Art Weston is at it again. The dedicated record hunter, boasting numerous entries in the IGFA, with six line-class records for alligator gar under his belt, some already approved while others await verification. Among his latest achievements is a 251-pounder he reeled in on April 16 from the Trinity River, currently awaiting review within the 80-pound line class category.
The native of Kentucky has once again landed an enormous alligator gar during an excursion with his fishing guide, Captain Kirk Kirkland, aboard his aptly named vessel, the “Garship Enterprise.”.
As a dedicated record hunter, Weston is a member of the International Game Fish Association, where he has gained global recognition for his angling prowess. This particular trip aimed to shatter line class records by capturing the largest fish within a specific pulling force limit.
“I have a few of those line-class records already, and on this September 2023 trip, I had a plan to go after the 12-pound line-class record first, given I felt it was the most obtainable,” he said. “The record to beat was just under 130 pounds.”
While in conversation, Kirkland shared a promising location in Texas’ Sam Rayburn Lake for light fishing lines with Weston. This spot featured a sandy bottom with minimal snags, but Kirkland also cautioned that it might not harbor many fish. Despite this, Weston’s determination to set new records led him to embrace the risk.
According to his guide, Kirk Kirkland, the angler “was shaking and visibly fatigued” by the time he landed the enormous fish.
On the initial day of their week-long expedition, the duo reached their destination and anchored their boat. They didn’t have to wait long before one of the reels started spinning rapidly. A remarkable 169-pound alligator gar marked the first of two massive fish they managed to hook before encountering the reigning monarch of the waters.
Reeling in the 283-pound fish on a 6-pound test line and meeting the IGFA record requirements was no small feat, taking them 2 hours and 45 minutes of relentless effort. Nevertheless, it was a formidable challenge well worth the pursuit.
Weston thought he might lose the catch.
“I was dreading it at this point, as I have fought other fish past the two-hour mark and have had the line just randomly break, and I just was not getting enough pressure on it. I don’t like to admit it, but I wear a small fighting belt for exactly these situations, as it makes it a lot easier to relax your arm muscles if you can put the butt of the rod in the belt,” he said.
The fish remained in constant motion, refusing to pause, yet Weston couldn’t exert too much pressure due to the delicate line. Despite the fisherman’s persistent efforts, he never managed to get a clear glimpse of the fish as it darted, dashed, and rolled beneath the water’s surface. However, he was certain it was a sizable catch.
After an arduous 2 hours and 20 minutes, Weston finally caught a glimpse of the leader’s tip, which extended nearly 6 feet just beneath the water’s surface. He trailed the fish for over 10 minutes, unable to draw it any nearer but succeeding in elevating the leader approximately 4 inches above the water and maintaining pace with the elusive fish for another 10 minutes.
“I said, ‘Kirk, she is coming up!’ ” Weston exclaimed as he was now ready to land her when she surfaced. “I remember yelling, ’Oh my God! That’s a monster!’ and this is after landing a 251-pound gar this last April. I had never seen a gar that big before.”
As Weston explained, successfully landing large alligator gar entails the challenge of securing a rope around them. This task often necessitates multiple tries, as these fish have a tendency to avoid staying at the surface for extended periods, as they require air to breathe and often swim back down.
Kirkland managed to get a rope on the fish on his initial attempt. However, to their disappointment, the fish wasn’t finished and promptly dove beneath the surface, causing Kirkland to suffer severe rope burns in the process.
“He yelled out, and was clearly in pain, but still got her secured at the side of the boat, taking over 10 minutes and multiple ropes,” Weston said.
When they arrived at the shore to weigh the catch, the tripod supporting the scale nearly buckled as one of its legs started to bend under the immense weight of the fish being raised above ground level.
“I was ready to snap a picture of the weight once the tail was off the ground, and I said ‘Holy [expletive], it’s 283 pounds,” Weston yelled.
It measured a staggering 48 inches in girth and an impressive 100 inches in length – a genuine 8-foot 4-inch behemoth!
Weston emphasized the importance of quickly returning the massive fish to the water to allow it to recover.
The ropes that had been secured to the creature were expertly detached by both individuals, who also ensured the fish was meticulously cleaned before capturing a few extra photographs. Subsequently, they returned it to the water, enabling it to flourish and await its next aquatic journey.
The gar measured a massive 48 inches around and 100 inches long. A true 8-foot 4-inch monster!
“What an accomplishment, lots of blood, sweat, and tears (and broken line) went into this achievement. Angler and world-record chaser Art Weston and I did what no other alligator gar angler has been able to accomplish in 72 years … catch a fish bigger than the all-tackle world record set so many years ago on the banks of the Rio Grande River.”
Undoubtedly, the record established by Bill Valverde in 1951 has assumed an almost legendary status within Texas fishing folklore. The World War II veteran is legendary for catching the gar using a homemade bamboo rod baited with mullet, originally targeting catfish.
Valverde’s remarkable catch not only has held the top spot on the IGFA’s list for nearly seventy-five years but also stands as the heaviest officially documented freshwater fish ever landed on a rod and reel in Texas. Furthermore, it maintains its status as the longest-standing freshwater rod-and-reel record in the state’s history. Reportedly measuring 93 inches in length and weighing 279 pounds, this colossal fish was weighed at a local meat market. It’s worth noting that Valverde even transported the massive fish home, secured to his spare tire, with its tail trailing along the entire journey.