Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
New Technique for Alligator Gar Production at Tishomingo NFH Sets Record
Southwest Region, August 15, 2013
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Alligator gar lurk at the water’s surface to find their next meal.
Alligator gar lurk at the water’s surface to find their next meal. - Photo Credit: Tishomingo NFH/USFWS

Alligator gar have been reared in specially stocked forage ponds for years at the Tishomingo NFH. Known as extensive culture, this method is low maintenance, but also low in survival. Some challenges of the extensive culture method for growing alligator gar include keeping forage fish densities high enough to reduce cannibalism, changing forage sizes as the gar grow quickly, and monitoring growth and survival in different ponds.


For the 2013 growing season, the Missouri Department of Conservation requested an increase in alligator gar production. To meet this requested increase, hatchery staff stocked four ponds with gar fry as usual, but also attempted to rear the fish intensively.  Fry stocked at high densities were used in indoor tanks while feed training to accept artificial feeds.

At the end of the growing season the extensive method resulted in about an 11% survival rate compared to the 22% survival rate of their intensively reared siblings. While the pond-cultured gar cost less in labor, the intensively-reared gar successfully addressed the chief concerns associated with pond culture; fish densities could be kept high, artificial feed sizes could be changed quickly, and growth and survival were easily monitored.

The end result of production by both methods yielded 6,101 gar at an average length of seven and a half inches, which was about three inches of growth per month and a stark increase from the typical annual production of several hundred fish. All fish were transferred to the Missouri Department of Conservation to be stocked in 2013 and 2014.

The intensive rearing method of alligator gar used for the 2013 growing season at the Tishomingo NFH demonstrated the potential to produce gar with significantly better survival, thus allowing hatchery staff to more accurately raise needed numbers of gar, while providing a more reliable source of fish for requesting agencies.

Story submission by Ralph Simmons, Assistant Project Leader, Tishomingo National Fish Hatchery.

Contact Info: Jessie Jobs, 505-248-6970, jessie_jobs@fws.gov
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