Cockerham nets alligator gar in fishing net on Lake Concordia

Published 12:01 am Sunday, May 29, 2011

Ferriday resident Thomas “Buddy” Cockerham Jr. caught this 196-pound alligator gar while dragging his nets along the shallow waters of Lake Concordia May 17. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

FERRIDAY — It was a normal day at the office for Ferriday’s Thomas “Buddy” Cockerham Jr. He was dragging his nets along the shallow waters of Lake Concordia Tuesday, May 17, and checking his traps for his inventory of catfish and buffalo fish.

Cockerham is a commercial fisherman who is used to catching other people’s dinners on a daily basis, but on this day he would net an unexpected, and very large, gilled monster.

A 196-pound alligator gar managed to get its head stuck in one of the 10 catfish traps Cockerham has on Lake Concordia, and when Cockerham came across this trap he instantly found his catch of the day.

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“It was just a freak thing. I was running the catfish nets, and I guess it had gone and hit (the nets),” Cockerham said. “I was trying to get the catfish out of it, and I guess (the gar) had stuck his head through (one of the) round holes. I guess it was trying to swallow the catfish.”

“It was the biggest (gar) I’ve ever caught, but I’ve seen bigger. My daddy caught one on Lake St. John that was 254 pounds.”

Cockerham’s father, Tom, was also a commercial fisherman.

Netting the giant fish was the easy part, Cockerham said. The hard part was finding a way to get it in the boat by himself.

“It was pretty hard by myself. I just got him by the gills and pulled and finally just flopped him in the boat,” Cockerham said. “Once I got his head half-way in the boat, and I (could) put my foot on his head I grabbed his tail and rolled him in.”

Once Cockerham got the massive fish, which he estimated at approximately 8-feet long, in his 14-foot boat there was not a whole lot of room left for him to maneuver. But he kept fishing and checking his traps for approximately 30 minutes and then went home, he said.

At first Cockerham thought he had caught an alligator, he said.

“The alligators will try to get hold (of the fish) and they will get tangled,” Cockerham said.

The gar was found in shallow water on Lake Concordia, Cockerham said.

“Big fish like shallow waters, especially alligator gars,” Cockerham said. “Everyone I ever heard of being caught was in shallow water.”

The gar had killed several of the fish caught in the trap and destroyed the net, Cockerham said.

“He chewed up the net and the fish, and I had to throw that (trap) away, (but) I got plenty,” Cockerham said.

Cockerham said a lot of his friends and family were eager to see evidence of the fish.

“Everybody wanted to see a picture of it to see how big it was,” Cockerham said. “It was the biggest one I’ve ever caught, but (you never know) someone will probably catch a bigger one tomorrow.”

Cockerham said he ate some of the massive gar himself but sold most of it.