River Monsters Season One
Episode Title: Alligator Gar
The Monster: Alligator Gar
Other Species: The American Alligator
An Armored Monster
As the episode title indicates, this episode is about the alligator gar. Of the five species of gar that inhabit the United States, the alligator gar is the largest reaching lengths over 10’ and weighing in at 365lbs. This prehistoric fish has been around since the dinosaurs and is covered in excellent armor that some say you need a chainsaw to cut through. Having a long mouth packed with pointed teeth, the alligator gar earned its name because it’s profile resembles that of an alligator.
Everywhere there are these types of gar there are stories of monsters and horrific attacks on humans. As a result the alligator gars populations and range has been reduced. There attacks Jeremy is investigating are all concentrated around the Deep South, which not surprisingly have populations of alligators. So is the alligator gar deserving of its fearsome reputation or is it a case of mistaken identity?
Jeremy heads to Texas along the Trinity River in his search for the truth. Unlike the piranhas Jeremy was able to catch in droves in episode one, and in further episodes will become a nuisance when they constantly strip his bait when he’s trying to catch other fish, the alligator gar proves to far more of a challenge to catch. He sees gar activity but the activity indicates that the gar is aware of his presence and isn’t happy about it.
Most river monster episodes have bloody reenactments of situations or stories where someone was attacked by the suspect fish in the case the alligator gar. The reenactment in this episode is of a young girl being attacked in freshwater by a creature seven feet in length. She is rescued by her 13 year old brother who reports her attacker to be a gar fish. This attack happened in 1932. After this reenactment, Jeremy meets with a gar expert and learns of the hysteria surrounding the alligator gar, with the expert sharing an article with him where an anonymous journalist claims the alligator gar to more deadly then and “man-eater” shark.
Jeremy isn’t convinced the alligator gas is as aggressive as people say and sets out to catch one to prove his suspicions. His first hook up is a young three foot gar and while removing the hook the young gar still full of energy as a result on being brought in on heavy gear bites Jeremy drawing blood and casting doubt on his suspicions. Though this still isn’t enough evidence to prove the gar is a man eating monster that deserves to be completely wiped out.
After his encounter with the smaller gar Jeremy talks about the electrical gar destroyers that Texas game fish commission built to eradicate the gar. For three decades millions of gar were destroyed due to people’s irrational fears. These gar destroyers no longer operate but gar are still hunted in extreme ways such as by bow with videos of gar being shot by bow fisherman being briefly shown before the next scene when Jeremy goes out with Texas fish and wildlife in an attempt to understand how the gar population was impacted by these electrical gar destroyers and other fishing methods. When a small gar is caught, the biologist must use an electric drill to pierce the armored scales and attach a tag. Jeremy takes note that this gar is not acting aggressively.
Jeremy still doesn’t have his proof that gar are aggressive killers so he heads to an aquarium with a gar population to get some insight into gar feeding behavior. There he learns that gars are slow and methodical with their food eating it at their leisure. They may swim around with the food in their mouths decided if it’s something the really want to eat or not and he is advised to be patient and not set the hook right away when he next attempts to catch one.
Hooking Into a Monster and Second Blood
Jeremy is still having trouble hooking into a gar and continues to fish into the evening which is later than most guides will fish for gar. He had been fishing for 12 hours when he finally hooks into a monster sized gar coming in at 123lbs and reaching almost 7 feet in length. With his long sought after gar in the boat, Jeremy explains how gars are finicky eaters and only eat what they can swallow whole. They don’t tear pieces off the way some predator fish do because they don’t chew. This puts humans off the menu for gar and making the more likely culprit for the attacks on humans to be the creature the gar was named after…the alligator.
While Jeremy is admiring his 6’8” female gator gar he mentions how gentle and calm she is being. On inspection of the mouth he sees that even a gar as large as this isn’t capable of swallowing even a human limb let alone a full human. The gars calm demeanor and inability to eat a human doesn’t mean she can’t hurt a human and Jeremy again has blood drawn from him by a gar though this time it was from the scales and not the teeth. The scales are so sharp that Native Americans used to make arrow heads out of them. Bleeding, Jeremy returns his fish back to the water and she swims off.
Jeremy is so convinced that the gar are not a danger to humans he enters the water with several large gar. None of the fish show any interest in him and he ends the episode saying we as humans need to have a better understanding of these fish.