NEWS: Texas angler hooks monster turtle before breaking alligator gar record

Art Weston, alongside his trusty guide Capt. Kirk Kirkland, hit the waters of Sam Rayburn Lake in East Texas with their eyes set on breaking records, but they ended up …

Art Weston, alongside his trusty guide Capt. Kirk Kirkland, hit the waters of Sam Rayburn Lake in East Texas with their eyes set on breaking records, but they ended up with more than they bargained for.

Their adventure kicked off in early April, aiming to set a new world record for alligator gar, but nature had a surprise in store—a massive 200-pound alligator snapping turtle that seemed to have swum right out of prehistory.

The morning of April 6 was intense. Kirkland described how they lost several potential record-breakers, battling one particularly stubborn fish for about 90 minutes before it escaped among the flooded timber near the Angelina River’s mouth. But the real twist came later when Weston, fishing for gar with a chunky piece of carp, snagged something extraordinary.

“It fought weird,” Kirkland noted, hinting at the unusual struggle that followed. It took Weston about half an hour to reel in what turned out to be a colossal alligator snapping turtle, not exactly pleased with being hoisted from its aquatic lair. Hooked accidentally by one of its front feet—a common mishap as these creatures tend to claw at bait—the turtle presented a unique challenge.

Turtle news
Turtle news

Kirkland, an experienced charter captain with years on these waters, knew handling this beast wouldn’t be easy. “There’s not much to grab, and they’re all about fighting back,” he explained. But with a careful grip on the shell and tail, they managed to secure the turtle aboard without harm.

The open-mouthed turtle, estimated to weigh around 200 pounds, was quickly unhooked and released back into the lake, adhering to Texas laws protecting this threatened species. This encounter could very well place it among the heaviest alligator snapping turtles ever caught in Texas.

But the action didn’t stop with the turtle. The next day, using the same rig—a 130-pound test braided wire leader on a 4-pound line—Weston hooked into a massive alligator gar. By midday, they had landed the beast, weighing it at roughly 188 pounds after a careful measurement on shore. This catch has the potential to smash the existing 4-pound line-class record by a significant margin.

Weston, a seasoned angler, is no stranger to the record books. Holding multiple line-class records for alligator gar, this addition could be his tenth IGFA world record for the species. His extensive collection of 38 IGFA world records spans 15 different fish species across six countries, mostly achieved using light lines.

Reflecting on the challenges of such feats, Weston shared a small secret: “I wear a small fighting belt for these situations. It lets you relax your arm muscles by resting the rod in the belt.”

These back-to-back encounters—first with a dinosaur-like turtle and then with a record-worthy alligator gar—underscore not just the unpredictability of fishing but also the thrill and the profound connection with nature it offers. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a casual fishing enthusiast, stories like these fuel the passion for the next big catch, reminding us why we keep casting our lines into the unknown.

So, as you plan your next fishing adventure, remember that it’s not just about the fish you catch, but the memories you make and the unexpected encounters that nature might throw your way. Who knows? You might just hook your own million-dollar fish or a creature from a bygone era.

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Rick Wallace is a passionate angler and fly fisher whose work has appeared in fishing publications including FlyLife. He's appeared in fishing movies, founded a successful fishing site and spends every spare moment on the water. He's into kayak fishing, ultralight lure fishing and pretty much any other kind of fishing out there.
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