Ultra-rare ‘living fossil’ older than the dinosaurs caught by stunned fishermen

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    A father and son fishing trip ended with the pair landing a record-breaking beast that is older than the dinosaurs.

    Keith Dees and his son Huntley were on their annual Thanksgiving fishing trip on the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Alabama, last November.

    They had already landed several redfish and largemouth bass before Dees snagged something far bigger.

    READ MORE: Schoolboy, 12, catches monster 11ft great white shark weighing 500lb on trip with mum

    He said in a Facebook post: "About 11:30 we decided to fish one more spot. I made a cast and about half way back to the boat my chatterbait just went slack.

    "Reeling as fast as I could, I got it tight just before I saw a big fish swim by my trolling motor. Had no idea what it was until it surfaced after about 30 minutes."

    Speaking to Outdoor Alabama, the official website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Dees said he thought it was just another redfish at first.

    "We were laughing and joking about what I had," he said. "Then I thought it might be a big black drum."

    It took him about two hours of fighting to get the fish up to the boat. It wasn't a redfish or a drum, but an alligator gar – a terrifying-looking freshwater fish dating back over 100million years (35m years before the last dinosaurs went extinct).

    Concerned his rod would snap, it took Dees and his son three tries to get a rope around the fish's head to drag it onto their boat.

    “When he hit the boat, we cut up like two schoolgirls, like nobody is going to believe this happened,” he said.

    The fish was officially weighed at Orange Beach Marina and tipped the scales at 162lbs, surpassing the previous Alabama state record by 11lbs.

    “When it comes up, I knew it was big, but I didn’t even remotely know it was a state record. That never crossed my mind," he said.

    Dees even had to call the DCNR to verify if they were allowed to keep the fish, which he planned to eat, and permission was granted.

    Alligator gar can grow to be around 7ft-long, although there is anecdotal evidence of some reaching 10ft.

    They are the largest species in the gar family, among the largest freshwater fish in North America, and are known as "living fossils" having retained some of the features of their prehistoric ancestors.

    They get their name from their long snouts, lined with razor-sharp teeth.

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