Angler Practices and Preferences for Managing Alligator Gar in Texas

Some anglers have questioned Texas’ statewide one-a-day alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) regulation. Simulations suggested other regulations might be preferred; however, angler support for other regulations was unknown. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) administered an online survey in summer 2018 to measure attitudes and preferences of Texas alligator gar anglers. Respondents who fished for alligator gar (= 3980) were primarily Texas resident anglers; 68% fished for gar using a rod-and-reel, but 23% used bow-and-arrow. Most anglers supported using length limits for reducing harvest, regardless of their primary gear. Whereas 40% of anglers fished for alligator gar to eat, most anglers rarely harvested fish, despite having the opportunity to harvest one fish daily. Overall, most anglers supported the use of localized catch-and-release regulations to promote trophy alligator gar fisheries; however, whereas rod-and-reel anglers strongly supported these regulations, bow anglers were more evenly split. Most anglers supported mandatory reporting of harvested alligator gar (68% of rod-and-reel anglers and 58% of bow anglers). Many anglers were unsure whether there was a consumption advisory on their primary waterbody, but 47% had concerns about the water quality where they fished. Of those, 43% agreed that poor water quality caused them to reduce their days fishing. Improving awareness of consumption advisories, regulating harvest to younger fish via length limits, or the development of catch-and-release only fisheries in some places may be useful and acceptable management options. To balance the resiliency of alligator gar stocks with the diversity of desires from constituents TPWD has a statewide one fish daily bag on most waterbodies, and in 2019 imposed a 122-cm TL maximum length limit along with an annual quota of no more than 160 alligator gar larger than 122 cm specifically on the Trinity River. Texas also has mandatory harvest reporting for most waterbodies.

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