Record gar caught in the YazooLocal anglers land 234-pound fish that broke trophy fishing mark

Published 12:01 pm Friday, July 8, 2011

In addition to the many other things Warren County is famous for, it’s fast on its way to becoming known as the alligator gar capital of the world.

For the second time this year, a record-breaking gar was caught in the county. Vicksburg residents Robert Belk, Talor Belk and Randy Rippy hauled in a 234-pounder while bowfishing in the Yazoo River on June 24.

It’s a state record for trophy fishing — defined as using gear other than a hook-and-line pole — and easily beat the old record of 175 pounds taken in the Pearl River near Columbia in 1993.

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It also joins the 327-pound alligator gar caught in February by Kenny Williams as local leviathans. Williams’ fish, caught in Eagle Lake, was the biggest ever found in the world. However, since it was caught in a commercial net, it does not qualify for any state records.

“I think it’s the proximity to the Mississippi River. The flooding allowed them to get out there in other waters,” Dennis Riecke, Fisheries Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said of the presence of huge gar in northern Warren County.

“It’s good to see there’s still fish that size in the lower Mississippi River and Yazoo River basin,” Riecke added.

Rippy and the Belks have seen large alligator gar in the area before, but few that even approached this size.

“We knew it was big. When we finally pulled it in, we were shocked. The last one I killed was right at 160 pounds and this one made it look like a minnow,” Robert Belk said.

The trio of fishermen was on the Yazoo River when their whopper came calling. Robert Belk was in a boat with Rippy, while his 11-year-old son Talor was fishing from the bank.

Talor Belk spotted the gar and alerted the older fishermen, but was afraid to shoot such a large fish. Not realizing how big the gar was, Robert Belk instructed his son to shoot anyway. Talor finally did, and hit the gar just above the eye, but the arrow barely pierced its thick scales.

Moments later, the gar surfaced closer to the boat and Robert Belk and Rippy each fired simultaneously. One arrow hit near the gills and the other went into the body. The two fishermen collected Talor and spent the next 30 minutes reeling in and landing the fish.

“It was tough,” Robert Belk said. “When we first got it beside the boat, most of the time we were following it with the boat.”

From there, Belk said he called a game warden to alert him of a potential record catch. The fish was then taken to Keyes Recycling on U.S. 61 North for measurement. Keyes has certified scales and was also where Williams weighed his massive gar in February.

The female gar landed by Rippy and the Belks checked in at 234 pounds, was 7 feet, 2 inches in length, and measured 431⁄2 inches around.

Williams’ gar is expected to eventually go on display in the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, but the latest catch will have a more low-key exhibit. Belk said it’s being mounted as a trophy for his home.

Belk also joked that, although hauling in the gar was certainly a team effort, he’d be the one keeping the trophy.

“I’m paying for it, so I’ll probably keep it,” he said with a laugh. “Maybe we can keep it in between (Rippy’s) house and my house.”