Where in the West Is Mark Spitzer?

Mark Spitzer loves fish and he loves to fish. As a nationally known author (Seasons of the Gar, Return of the Gar), writing about fish and their issues is what he does best. In this blog series, Spitzer shares his experiences traveling the American West while researching a select number of freshwater fish that are often considered monstrous or freaky or hideously grotesque. Don’t miss the full version of this incredible tale, which can be found in Beautifully Grotesque Fish of the American West (heading downstream in 2017).

Seven-foot Gator Gar. Photo by Dawson Hefner
Gator Gar. Photo by Dawson Hefner

I caught this 6-foot-10, 135-pound living grotesque in the Trinity River during research for my alligator gar chapter, and it wasn’t even the biggest fish of that trip. I also caught a 163-pound, Baby Huey mutant gar with an itty-bitty mangled tail. It was the best fishing day of my life, in which I caught over 500 pounds of gator gar in one day, ranging from six to seven feet long. And the next day I caught five more of these beautiful monsters, which I released as well.

The real story, however, has less to do with gar-success and more to do with getting my ass kicked. In the first half of the chapter I get my Jeep and trailer marooned in the mud, I have to trash out in the parking lot of a barrio with two blown tires, and when I finally get my boat on the river the floodwaters wash my island away, so I spend the night clinging to a cliff waiting for a mudslide to bury my tent.

There’s usually an environmental angle for the freshwater species I investigate, but for this chapter the story that develops is more about overcoming obstacles. The monkey wrenches mentioned above, which were flung into my life, were nothing compared to the death and destruction I was dealing with at that time. And gar, believe it or not, turn out to be the cure.

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Throughout the narrative, I examine the ever-evolving fishery management for alligator gar in Texas, provide a general overview of my lifelong gar research, throw in some how-to techniques for landing lunker gator gar, and tell some pretty whacked-out gar tales along the way. So let’s call this chapter an optimistic gar goulash―with redemption offered in the end.

-Mark Spitzer

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