Kansas Department of Wildlife & Parks Alligator Gar
An angler fisherman recently caught an alligator gar, the first-ever to be found in a Kansas river, prompting scientists to examine how the creature wound up there.
According to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, the fish was caught late last month in the Neosho River, and it measured 4.5 feet long and weighed 39.5 lbs. The experts noted that the alligator gar, sometimes called "living fossils," are not native to Kansas, and while they're still determining how it got to these waters, they suspect it may have been illegally released nearby.
"We're confident the information from the angler is accurate and the fish was, in fact, caught from the Neosho River. However, that doesn't mean the fish originated from the river," KDWP Fisheries biologist Connor Ossowski said in a press release.
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The fisherman, Danny Lee "Butch" Smith, told CNN about making the fateful catch on Sept. 20.
"When it came up out of the water the first time ... I was shocked, I was stunned. I've seen gar jump, but nothing like this one did. This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal, I'm sure," he told the outlet, adding, "Get out and enjoy the outdoors. ... You can't catch a fish sitting on the couch. Anything can happen if you spend enough time on the water."
Doug Nygren, KDWP Fisheries Division director, added in a press release, "It's not unlikely that this fish was once somebody's pet or purchased from a pet store and simply released into the river once it became too large."
Chris Steffen, KDWP Aquatic Nuisance Species coordinator, noted that illegally transporting and releasing fish "risks spreading other harmful species such as microscopic zebra mussels, fish diseases, or aquatic vegetation that might be present in the water used to transport the fish."