PRATT, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Wildlife & Parks – Fisheries Division said a 39.5 pound alligator gar was caught last month in Neosho River east of Parsons.
Alligator gar aren’t native to Kansas and have never been documented here.
“We’re confident the information from the angler is accurate and the fish was, in fact, caught from the Neosho River,” said KDWP Fisheries biologist Connor Ossowski. “However, that doesn’t mean the fish originated from the river.”
To determine the fish’s origins, KDWP biologists have several unique options.
Since all states involved in alligator gar reintroduction efforts for populations in decline have been tagging each hatchery-produced alligator gar, KDWP staff had the option of looking for a tag. After using a “wand” to detect any identification markers, KDWP staff are confident this catch was not part of a formal reintroduction effort.
“Because most populations of this species can be distinguished from one another with a sample of the fish’s fins, another option we’re considering is genetic identification,” said KDWP assistant director of Fisheries research, Jeff Koch. “This will tell us if the fish came from an existing population in another state.”
If genetic testing doesn’t pan out, not all hope is lost; KDWP Fisheries biologists would still have one more option.
“Microchemistry is another technique at our disposal,” Koch added.
Microchemistry is performed by measuring the elemental proportion of a bone on a given fish and comparing it to the elemental concentration of a surrounding water. If consistencies exist, the data may be able to help fisheries biologists determine at least how long the fish had been in the Neosho River.
Of all the potential scenarios for how this giant came to be in the Neosho River, there’s one hypothesis that rings the truest – the possibility that the Kansas-caught alligator gar was released from an aquarium.