The Mississippi River is famous for producing wild stories about alligator hunting. It seems it can produce some off-beat tales about alligator gar, too.
On April 22, Hughes Skinner of Madison and Hayden Speed of Flora broke the Mississippi state record for alligator gar, as recognized by the Bowfishing Association of America, with an 8-foot, 223-pound entry.
It was quite a catch, and a better story, which was first reported by The Clarion-Ledger newspaper.
“I’d gone out there and put three fish in the boat over 100 pounds the weekend before,” Skinner said. “We hoped to put another in the boat.”
Skinner and Speed first encountered only smaller gar, so Skinner said they went in search of a new area with bigger critters.
Speed was on the deck looking for fish while Skinner was driving the boat when Speed saw something he couldn’t believe about 150 yards away.
“This fish was so big I could see it from 150 yards,” he said.
Speed alerted Sinner about the “giant fish,” and both got on the front deck and dropped the trolling motor in to silently approach within 5 yards of the gar.
They both had their bows at draw and released arrows toward the gar.
“It didn’t move,” Speed said. “I thought we missed. I literally looked at Hughes and thought we missed.”
Said Skinner: “The fish took a gulp of air and slowly went down. He didn’t even know he was hit.”
But when the two tightened their lines, the fish apparently figured out something was wrong.
Then, it took the two men and the boat for a ride.
Skinner said the fish took off, and there was no stopping it. It dragged the men and boat for about a half-mile down a chute at trolling-motor speed.
The battle that ensued took almost an hour before the men got the tiring fish under control and got a rope around him. It took everything they had, Skinner said, to get the monster into the boat.
Knowing it was extremely large, Skinner and Speed immediately left and took the fish to be weighed on certified scales. Lightning was about to strike twice for Skinner.
“He was cranking it, and I saw the numbers go up,” he told The Clarion-Ledger. “When it hit 225 (pounds) I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ When it settled down to 223, I couldn’t believe it.”
Making the story even better is that the 182-pound record recognized by the Bowfishing Association of America that Skinner and Speed broke belonged to Skinner and another friend, Kevin Meacham, taken in 2018.
“I beat the record twice in two years,” Skinner said. “To do it once is crazy. To do it again is unreal. It was incredible.”