Illinois considers reintroducing alligator gar to waterways

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NEW ATHENS, IL (KPLR) – Thar be gar in these here waters! Alligator gar in the Kaskaskia River, to be specific.

“Yup,” said Tony Hilker, chef at River House Chef. “Yeah, you’ll see them jump all the time.”

They tend to roost near the River House in New Athens. Locals have seen two-foot long versions of the prehistoric fish once considered extinct in Illinois.

“Most of the fish itself is all head,” Hilker said. “The body is really small. They look just like an alligator attached to a fish’s body.”

And now the Illinois House and Senate want to reintroduce the frightening looking fish to its native waterways. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been prepping a program to reintroduce the largest fish native to Illinois.

“I know people are worried about their size and they look scary,” said Nick Beishir, Kaskaskia River boater. “…I boated north of Grafton on the Illinois River my whole childhood and teenaged years. We never had a problem or got attacked. We caught them on fishing poles. They were always out there.”

Whether a fish tale or not, it’s been said the gar can grow up to eight-feet long and weigh 300 pounds.

They possibly eat the invasive Asian carp making their way up Illinois rivers, like the Kaskaskia.

“If they’ll control these carp that are drastically out of hand, I think they’re good for out here,” Beishir said.