Follow this link to check out more images in my Photo Reports

(2005) For years, I have wanted to fish for the giant alligator gar in Texas; ever since I saw a picture in an old biology book about 20 years ago. The last 5 years I have been looking for a guide, but as the alligator gar is considered a trash fish, guides for this kind of fishing are hard to come by. The only serious gar guide over there is Kirk Kirkland. Kirk has Comanche blood in his veins, he has fished for gar since childhood, and he has guided anglers for the last 8 years. He has an impressive "100% rate" on gars, and the alligator gars are not small: general weight 40-150 lbs, and most clients catch gars over 100 lbs.

102 trinity river 20220211 1155380106River beast
It is still dark; the only light comes from Kirk's massive truck. Kirk is transferring the fishing tackle from the back of the truck to the boat, while I'm trying to take a picture with flash. The atmosphere is thick with excitement in the morning dampness, and the temperature has already reached into the eighties.

Ten minutes later we're blasting down the narrow river, navigating with what little light is available as the sky starts to brighten, and it feels like driving through a tunnel because of the overhanging trees and bushes lining the steep mud banks. In front of us, a couple of white herons are flying leisurely, and a family of wild boar is frightened, bolting from the bank, as the boat speeds through the cocoa coloured Trinity River.

At last, we stop – we must have motored downriver for at least 25 minutes. The sun is now peeking over the tree line, and the temperature increases dramatically – along with our excitement. We have stopped at a long, promising pool, where many river beasts hunt and roll in the surface. Every now and again, we hear the characteristic "wet clap" of the gator gars snapping their impressive jaws, attacking smaller, unfortunate fish.

With shaking hands, we set up the rods, and Kirk opens his cooling-box of goodies and selects sweet looking 7 lbs buffalo carp. He cuts it into three pieces, and sticks the head on one of the big trebles, the body on the next, and the tail section on the last. We lob the baits out as far as can be expected with baits of that size, and settle ourselves in comfy-chairs, our minds spinning with the thoughts of these big armoured predators - we have waited 8 months for this moment!122 trinity river 20220211 1533145789

The first beast to show interest is a mean looking alligator – the reptilian version. It spotted our floats from across the river, and slowly moves our way on direct collision course with one of our baits. My thought of cooling off with my feet in the water quickly evaporates. The whole thing ends quite harmlessly, however, as the alligator decides the float doesn't look appetising after all, and disappears like a slow diving submarine, not to be seen again that day.

After an hour, the next interested party, is, fortunately not an alligator – at least not the reptilian version. Our float suddenly starts moving off downstream with no warning at all – no commotion, no swirling, and no splashing. Kirk orders us to wind in the other rods, while he releases the boat from the mud bank, and we set off after the float, while Florian musters all his inner strength in an effort NOT to strike the fish yet. It takes a while for the gator gar to work the bait from the toothy snout into the mouth, and we have to wait until the gar stops again, which is usually a good sign that the job is done. As soon as it starts upstream again, Florian strikes it with all his might, but the fish doesn't really seem to notice. Florian looks more and more worried, as the gar continues at a steady pace towards some sunken trees, but Kirk is one step ahead, and swiftly puts the boat between the fish and the trees. Florian pumps away, and after an otherwise uneventful fight the near 6-foot beast is lying in the surface beside the boat, snapping its jaws. Kirk ties up the fish with a rope behind the pectoral fins, and just then Florian lets out a huge sigh of relief – the goal of the trip is very apparently achieved now: an alligator gar over 100 lbs!

54 trinity river 20220211 1969300977Well over, actually… 134 lbs!

Kirk drags the big gar into the boat, and Florian and I scramble to the opposite end of the boat, after which we ferry the fish to a little piece of dry bank for the photo session.

Beast of hurtin'
The alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) is a very sturdy fish. Just like sturgeon and most other "ancient" fish, the alligator gar can survive out of the water for a very long time. One of the gator gar's amazing advantages is its ability to supplement the oxygen intake from the air by help of its reptilian looking nostrils.

On top of that, it's covered in tooth-like scales, which are sharp and abrasive, and a fearsome set of teeth, of which the 4-6 front teeth are protruding, even when the mouth is closed. As a result of this, holding these lively beasts for a photo is an exercise in pain and blood… for us…

We weren't too unlucky with our fish, though. We had a few bruises, scratched and punctured arms and legs, punctured forehead, plus one black ear – so, all-in-all, we had an easy time, where others fare much worse: knock-out, pierced fingers and deep cuts.

When the photography session was over, and the blood washed off, the temperature had risen to a sweaty 42 degrees - time for a cold drink to celebrate the big fish.47 trinity river 20220211 1411511542

Powerful tackle & big baits
Big, strong fish demand powerful tackle. We used 9 ft Shakespeare Ugly Stick rods, casting weight 100-300 gram, big Shakespeare spinning reels with 150 lbs PowerPro braided line, a one-yard wire leader of 210 lbs breaking strength with a 3/0 to 5/0 treble hook, and a big float.

The baits were accordingly big, as mentioned previously, and Kirk caught them with a cast-net at the Livingstone Dam. To begin with, Florian and I worried a little, that catching baits would take away a big chunk of our gar-fishing-time, but we certainly worried needlessly.

My God, there are many fish at that dam. Kirk had fish in his net nearly every cast, and not just any little fish: buffalo carp, common carp, mullets, sucker carp, shad, drum, crappies, several species of catfish, and a whopping 15 lbs grass carp. Oh yes, we did use the grass carp for bait, as well, which hurt just slightly, being an old carp angler; It's a bit surreal witnessing its head getting split down middle and the pieces put on two large trebles…

Try it yourself
Kirk is used to have big catches with his clients. Last year, the week before we arrived, he caught the biggest ever with a client, and it weighed 225 lbs. The biggest alligator gar, he has caught himself, weighed 365 lbs and it was 9 ft 6 in long, and he reckons they grow to just about 400 lbs.

Why not try it yourself - How often do you get a chance to catch big, exotic, freshwater fish with a more than reasonable chance of a 100 pounder ?

Besides, Kirk is having a look at doing guided tours for catfish and buffalo carp, as well. Check out his website:  and get inspired !

Sorry, this website uses features that your browser doesn’t support. Upgrade to a newer version of Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Edge and you’ll be all set.