This story starts in a lake in Schenectady, NY. Seems a young man hooked himself an an alligator gar — unusual fish for that area, native of Mississippi. He kept it long enough to have a photo taken, then, as a responsible Catch and Release angler, tossed it back.
The photo found its way to Facebook, which eventually led to several keenly interested and concerned parties at the state environmental protection agency. The organized a trip to the lake to find and confiscate what they correctly identified as an invasive and potentially destructive species. Speculation is it was in somebody’s fish tank, got too big, and well, you know the rest. Alligators in the NY subway. Pythons in the Everglades. French Canadians on Dania Beach.
The state agents came up empty, but figured no big deal — just one fish, and it won’t survive an upper NY state winter anyway. But then the mayor decided to make a game of it, and offered a $100 reward to whoever caught it.
And then the fun began.
Since [Mayor] McCarthy’s offer, the park, moribund even on an August day, according to residents, has been packed. Its shoreline bristles with anglers of all ages. At Goldstock’s Sporting Goods, in nearby Scotia, weekly sales of rods have quintupled to 25 a week. “I love it, are you kidding?” an owner, Mike Kausch, 61, said, referring to the gar. “I should put one out there every couple days!”
When weeks went by with no gar sightings, suspicions surfaced instead. Maybe the whole thing was a set-up? A fish tale? A marketing plan that struck gold? Or —
Sitting in his rocking chair at Wiggly Worm Bait and Fishing Supply, in Ballston Lake, a few miles away, William Ingles, the shop’s 92-year-old founder, had a theory: “You say, ‘Wait a minute. All of a sudden we got 30, 40, 50 ones out there trying to catch this fish, and all of a sudden nobody’s catching it?’” Perhaps, he mused, the gar was already gone. “What would you do if someone caught the fish, and ate the fish, and everyone’s still out there fishing?”
Fall arrives early in Schenectady, so we might never know. Meanwhile, there are rumors that the Florida Tourist Board has reached out to the young angler about coming down to Lake Okeechobee, where thanks to the algae blooms, fishing is dead. What if he just happened to catch something exotic, say, like a mermaid, snapped a photo, then released it back? Would that jump-start the season? Worth a try, innit?
The rogue gar has been officially apprehended! [via]