Almost Killed By An Alligator Garfish

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Twenty years ago this week I was running a trotline in a deep hole in the Sabine River. My cousin Frank Moore and I had trotlines about 200 yards apart and had been catching a few blue catfish.

This was in the middle of winter and we were targeting huge blue catfish. In previous days I had several large hooks straightened and had visions of 75-pound blues in my mind.

As I went to check my line, I noticed most it was not parallel to the shore but drifting out across the deep, instead of on the edge. The line had been cut (or so I thought).

Immediately not so kind words flowed through my mouth to whoever cut the line but then as I started to pull it in something happened.

The line moved!

I pulled in a little more and felt great weight at the end of the line and soon realized I had a seven-foot long alligator garfish on my line. In the Moore family, gar trump blue cats any day of the week so I was excited and even more so when I saw the huge gar barely moving.

Gar will often drown on trotlines (seriously) and this one looked a little worse for the wear so I though it would be easy pickings.

I pulled the line up to the beast, hooked my gaff under the only soft spot on the fish, which is directly below the jaw. I jammed it in there good to make sure it would hold and to see how lively the fish was. It literally did not budge. The fish was alive but did not seem lively.

I then took a deep breath, mustered up all the strength I had since this was a 200-pound class fish and heaved the gar into the boat. That is when the big fish woke up.

It pulled back with full force and all of a sudden I found myself headed down into 30 feet of water with the gar. In an instant I realized one of the other hooks on the trotline had caught in my shoe and I was now attached to 200 pounds of toothy fury.

I had just enough time to take a breath and went under.

All I could focus on was getting back to the surface and toward the light. I am not sure how deep I went but according to my cousin who was just down the shore from me, I did not stay under very long. A 200-pound gar and a 200-pound young man snapped the lead on the line but the hook amazingly remained in my shoe as a reminder I was very near death. Make sure not to run trotlines alone. That was my first mistake.

Also be careful to run the line along the side of your boat and not allow the hooks to fall in the boat. That was where I messed up. Catching fish on trotlines is loads of fun but it can be dangerous. Just make sure your desire to catch fish does not override safety as it did for me in the heat of the moment. In case you did not notice, this was the story from my introduction. It was my closest call with death in the great outdoors and looking back it is evident God was not through with me.

Chester Moore, Jr.

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