TPWD plan would ban night-time bowfishing for gar

Measuring at almost 6 feet, the 90-pound alligator gar caught the attention of festival goers in this undated file photo at the San Benito Sportsmans Expo. The gar, caught by Juan Cardenas with the help from his friend, Eddy Arenas, was caught in Los Fresnos after the anglers' two-hour wrestling match with the fish. (Jesse Mendoza | Valley Morning Star)

HARLINGEN — A new proposal on alligator gar could mean a statewide ban on night-time bowfishing for the increasingly popular game fish.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission board members will vote on this and three other new regulations regarding alligator gar at their March meeting. In addition to the night bowfishing ban, a ban on harvesting alligator gar above 48 inches on the Trinity River and a lottery system to enable anglers there to take one fish above that size are under consideration.

A fourth proposal would affect Valley sportsmen who target alligator gar.

Anglers here and statewide would be required to report any harvest of an alligator gar within 24 hours of taking the fish, filing either online or using a mobile app similar to that currently used for eastern wild turkey.

“The TPW Commission has communicated to us that they would rather, out of an abundance of caution, act proactively to further limit harvest of older, mature alligator gar while populations are in relatively good shape,” said Craig Bonds, TPWD Inland Fisheries director. “The four-foot maximum would conserve these larger fish and redirect harvest towards younger, more abundant smaller fish. It also ensures there are plenty of large, recreationally valuable fish remaining for anglers to catch and release, which attracts anglers from around the world.”

Bonds also said he had concerns about bowfishing for alligator gar, indicating new advances in crossbows may be giving those anglers too much of an advantage.

“The TPW commission has concerns about the rapid evolution of technology and equipment used to target large alligator gar,” Bonds said. “Prohibiting night-time bow fishing for alligator gar is an additional proactive measure that would be taken to protect populations from overharvest.”

Texas fisheries biologists have been increasingly concerned about potentially overharvesting alligator gar, which can live to 60 years and reach weights of more than 200 pounds.

But this gar species also takes years to mature enough to spawn, and even then mature fish may go years without spawning until necessary flood conditions are right.

In fact, until 2009 an angler could take as many alligator gar in Texas with rod-and-reel or by bow as they wanted. That year TPWD issued its first bag limit of one alligator gar per day per fisherman.