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Catching An Alligator Gar

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We've all heard fish stories about the one that got away. Enter Chris Hernandez of San Benito, Texas.

CHRIS HERNANDEZ: And as soon as I pulled on that rod and the way the rod bended (ph) and then my kayak just pulled forward also, you know, I was like, oh, I got a good-sized one. Little did I know that it was that big.

SIMON: How big? Seven feet long, tall enough to play in the NBA, 200 pounds - an "Old Man And The Sea" moment, albeit on a small local river. But like Hemingway's novella, a long struggle in a tiny, wobbly boat followed - 40 minutes for Chris Hernandez in a one-man kayak. Fortunately, the 44-year-old barber and father of six is also a triathlete.

HERNANDEZ: It's hard to explain. You know, if I pull the rod to my left, my body has to be to my right. You have to keep it balanced out. It just comes to you when you're doing it - you know, the adrenaline and everything. It's just like if you know how to do it, you know? I don't know. I don't know how to explain it.

SIMON: What was this beast? An alligator gar, so named because it actually does resemble an alligator, with teeth and scales so sharp and fearsome it's said they make good arrowheads, which you don't want to dig out of your leg. Chris Hernandez signaled his cousin on shore.

HERNANDEZ: Well, I get to the side, and I'm holding on to it with the gaff. And I'm like, hurry up, cous' (ph). Hurry up. Come get - come help me. Come help me. My cousin had to rake through brush and all kinds of stuff. So we had to pull it up the levee. You know, so we would do that one, two, three - let's pull. One, two, three - pull. And, like, man, it was so heavy. So then once we got it to the top, I just threw myself to the floor. And I was, like, just thanking God, you know? And, like, I thank you, God, for the blessing and for this fight. It was awesome. But it was a really, really intense fight, man. My body was just so tired, man. Like I said, at one point, I thought I was going to lose my rod to this dinosaur of a gar.

SIMON: So how does a dinosaur taste?

HERNANDEZ: As far as an alligator gar, the meat is really, really good. It doesn't taste like fish. And it does not have the texture of fish. It's like a chicken nugget. It's very, very delicious, brother. It's very good.

SIMON: All that effort just to eat an enormous chicken nugget? But Chris Hernandez's catch has become the talk of San Benito, especially at King Kuts, where he cuts hair.

HERNANDEZ: Everybody comes up here. It's a barber shop. So it's a big ol' topic, you know? And then like across the barber shop, they'll be like, hey, Chris, I heard about that gar you caught. Man, that was big, bro. And we'll be throwing the conversation back-and-forth here, you know? So there's no telling how long it's going to be going around, man - people who will be coming around and asking me. And I'll be more than glad to tell them.

(SOUNDBITE OF CAROLINA CHOCOLATE DROPS' "MAHALLA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.