Bowfishermen stock a massive 271-pound alligator gar in Texas

Gar guide Scott Michel, of South Texas Bowfishing, put customers on the longest gator skins of his career, but he never sparred with one heavier than the 271-pound behemoth who helped three men onto the boat on July 17. The fish spanned 7 feet 11 inches, with a girth of 48 inches, and with a weight of just 19 pounds off the Texas fishing record, it’s right up there with some of the largest minis caught in the state.

“We got really lucky with this fish,” Michel told Field & Stream. “The water is so low at the moment due to the drought that there hasn’t been much fish activity. You would think that lower water would concentrate the fish more, but in these conditions, the water gets very hot, which forces the fish to dig deeper as they look for cooler water,” As a result, you see less activity on the surface.”

Michel notes that most of the shots taken by spearfishermen happen when a fish rises up to breathe. The swim bladder of the crocodile gar is connected to the pharynx through an air channel, which enables the fish to supplement its oxygen intake by gulping air at the surface. These fly topwater rolls help garlic survive in water with very low oxygen levels and give boat anglers their best chance of a good shot – if all goes well.

“There are days when they pop up and open their mouths to get air, and they might just sit there for a few seconds before popping up again,” says Michel. “Then there are days when they go up to 100 miles an hour, gulp air, and are gone before you can even think of pulling the bow back. With this fish, we were very lucky, because it floated rather slowly. The back of the fish was still out of the water when he released My clients shot.”

Luck played a part, as did Michel’s keen observation of garlic’s habits, which he honed over a life of fish-chasing. Now in his fifties, Gar has hunted alligators since he was a teenager.

Roll timer to get a chance at the shot

From left to right: Jax Selvig, Tim Selvig, LJ Selvig, and John Jackson pose with the oversized dress. South Texas Bowfishing

Michelle has been guiding John Jackson, Tim Selfidge, and LJ Selfidge on an aquarium in South Texas that the guide prefers not to reveal. LG’s young son, Jax, was along for the ride, too. They were working methodically through some of the deepest holes Michel knows, waiting for the garlic to come out for air. They got their first glimpse of the 271-pounder when she rolled in behind the boat.

“I knew right away he was a giant,” says Michel. “The thing I’ve learned over the years is that sometimes they only roll once, but sometimes they get into a little pattern of rolling, where they do it every few minutes. So I timed this one to see if it would roll more than once.” .

When Michel thinks the time is right for the fish to reappear, he returns through the hole they first discovered. “I rolled a large piece of clothing out of the bow,” he says. “It was so close to her size, I almost thought it was her. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure, so I just asked the guys to stand by, because I didn’t think it was the same fish. Within seconds, the big ship rolled 8 to 10 feet away.” From the boat right in front of us.”

John Jackson and Tim Selvig each put an arrow in the bitumen, “and that’s where it got interesting,” Michel says. “We’ve had two arrows in the fish, but that doesn’t always mean you’ll get them.”

Tail Jar image
Scott Michelle’s hand shows the size of a neighbor’s tail. South Texas Bowfishing

the dove, but the fishermen managed to bring it back near the surface for a while. “Then he ran back hard and pulled out one of the arrows,” Michel recounts. “At that point, I knew we had a giant fish with only one arrow, and I didn’t know how good that arrow would be. So we took our time fighting the fish—it seemed like a lifetime, but it was maybe 8 to 10 minutes—and I worked it back up close to Surface. At that point, I was the only one who could see the fish underwater, so I put in another arrow. After another round, we got it back and John and LG put two more to make sure. We had a total of four arrows by the end.”

The heaviest lau in a 10-year mentoring career

Picture of the fisherman and neighbor
Michelle with a gar weighing in at over 8ft 210lbs in 2001. Scott Michelle

When they finally got the big garlic into the boat, Michel says, everyone went crazy at first. “Lots of little kids, screaming and screaming. Then it fell silent. The shock set in. Everyone stood looking at this giant fish, their hands shaking with all the adrenaline. That lasted several minutes.”

In 10 years of directing, Michelle has had four clients shoot 8-footers. He shot four himself, and his wife shot an 8-footer, too. But boating with the heaviest client fish he’s ever had was a special thrill. Complex, but special. “As a business owner, seeing my clients catch a fish of this size is one of the highlights of my career so far,” Michel says. “It was amazing. It’s hard to describe how happy I was.

“But as a punter, I was jealous,” he adds with a laugh. “This is a much heavier fish than I have ever photographed. So there are two sides to it, you know?”

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