|  TPWD News Releases Dated 2011-08-23                                    |
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[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Michael Baird, (254) 666-5190, michael.baird@tpwd.texas.gov; Larry Hodge, (903) 670-2255, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov ]
Aug. 23, 2011
Gar Facts Often Garbled
ATHENS--Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries biologist Michael Baird of Waco sometimes thinks he's heard it all--until the next fish story reaches his ears.
"Through hundreds of conversations with anglers and outdoor recreationists, a fisheries biologist hears just about every kind of fish story there is," he said. "Folks will mis-identify a fish, mis-speak about a fishery issue or exaggerate the size of the one that got away. But I have never heard more mis-information than when talking about fishes from the gar family. I hope what follows will clear up much of the confusion and allow more folks to return to the waters of Central Texas with a better understanding of the importance of gar in the ecosystem."
There are actually four different species of gar in Texas: spotted, shortnose, longnose and alligator. Spotted gar are the smallest of the four species, obtaining a maximum size of four feet in length and 15 pounds. They range from the Red River south to the Rio Grande basin and are extremely common. As their name suggests, the head, body and fins of this species are typically covered with dark spots, although there can be variations depending on water chemistry.
Shortnose gar grow to a similar size yet lack dark spots on the head. Their range in Texas is limited to the Red River basin below Lake Texoma.
Longnose gar can be distinguished from spotted and shortnose gar by, you guessed it, a much longer snout. Longnose gar can grow to nearly six and a half feet in length and attain weights of up to 80 pounds.
Alligator gar differ from the other three gar species in several ways. The most obvious is their large adult size; short, blunt snout and the fact that they have two rows of teeth on both sides of the upper jaw instead of a single row. The alligator gar is the largest of the gar species and is one of the largest freshwater fishes in North America.
The current world record is eight feet, five and one-eighth inches in length, 47 inches in girth and 327 pounds. The current rod-and-reel and bow-fishing records for Texas are 279 and 290 pounds respectively. Research suggests alligator gar are also among the longest-lived freshwater fishes in North America, and individual ages of up to 50 years have been estimated. Think about that for a second: There are alligator gar swimming around out there that have been alive since the 1960s!
The large size of alligator gar, along with their sharp teeth and scales, has given the entire gar family a bad reputation. A hundred years ago most people thought gar fishes were responsible for declines in sport fish populations, and many fishery professionals at the time encouraged the removal of these fish. Since that time however, fisheries biologists have learned much about the eating habits of gar, and this research suggests gar are opportunistic feeders, feeding on a variety of different fish species. So, although gar will inevitably eat an occasional sportfish, they also eat freshwater drum, suckers, shad and common carp. Some researchers believe gar contribute to healthy aquatic ecosystems by helping to balance predator-prey populations through selection of over-abundant species as a food source.
Bow and more recently rod-and-reel anglers have been enjoying the gar family's sporting traits for quite some time. Alligator gar in particular are prized by bow fishers for their large size, while rod-and-reel anglers seek the stubborn determination and raw power all gar species can bring to the end of their lines. Currently the daily bag limit for alligator gar in Texas is one fish per day, while other gar species can be caught in any number. The Texas alligator gar regulation is meant to help conserve the population while additional research is conducted.
Texas has alligator gar populations in a number of inland reservoirs including Lakes Texoma, Sam Rayburn, Choke Canyon, Falcon and Livingston and in most coastal tributaries and bay systems. These populations are thought to be some of the best remaining in the world, and several research studies are under way by TPWD to better understand and manage them. Conservation and management of alligator gar will require additional information on population demographics, spawning ecology, and habitat needs throughout all life stages.
For a guide to identifying the different species of gar in Texas, go to http://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/#fish.
For additional information or to share your own gar story, please call TPWD's Inland Fisheries Division office in Waco at (254) 666-5190.

[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Robert Ramirez, Hunter Education Specialist, (972) 263-1219; robert.ramirez@tpwd.texas.gov ]
Aug. 23, 2011
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Hunter Education Instructors Needed
ATHENS -- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) will be conducting a free Hunter Education New Instructor Training Workshop September 17, 2011 in Mount Pleasant, Texas. Workshop will begin at 8:00am - 5:00pm at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Law Enforcement Regional Office located at 212 S. Johnson.
Instruction will be offered for new applicants and currently certified instructors in skills trail, live firing exercises, and home study procedures. The training puts fun and exciting activities into the learning experience. Students will benefit by going through actual hunting simulations and by making their own decisions regarding responsible actions using "shoot-don't-shoot" scenarios.
Before attending this workshop, you must go to the following web site and prepare yourself by going over the instructor training manual. You will sign an acknowledgement and release that you have done this pre-workshop assignment as part of your training. The site is tpwd.texas.gov/learning/hunter_education/instruct.phtml.
Every Texas hunter born on or after September 2, 1971, must successfully complete a hunter education course. The hunter education program's goals are to reduce hunting-related accidents and violations; promote safe, responsible and knowledgeable hunting; and enhance hunting traditions and values.
Hunter education provides instruction in Texas hunting regulations, wildlife management and identification, conservation, ethics, firearm and hunting safety and responsibility and outdoor skills.
By understanding hunting through education, hunters and non-hunters alike will help make a bright future for the sport.
To register, contact TPWD Area Chief Charles Snowden at (903) 824-7045 or csnowdenjr@aol.com.

[ Note: This item is more than five years old. Please take the publication date into consideration for any date references. ]
[ Media Contact: TPWD News, news@tpwd.texas.gov, 512-389-8030 ]
[ Additional Contacts: Jim Booker, (903) 670-2266, james.booker@tpwd.texas.gov; Larry Hodge, (903) 670-2255, larry.hodge@tpwd.texas.gov ]
Aug. 23, 2011
Bluegill Family Fishing Tournament September 24 at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, City of Athens
ATHENS, Texas--The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center's annual Bluegill Family Fishing Tournament will take place this year on Saturday, September 24.
Numerous prize packages will be awarded, including an X-Box 360 with game, fishing equipment and gift cards from local businesses.
Sponsors of the event include the Lake Athens Property Owners Association, Aaron's Sales and Lease Ownership, Best Western Royal Mountain Inn, Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites - Athens, WalMart Supercenter of Athens, Cole Air Conditioning and Appliance, Chicken Express and First State Bank.
Sponsors also include Cabela's, Morrison Supply Company and Brookshire's Grocery. Brookshire's will provide free bottled water to contestants.
The tournament awards prizes for the heaviest stringers of sunfish, but the event is really about adults and children having fun fishing together.
Teams must consist of one adult 18 years of age or older and one child under 18 years of age. Each team can weigh in a maximum of four fish. Multiple teams can fish from the same boat, making it possible for both parents to partner with different children and still fish as a family. Team members are not required to be related.
Teams may choose to fish either on Lake Athens, which is adjacent to TFFC, or in TFFC's ponds and streams, some of which have been stocked with bluegills.
Anglers who plan to fish on Lake Athens are advised to check lake and boat ramp conditions before going to be sure water levels will permit launching. Contact the City of Athens, (903) 675-5131.
All species of sunfish or bream (except largemouth bass) are allowed; for information on identifying them, see http://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/water/aquaticspecies/inland.phtml.
Pre-registration is required. Mail registration must be received by Wednesday, September 21. To download an entry form, go to http://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/nonpwdforms/media/bluegill_flyer.doc.
To request a registration form by mail, call (903) 670-2222.
You may register in person on the day of the event by going to the admissions booth at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center AFTER 7:00 a.m.
A $15 entry fee per team will be charged. The entry fee includes admission to TFFC. Fishing will take place from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., with the weigh-in at the Anglers Pavilion at TFFC at 2:30.
For more information or to request an entry form, contact Craig Brooks at (903) 670-2222.