English name: alligator gar.
Scientific name: Atractosteus spatula.
Thai name: plaa jarakay (alligator fish) or ah-li-gay-terr (Thai way of pronouncing “alligator”)
Description: The alligator gar is one strange looking fish. With a long alligator-like jaw lined with saw-like razor-sharp teeth and a long body covered in hard scales, the fish looks like it was something lost from the prehistoric era that just decided to stop evolving. Gloves should be worn when handling a large specimen as their scales can become quite abrasive and caution should be practiced since their snapping jaws can easily tear flesh.
It is not a native fish and originally from North America. They have been imported to Thailand as ornamental and sports fish but some have escaped into the wild and thrive in some local waters. These carnivores are known to easily grow over 150cm. In fact, they are the largest freshwater fish in America and have been recorded to grow over 250cm and weighing over 140kg in weight.
As a sports fish the alligator gar is definitely growing in popularity as more and more fishing ponds are stocking this viscous fish. It’s crazy looking, has an armor of scales, flesh-tearing teeth and it grows to ridiculous sizes, what more would a fisherman want?
How to catch them: Lure fishermen will find pretty good success with this fish by using a slowly retrieved swimbait. Lures should be of tougher variety as the jaws of the alligator gar can easily crush most hollow lures. They have also been known to take flies.
As for bait fishing, live juvenile walking catfish are quite a popular bait for them. In fishing ponds they are usually trained to feed on chopped mackerel or tilapia or even live tilapia.
Tastiness: Although they are not seen as table fish here in Thailand they are considered a delicacy in the United States.