KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — As the weather warms and more people are getting out on the water, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is asking people to keep an eye out for Alligator Gar.

The Alligator Gar is among the largest freshwater fish found throughout North America. The largest ever documented was more than 8 feet long, weighing more than 300 pounds. They can also live to be upwards of 60 years old.

Due to lost and declining populations in Tennessee, the Alligator Gar is listed as a protected species. It is illegal to specifically fish for or target Alligator Gar, so if caught they must be released.

To gain a great idea of how many Alligator Gar are in the state, the TWRA is asking anyone who sees or accidentally catches one to let them know. This will provide important information needed to monitor Alligator Gar populations. In addition, anglers will receive a special certificate to remember the awesome catch.

The information can be submitted by filling out the Alligator Gar Angler Report Form online, by emailing or by calling the Fisheries Division at 615-781-6575.

The Alligator Gar is just one of four gar species found in Tennessee. The other species are Spotted Gar, Longnose Gar, and Shortnose Gar. Alligator Gar can be identified by its distinct short, wide snout like an alligator when viewed from above according to the TWRA.

From left, Alligator Gar, Longnose Gar, Spotted Gar, Shortnose Gar. Photo from Etnier, David A., and Wayne C. Starnes. The Fishes of Tennessee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993.

For more information about, Alligator Gar visit the TWRA’s website.