WARD – Bryson Harpole of Ward didn’t only set a new bar for shortnose gar in Arkansas’s fishing records on Nov. 1, 2016; he crushed the old record for unrestricted tackle. His bowfishing catch from Cypress Bayou WMA weighed an impressive 11 lbs. 12 oz., and measured over a yard long at 36.8 inches. The previous record, held by Robert Perkins of Conway and taken in Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir in 1998 was 6 lbs. 12 oz.
“This gar was nearly double the old state record, and was much larger than most shortnose gar we see,” said Matt Horton, habitat biologist at the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Mayflower office. Horton says the species rarely gets much larger than 4 pounds, and larger specimens can closely resemble spotted gar, so extra precautions were taken to ensure a positive identification.
“In some cases, the lack of spotting can be the only way to positively identify shortnose, and in larger specimens of spotted gar, their spots can fade and are very hard to see,” Horton said. “We had a few biologists, including our gar expert, Eric Brinkman, positively identify the fish through photographs and in person to make sure it was a shortnose.”
The catch also surpassed the 9 lb. 6 oz. shortnose gar record for hook-and-line angling. Unrestricted tackle methods of take include bowfishing, snagging, and passive fishing devices such as trotlines and yo-yos.
“The IGFA doesn’t recognize bowfishing as a legitimate capture method for hook-and-line records,” said Horton. “But I believe Mr. Harpole was looking into other organizations that qualified bowfishing records to see if he could claim a world record with the catch.”