PARSONS (KSNT) – A Kansas man coiled up a prehistoric fish, which some have called a “living fossil,” marking the first time it has been documented in Kansas – a historic moment for the state.
In an exclusive interview with the Kansas Capitol Bureau, Danny Lee “Butch” Smith, the angler who caught the fish, spoke for the first time about the remarkable catch.
âMy poor little oar of a boat, it went together. He just broke it, âSmith said of the moment he hoisted the huge fish onto his boat.
Smith is no stranger to big fish fishing. On Thursday, he had just caught a nearly 30-pound Big River blue catfish, or what he calls a “Mississippi White.” However, on a hot night at the end of last month, he was shocked to find out what was on the end of his line.
âI got him into the boat and I could see some teeth grinding, I knew he wasn’t normal. I mean he looked like a baby alligator, âSmith said.
The keen fisherman was not far away. Biologists identified the fish as an almost 40-pound, 4.5-foot Gar alligator. The fish is the largest of its kind and dates back almost 100 million years, but it is not native to Kansas.
âWe have three native species of gar in Kansas. We have a long nose, a short spotted nose. It was really a surprise when I got the phone call and got the impression that a gar alligator had been captured in the Neosho River, âsaid Connor Ossowski, Kansas Department of Wildlife & Wildlife Biologist. Parks Fisheries.
Wildlife experts say the Alligator Gar is easy to identify by its broad snout and vaguely resembles the American Alligator. It is normally found in southwestern Ohio, southeastern Missouri and Illinois, southern Gulf of Mexico, and a small portion of northeastern Mexico. It is a predatory fish sometimes referred to as a “living fossil,” according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
But the capital capture was found just east of Parsons on the Neosho River. Smith said he found the fish about “a mile downstream” from where he usually fished behind his property.
After giving it to biologists for research, they determined that the fish had not been tagged, so it was not part of a formal reintroduction effort.
On Thursday, Ossowski and his team met with Smith to take the first steps in extracting parts of the fish for examination using microchemistry to find out where it came from.
âWe extract otoliths, the bone in the inner ear. They deposit growth rings, so what we’re going to be able to get from the otoliths is the age of the fish and then also, there’s a new technology called microchemistry. When they deposit these growth rings they leave a unique water chemical signature and we will be able to tell each year of his life how long he spent in the Neosho River and where it came from, âOssowski said. .
As biologists perform tests, Smith says he has his own plans for the fish and cherishes the moment as one he will remember forever.
“I’m going to have it cleaned where there are only bones, so we open our mouths like that and put it in a display case.” It’s a piece of history. I mean it’s a Kansas-made story, they say.
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