Fighting Dinosaurs — Alligator Gar — on Hook and Line

If you want to know what it’s like to fight a dinosaur, then book a trip to Texas for ancient alligator gar.

Fighting Dinosaurs — Alligator Gar — on Hook and Line

Meet Henry Martin. While his name might sound like someone who prepares your taxes, you won’t find him behind a desk. You see, Henry is owner of Catching Dinosaurs Alligator Gar Guide Service.

“I have always had a fascination with toothy fish, the more teeth the better,” he wrote on his YouTube channel bio. “And the more misunderstood the better. The first time I saw an alligator gar, I was 11. I spent a solid week trying to catch 5-6 footers, and then came face to face with a true giant while canoeing the river. The gar I found that day started a lifetime passion for these fish.”

Henry Martin (right) is one of the top alligator gar guides in North America. His office is a muddy jon boat on the Trinity River in southeast Texas.
Henry Martin (right) is one of the top alligator gar guides in North America. His office is a muddy jon boat on the Trinity River in southeast Texas.

Henry loves to share this passion with other anglers who want to learn more about this often misunderstood river treasure:

“I have spent the last 6 years devoting myself to learning everything I could about catch-and-release angling for this species, and how to help the conservation of alligator gar in Texas. My guide service specializes in catch-and-release fishing on some of the largest and rarest fish on the planet. Conservation is the preservation of life on earth, and that, above all else, is worth fighting for."

When one of Henry’s clients hooks a massive alligator gar and finally brings it up next to the boat, Henry places a rope around the fish to control it. The rope doesn’t even leave a mark on the gar’s armor-like scales. If you want a good pic of yourself with your prized catch, you’ll have to get in the water because Henry never risks harming a giant gar by bringing it into the boat.
When one of Henry’s clients hooks a massive alligator gar and finally brings it up next to the boat, Henry places a rope around the fish to control it. The rope doesn’t even leave a mark on the gar’s armor-like scales. If you want a good pic of yourself with your prized catch, you’ll have to get in the water because Henry never risks harming a giant gar by bringing it into the boat.

As someone who loves fishing for whatever bites, especially in a muddy river, a trip to southeast Texas to share a couple days in a jon boat with Henry is high on my bucket list. I recently reached out to him about travel/trip details, and he was quick to reply.

“I charge $600 a day, and require a $100 deposit to hold your dates,” he said. “Flying into Houston is best. I prefer to guide on the Trinity River below Lake Livingston Dam near Livingston, Texas, which is about an hour north of Houston. You should stay in North Houston or Livingston, then rent a vehicle. My best months for gar are May through September.”

As you watch the video below, it should be clear Henry does everything possible to ensure the alligator gar his clients hook aren’t harmed during the fight-photo-release process. And Henry is hoping others will understand that these ancient fish need protection. While no one knows for sure, it’s estimated alligator gar can live 50 years, perhaps even 70 years.

“I have been doing what I can to have alligator gar classified as a sportfish in Texas, which would protect them from bowfishermen,” Henry said. “My understanding is that Trinity River alligator gar hadn’t spawned for a decade until this year because they need certain flood conditions. I don’t think many people realize how easy these awesome fish could be fished into extinction because they grow so slow.”

In the video below, you’ll learn a bit about the bait Henry uses to entice giant alligator gar. Spoiler: The bigger the bait, the better. They catch a 7-footer, which at the time for Henry and his clients was number 42 over 100 pounds for the year (2018). Just how big do they get? Check out this video of a gar Henry estimates weighed 240 pounds. It measured 8 feet 1 inch, and had a 40-inch girth. Incredible!



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