Newly published plan outlines Illinois DNR’s efforts to reintroduce alligator gar

(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Fisheries has published its Fish Species Management Plan for Alligator Gar in Illinois, which details IDNR’s effort to reintroduce alligator gar to Illinois waters.

A fish native to Illinois, the alligator gar was determined to be extirpated, or extinct from Illinois waters.  The last known catch of the fish, prior to the start of the reintroduction effort, was in the Cache River basin in southern Illinois in 1966.

“The plan details our efforts and activities as we attempt to reestablish and manage alligator gar populations in Illinois,” said IDNR Fisheries Chief Dan Stephenson. “They are a large, unique species that we would like to see thriving in Illinois waters again. There has been a lot of interest in our reintroduction efforts already, and we encourage anyone interested in sport fishing and this project to look at the plan.”

The alligator gar is the largest of the gar species and second largest freshwater fish in North America, next to the white sturgeon. The current all-tackle record alligator gar, caught in 1953 in Texas, weighed 302 pounds and measured 7 feet, 6 inches in length.  Researchers determined that prior to extirpation, Illinois produced some individual gar measured at more than 8 feet in length, with the heaviest weighing 176 pounds.

IDNR Fisheries personnel last fall stocked approximately 1,600 alligator gar as part of the reintroduction program at Powerton Lake State Fish and Wildlife Area (Tazewell County), Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area (Cass County), Horseshoe Lake State Park (Madison County), and Kaskaskia River State Fish and Wildlife Area (St. Clair County). Tiny electronic tracking tags were attached to those fish for biologists to monitor their progress.

The success of the plan will be documented through annual progress and achievement reports for each management objective, and the plan will be updated as needed.

The Fish Species Management Plan for Alligator Gar in Illinois is posted online at https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/news/Documents/ALGPlan.pdf

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