Longnose Gar Arrowed By Bow Fisherman Smashes Virginia State Record

A man holding a fish
Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources

The long list of fishing records that have been broken in 2021 continues to grow longer by the week it seems.

This time a Virginia bow fisherman has broken the state record for longnose gar, a prehistoric looking species of fish named after its long boney snout.

It’s the 3rd gar fishing record broken this year.

The Missouri state record for spotted gar was previously broken by a 10-pound 9-ounce fish and another Missouri state record was also broken by 32-pound 10-ounce longnose gar earlier this year.

The longnose gar arrowed by Shawn Kennedy on Virginia’s Pamunkey River reportedly tipped the scales at 23-pounds and comfortably eclipsed the 21-pound existing record from 2019.

The fish measured a lengthy 4-feet 6-inches long and a girthy 17.5-inches around.

“Once I got it up next to the boat, I realized how big it was. 

I was like ‘wow!’ I have a 55-gallon drum that I put my catch in. I knew right away that it wasn’t going to fit in there. It was bigger than any I’d gotten before.”

Had it not been for bad weather where he previously intended on fishing, Kennedy may not have been in the right place at the right time.

“There were storms all over the area that night. It didn’t look like the storms were predicted to come down the Pamunkey River.

I didn’t really know that river very well. I wanted to just explore it and head in a new direction on it.”

He has been bow fishing since 2018 after becoming frustrated by the slow pace and unreliable bites that conventional fishing methods were providing. Kennedy spent 12-years in the Marine Corps and now his job at a metal yard keeps him from fishing as much as he would like, but he still gets out on the water to bow-fish at least once a month, and he prefers that method to just casting lines for fish.

Longnose gar are his favorite fish to target because they’re such a unique species and looking for them at night is a different than other types of fishing experiences.

“You’re constantly moving. 

Most other times if you’re fishing, you’re just sitting there. But with bowfishing, you cruise through creeks and are constantly exploring. You’ve got lights on the boat at night, and you see beavers, turtles, and all kinds of different aquatic life.

I knew all the tales that they’re a trash fish and eat up more fish than their body weight.

But they’re actually pretty cool. I’ve heard that Native Americans used their scales and skins for body armor. And their scales can be razor-sharp. I learned that on the first one I ever got on a boat. 

I was in shorts and sandals, and I thought because it had an arrow in it, and it was flopping around, that all the blood I was seeing was from the fish.

I put my legs in the water to wash them off, and the blood came right back. I was like, ‘well, I guess I’m the one bleeding.’”

Unlike many people, Kennedy also readily eats longnose gar and even equated the meat to a venison tenderloin.

However, he donated this fish to the Virginia Department of Wildlife resources so biologists can analyze the dead fish for toxins, age, dietary habits, and more. The agency has never had the chance to study a fish that size.

“Your heart rate gets up when you see them, and you miss most of the time.

Then the fish is gone.

I went ahead and took a chance. You miss every shot you don’t take, anyway.”

He says bigger fish are out there and he intends to keep fishing, though being able to stick an arrow in a new state record is something he will never forget.

Congratulations to Shawn Kennedy from Providence Forge, Virginia, for achieving a new Virginia Archery State Record Longnose Gar! Shawn arrowed this 23-pound longnose gar from the Pamunkey River. The fish measured 4 feet 6 inches, had a girth of 17 1/2 inches.

After biologist verification and review by the State Record Committee, Mr. Kennedy’s catch was certified and is recognized. The previous record was held by Blake Deal with a 21 pound, 13 ounce longnose gar captured from Lake Gaston in 2019.

Congratulations to Shawn Kennedy from Providence Forge, Virginia, for achieving a new Virginia Archery State Record…

Posted by Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources on Tuesday, September 7, 2021

If you plan on doing any fishing in Virginia, then be sure you purchase a fishing license.

The sale of fishing licenses directly funds the protection and enhancement of public boat ramps, aquatic environments, and fish populations in all 50 states.

It also protects you from potentially being fined, having your gear confiscated, and/or losing your fishing privileges. It’s important to remember that just because you have a fishing license in one state, that does not mean it is valid in another state. Also please keep in mind that in states like Virginia, you oftentimes need separate licenses for fishing coastal and freshwaters respectively.

And as always, please fish responsibly and save the whiskey until after you’re off the water.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock