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Through the Lens

IDNR Unable to Stock Alligator Gar in 2018 Season

Sat, May 26, 2018

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) Division of Fisheries will be unable to meet its planned annual stocking of alligator gar in 2018 due to lack of available fish for the Illinois reintroduction program.

Alligator gar, the largest fish native to Illinois, largely disappeared from Illinois waters beginning in the 1970s. The IDNR began a reintroduction program for alligator gar in 2010, acquiring alligator gar fry, when available, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Private John Allen Fish Hatchery in Tupelo, Mississippi.

In previous years, fry obtained from the USFWS hatchery have been reared to stocking size at Illinois fish hatcheries for stocking in locations that have included the lower Kaskaskia River, Horseshoe Lake (Madison Co.), Powerton Lake (Tazewell Co.), and Sanganois State Fish and Wildlife Area (Cass and Mason counties).

“The source of alligator gar for IDNR, the USFWS in Mississippi, did not have a successful production year,” said IDNR Fisheries Chief Dan Stephenson. “USFWS hatchery manager Ricky Campbell sent us a letter that explains the problem:

“Things did not go well at all with alligator gar this year. Our second spawning attempt was identical to our first attempt in that we got 0% fertilization on eggs collected from all of our females. I am thinking it had a lot to do with that really warm snap that hit in February and the significant river rise that occurred during that same time frame. That event was very short lived and was followed by freezing temps for a long period of time while the fish were up on the floodplain trying to get geared up to spawn. But all of that is just my best guess as to why we never got any fertilized eggs.”

“The IDNR Division of Fisheries is disappointed, but we understand that when dealing with nature, things don’t always go as planned,” Stephenson added. “We intend to continue the alligator gar program with planned rearing and stockings in 2019.”

For more information on the alligator gar reintroduction effort in Illinois, go online to the I Fish Illinois website at…/alligatorgar_news.html