gar and, you know, they're very different life histories. You know, we never -- well, I shouldn't say never. But we have not seen any issues in terms of spawning success or population declines for the Longnose and Spotted Gar; but, you know, Alligator Gar are a completely different beast.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Completely different, yeah.

MR. DAUGHERTY: And people don't realize there's a difference between the species is where we were really running into problems. Because a lot of times with people -- you know, we'll say, you know, they don't reproduce successfully every year and we might get a year class every, you know, ten years or whatever and they say, oh, I see small Gar every year, every year I'm not fishing I see small Gar. And I'm like, yeah, but, you know, they're not Alligator Gar probably and --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Well, I can see putting out printed material into the fishing community that -- identification, the difference in life span.

MR. DAUGHERTY: And people are very interested when you start talking to them about it.


MR. DAUGHERTY: It's amazing, you know. They show an appreciation for it, definitely.

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Okay, that's my comment. Thank you.


COMMISSIONER SCOTT: When I grew up down in Port Arthur, we had Alligator Gar in the bayou and it ran between the Texaco and Gulf Oil refinery and that was way before there was any Water Quality Act or anything. So that bayou was actually -- I mean there was crude oil flowing down and the only thing alive was Alligator Gar, so I actually was joking. They are tough critters.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah, yeah, they definitely are.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Anybody else have comments or questions? If you go to your slides, you've got the one of my son in there, which I want to --

MR. DAUGHERTY: Oh, did we? I didn't...

MR. SMITH: Yeah, sure, Dan. Feign surprise.

COMMISSIONER LEE: How did that get in there?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Go to the Alligator Gar.

COMMISSIONER JONES: Is there a lawsuit to follow?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: No, no lawsuit. But I want to mention this because of Reed's I thought very on the -- to the mark comments. This is my son Phillip last June and this was a trip on the Lower Trinity and that's about a six-and-a-half foot Gar that he caught with a rod and reel and we released it, of course. But what was interesting was the guide who took us, used to be a bow guide and once he got educated to Reed's point about that fish being somewhere -- Craig Bonds, who was along as an observer to make sure that we didn't break the law, estimated that fish to be 40 to 50 years old.

Well, you can't keep killing fish like that and not eventually have this thing collapse. Particularly where your spawn rates show from '07 forward, we haven't had a spawn and the spawns between '07 and before were very weak going back for almost ten years.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Yeah, to about 1990.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So I think your comments, Reed, are really important that we remain very vigilante about killing these by bow. Catching them with a rod and reel is -- I mean it's fantastic fun, and these are beautiful fish. This doesn't really give you the color of this fish. I mean it is a beautiful fish. It's a prehistoric looking creature and it's -- why kill these fish just to kill them?

It just doesn't -- I have a real concern that that's sports -- that's what we ought to be promoting and so I -- and also it concerns me given the spawn, the difficulties of Alligator Gar spawning, that we really stay on top of this so we don't find ourselves like Louisiana is now where they've got a lot of Gar; but they're all 2, 3, 4 feet and nothing in the 5, 6, 7, 8 feet and on range.

And another thing that when we got our first major presentation on this, which I think was in May 2009, one of the things that Phil Durocher talked about doing was identifying spawning habitats and coming back with recommendations about whether we essentially make those off limits. And your presentation, this isn't a criticism, didn't really deal with that; but if you go to the slide, I want everybody to look at this, it's the one that says management goal, maintain existing...

MR. DAUGHERTY: This one?

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: It's got two photographs on the right, one of the spawn -- that one. No, back up. Right there. You see if you've got it on your -- pull it up on your computer screen, you see what looks like four Gar in 2, 3, 4 inches of water. And to me, if we're going to maximize the chances of a spawn given that it's so critical and happens four out of ten years we've seen it happen, then I don't know that we ought to permit bow fishing -- I call it bow fishing, killing them by bow in a spawn month.

I mean I just question the sport of that when you're walking up on a fish that's not moving anywhere and it's in 2 to 3 to 4 inches of water, it's just shooting fish in a barrel.


COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: So I would like to ask that we -- that you come back at the January meeting and have some further thoughts on whether we ought to eliminate a take by bow during May, which I understood is the -- generally the spawning season. And I realize it may not happen.

If we don't have flooded vegetation, there's no chance it happens from what you-all are saying. But I think we should look at whether we tighten that up on the spawn, given the troubling spawning numbers that you just showed and the lack of recruitment over the last roughly 15 years.

MR. DAUGHERTY: We can certainly -- we can certainly discuss that.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then the other final comment --

COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Can we expand that to --


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Can we expand that just to question taking by bow, period?


COMMISSIONER MORIAN: Let's discuss it at least.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: And then the other comment, I think we have been advised that some bass fishermen in Falcon Lake believe that the -- they've got a Gar, an Alligator Gar problem in the sense that they perceive that the Gar are somehow diminishing the trophy bass fishing at Falcon, which to me cannot be -- I'm not a biologist and I haven't seen the numbers, but Falcon Lake has been in the top five or ten -- what is it, Carter -- fishing lakes in the bass lakes in the country and they continue to take record bass.

Now I realize that water levels are dropping at the time, but I don't know that I -- that I -- I guess my first point is I can't say I agree particularly since you say the fish tend to focus more on rough fish -- carp, buffalo and we saw them take mullet in the lower level of -- lower area of the Trinity. But the point is, can those fish -- assuming that we have a large number of Alligator Gar in Falcon, are we able to trap them and actually move them to another watershed? Is that -- is it feasible, and is it doable?

MR. DAUGHERTY: Physically, yes. Biologically, probably not a good idea and the reason I say that is there's been a lot of genetics work done and the population I believe -- I'm not a geneticist, but based on what I've read. It's come out of the Coastal Fisheries Division. Bill Carroll has done a lot of the genetics work on all the drainages for Texas. And I believe that the -- correct me if I'm wrong, but the Rio Grande drainage is relatively unique genetically. So, you know, the Rio Grande River, Amistad, Falcon, down to the Coast is kind of a very genetically unique population.

So if we trap and transfer those fish into another system and release them, we could be potentially doing deleterious effects genetically if those individuals interbreed. That would be one thing right off the top of my head that I would have a little concern about myself.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: But isn't there a way to test that by putting two fish together in some small, controllable environment? Maybe you can't. I don't know.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Well, it's more of just the long-term fitness of the genetics. You know, local watershed level genetics are typically tailored for that system over time. So if you bring in new genes into a system that have not been there before, you're likely to reduce the offspring's ability to -- well, not necessarily reduce their ability. But bringing in the new genes is not necessarily a good thing because it could reduce their fitness through adaptation to the system that they're in.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Okay. Well, I just wanted to ask that. I guess my final comment again is to echo Reed Morian's suggestion that we really get the -- get this information, which you've done a very good job of laying out today, out to our -- the people that are bow guiding. Because as I said, the guy that took my son and me, completely said I don't do it anymore after I realized what I was doing, all I'll take now is fishermen, no -- and a number of people were converting. Friends of his said we're not doing it anymore. But it takes educating them that -- you know, this thing will crash if you keep killing one a day of these giant 50-, 60-, 70-year-old fish. So anyway, so thank you for letting me ramble on here.

MR. DAUGHERTY: Appreciate your time, thank you.

COMMISSIONER DUGGINS: Thank you very much.

All right. Mr. Smith, everybody is going to like this.

Last edited by winchester44; 03/11/14 09:51 PM.
Re: TPWD Information on alligator gar [Re: LHodge] #9815323 03/11/14 10:10 PM
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 3,638
Droyhef Offline
TFF Team Angler
TFF Team Angler
Joined: Sep 2009
Posts: 3,638
There is already a thread in open freshwater discussion and in this section about this, may want to look there for some points.

They certainly have spawned since 2007.

What you have to think about is that to get an age sample it takes a fish someone brings in dead. Fish are selectively targeted by anglers/bow fisherman for size, thus most of the samples turned in are the result of selection by fishermen for size. Nobody wants to bring in a dead 2' alligator gar for aging, so that is why most of the samples date back further. On top of that at that size a big percentage of the general public can not tell one from a spotted gar either, and so on. There are many reasons for gaps in the data set they have besides the "suggested fish not spawning". There is only so much information to be gained from a set of 100 or so samples for as a wide an area as alligator gar inhabit in this state.

The truth is that the state doesn't know how many fish there are in a given river system or lake, but some members of the public and a few commissioners are asking for regulations so the state is trying to oblige them. There is a lot of work to be done, it would be better for fish and angler alike if the public asked for more research. It would also help the fish if the public could be convinced that alligator gar are not going to eat all the bass and crappie which is an idea that is still very prevalent. It would also go a long way towards helping them if the general public knew the difference between long nose gar, spotted, and alligator gar which if you check youtube it will be obvious the public does not. Many fishermen think their lake is over run with "gar" and could not care less what species they are.

Guided rod and reel fishing trips for Alligator gar on the Trinity River as well as some other places
Re: TPWD Information on alligator gar [Re: Droyhef] #9819062 03/12/14 10:35 PM
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 910
winchester44 Offline
Pro Angler
Pro Angler
Joined: Mar 2007
Posts: 910
Originally Posted By: Dawson Hefner
There is already a thread in open freshwater discussion and in this section about this, may want to look there for some points.

They certainly have spawned since 2007.

What you have to think about is that to get an age sample it takes a fish someone brings in dead. Fish are selectively targeted by anglers/bow fisherman for size, thus most of the samples turned in are the result of selection by fishermen for size. Nobody wants to bring in a dead 2' alligator gar for aging, so that is why most of the samples date back further. On top of that at that size a big percentage of the general public can not tell one from a spotted gar either, and so on. There are many reasons for gaps in the data set they have besides the "suggested fish not spawning". There is only so much information to be gained from a set of 100 or so samples for as a wide an area as alligator gar inhabit in this state.

The truth is that the state doesn't know how many fish there are in a given river system or lake, but some members of the public and a few commissioners are asking for regulations so the state is trying to oblige them. There is a lot of work to be done, it would be better for fish and angler alike if the public asked for more research. It would also help the fish if the public could be convinced that alligator gar are not going to eat all the bass and crappie which is an idea that is still very prevalent. It would also go a long way towards helping them if the general public knew the difference between long nose gar, spotted, and alligator gar which if you check youtube it will be obvious the public does not. Many fishermen think their lake is over run with "gar" and could not care less what species they are.

Good Points all. Although it sounds like they may already be a very vulnerable species. I realize that much of that is due to habitat loss. What was the data they used to support the bag limit?

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