It’s a real big fish story: A Kansas fisherman threw a line into the water and caught a prehistoric predatory fish that dates back almost 100 million years.
Danny “Butch” Smith II of Oswego, Kansas, who landed the fish, a 4ft 6in alligator gar, weighing 39.5 pounds, knew he had caught something unusual. His fishing buddy identified the fish and said, “They’re not supposed to be here (in Kansas),” Smith said.
Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks officials have confirmed the identification and are investigating how the fish, called a “living fossil,” entered the Neosho River in southeastern Kansas, at the east of the town of Parsons.
They have muzzles that resemble American alligators, razor-sharp teeth and can grow over 10 feet long and weigh up to 350 pounds, according to NationalGeographic.com. While in prehistoric times the predecessors of the fish may have lived in Iowa or Kansas, modern alligators are found in the lower Mississippi Valley from Arkansas and Oklahoma to Florida, in Texas and parts of Mexico, according to the site. Not harmful to humans, alligators feed on other fish, crabs, turtles, birds and small mammals.
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Smith knew he caught something big when he was fishing last month. “I thought I had a pretty decent flathead,” he told USA TODAY. “But he fought and fought, very quickly he came out plum from the water. The shape of his head really shocked me.”
Soon the fish turned around and came over to Smith’s boat and he pulled him inside. But once the big fish was in the boat, “it tore the boat apart. I was shocked,” Smith said.
“The fish was collapsing and turning around and destroyed one of my oars. There was a little flathead about 10 or 15 pounds in the boat and she wanted to get out of the boat as bad as I did because (the bigger fish) was tearing up things are going wrong, ”he said. “(He) has sharp teeth and double rows of teeth in his mouth.”
This is the first time that a Gar alligator has been captured in Kansas and has likely been released from an aquarium, state officials said. “It is not unlikely that this fish was once someone’s pet or bought from a pet store, and simply released into the river once it got too big,” said the director of the department’s fisheries division, Doug Nygren, in a press release.
Transporting fish across state lines and releasing it or other species into public waters is illegal in the state.
Smith said state wildlife officials were coming Thursday to do an experiment on the head of the fish, which he was keeping (he gave the body of the fish to officials), to determine its age and possibly Where was he coming from.
This fish story is therefore not over yet. “Not yet. This continues,” Smith said. “It’s just a freak of nature. You spend enough time on the water, anything can happen,
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.