Spotted Gar Makes New State Record in Missouri

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“I saw the gar and knew it was big, so I went ahead and shot. I thought it might be a record,” said Eric Whitehead of Puxico.

It was.

Whitehead was bowfishing with his wife, Sara, from a boat on Wappapello Lake in Wayne County on Oct. 8 when they sighted a large spotted gar (Lepisosteus oculatus). He aimed his bow, shot and hauled in the fish at 11 p.m.

Bowfishing is a method that combines the skill of archery with the tradition of fishing, where anglers use archery equipment combined with a reel and line.

Whitehead, 30, has been hunting and fishing since he was 5 years old. His bowfishing experience spans 4 ½ years. He said he especially loves being out on the water and the possibilities of seeing extremely large fish.

“What’s not to love about bowfishing?” he asked. “I love all of it.”

After catching the gar, Whitehead contacted Conservation Agent Mic Plunkett, who assisted in weighing it at Bill’s Market in Puxico. It was 38 inches long and weighed 9 pounds, 15.5 ounces.

Although spotted gar are not popular game fish, they are prized targets for bowfishers. Missouri's previous alternate-methods record spotted gar also was taken from Wappapello Lake by archery. It weighed 9 pounds, 2 ounces and was taken by Jason Rhodes of O’Fallon in May 2007.

Spotted gar are native to North America and range from Lake Erie and southern Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico. They are most common in the Mississippi River Basin.

They get their name from dark spots on their bodies, heads and fins. Like other gar species, they have long bodies and elongated mouths full of teeth. Adult spotted gar typically grow to 20 to 30 inches long and weigh 4 to 6 pounds. They inhabit clear pools of shallow water in creeks, rivers and lakes. They can live to be 18 years old.

Whitehead said he intends to keep bowfishing and will continue the tradition with his wife and their two children, Austin, 1, and Hunter, 7. Hunter usually fishes with his parents but wasn’t along on Oct. 8. Sara, however, never misses a chance to bowfish with her husband.

“If my boat’s in the water, my wife’s in it with me,” Whitehead said.

More information about Missouri fishing records is available at


Retired2hunt's picture

  Congrats to Mr. Whitehead


Congrats to Mr. Whitehead on a fine new state record with surpassing the previous record by 13.5 ounces - great job!

Here is yet another positive article from the state of Missouri.  I am impressed as to what I have read on this state and their outdoor activities and how the actions of this state have provided so many positive outcomes.

The other part of this article that stands out is Mr. Whitehead comment - “If my boat’s in the water, my wife’s in it with me,” Whitehead said.  That is great that he has his wife with him for the outdoor activities.  You know by reading this that Mr. Whitehead will be bringing his children up with the same enthusiasm he has enjoyed with his bow fishing.

Personally - I have bow fished several times but nothing in the recent past.  I have shot some great bass as well as rid some lakes and ponds of lousy carp.  The main focus besides being accurate is judging the refraction of the sight of the fish.  YouTube has some great short videos of bow fishing.  Search it and you find some entertaining bow fishing videos.


numbnutz's picture

Congrats to Mr. Whitehead on

Congrats to Mr. Whitehead on the nice catch of this Gar. I think Gar are one of the ugliest creatures on this earth but hey who am I to judge. I think bowfishing would be all sorts of fun. It's popularity has taken off over the past few years. We have a few ponds in my area that have huge carp swimming around in them that need to be removed. I would love to do my part to remove this non native fish from our waters. When I get a new bow I plan to convert my current one into a bowfishing rig. I have heard it is a blast and want to try it for myself. I think in Ohio they have those flying carp and I think Man of the fall did a write up of a trip he took with Chris Bracket to bowfish these things. Again congrats on the Gar. I thaught those fish were a south American fish. I didn't know they were native to north America too. I guess you learn something new every day after all.