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Families come together to seek alligator gar in Central Park

Families come together to seek alligator gar in Central Park

A lot of people — many coming with their families — have traveled to Central Park in recent days as
Families come together to seek alligator gar in Central Park
Tyler Northup, 9, shows worms to his mother Megan Northup, lower right, and Amy Catellier as Lucas Northup, 7, goes for minnows at Central Park's Iroquois Lake Friday afternoon. The four traveled to Schenectady to try and catch the elusive alligator ga...
Photographer: STEVEN COOK/THE DAILY GAZETTE

The Northup family loves to go fishing, mom Megan said Friday.

They normally fish in canals and streams near their home in Hudson Falls. On Friday, though, Northup and her two boys, Tyler, 9, and Lucas, 7, made a special trip to Schenectady to try to catch Central Park’s elusive — and invasive — alligator gar.

“Oh, they were excited,” Northup said of the boys’ reactions upon hearing about the fish. “They wanted to come see if they could catch it. This is why we’re here.”

Northup was also there just spending time with her boys.

“It means time together, it means a lot,” Northup said. “I love doing this. This is what we always do.”

A lot of people — many coming with their families — have traveled to Central Park in recent days as word of the ancient and invasive fish’s presence spread, along with word a $100 city-offered reward for its capture.

On Friday afternoon, two dozen people could be seen on the shore as fishermen and women came and went.

Among those fishing were Devon Roopnarine; his wife, Sonya; and their son Nathan, 3. The three set up in the shade of some trees as Nathan fished with bobber on his line, hoping to catch the gar. They caught a couple fish, but not the one they wanted.

The father said he often fishes the lake, drawn by the park and its nice atmosphere. He also tries to take his son along.

Asked about his son’s reaction when he said they were going fishing in the park, Roopnarine said, “He said, ‘Daddy, let’s go catch some fish,’ ” Roopnarine recalled. “That means a lot to me.”

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy issued the reward for the fish after state environmental officials tried and failed to capture it after learning of the gar earlier in the week.

McCarthy acknowledged Friday that interest in fishing at the lake has increased since the discovery, and it’s something he wants to keep going.

The interest has turned into talk of some kind of urban fishing contest to start next year and run annually.

“We want people to enjoy Central Park,” McCarthy said.

He said he hopes to have some more details when they present the $100 check to whoever catches the gar.

As of late Friday afternoon, that check was still waiting to be claimed.

Andrew Hanley of Ravena hoped preparation would help him claim the prize. He also marked another first-time fisherman at Central Park, as he was there with his 18-month-old son Liam.

An experienced local fisherman, Hanley said he learned in his research to use live bait when possible. The fish is native to areas of the South, according to online sources.

“I watched a few videos on how to catch them,” Hanley said as his son peaked out of a shaded stroller. “We obviously don’t have them up here, so it’s different. But I’m going at it as if I was fishing for pike, which is around here.”

Further down the shore, a Schenectady grandmother, mother and son fished for the gar, or not.

The grandmother, Cheri, who declined to give her full name, said they went to teach her grandson Kaleb, 5, how to fish. But maybe with the smaller fish, first.

“I hope — well, I hope he catches it,” the grandmother said. “But I think we’re going to be scared if he catches it.”

“We don’t even like putting a worm on,” she added, “but we have to teach him.”

The Northups traveled to Schenectady with another Hudson Falls resident, Amy Catellier.

Northup called her sons “my little fishermen.” As Northup spoke, her son Tyler volunteered that he watches fishing shows all the time.

He and his brother used minnows and worms. Tyler believed the worms would entice the gar.

Tyler called it “awesome” that he’d get a chance to catch an alligator gar, a fish he’d seen on TV.

He wasn’t as much interested in the reward, as he was the gar.

“I’d rather have the fish,” Tyler said.

And 7-year-old Lucas’ thoughts on the opportunity?

“I think it’s fun and cool,” Lucas said.

Reach Gazette reporter Steven Cook at 395-3122, [email protected] or @ByStevenCook on Twitter.

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