By Deborah Silver, TCPalm.com
STUART — Mike Kirkhart has a monster of a project on his hands.
The owner of New Wave Taxidermy in Stuart, his son Buddy Kirkhart, and Justin Herron are making a mold of what is thought to be the biggest alligator gar ever caught. Once the mold is finished, they plan to mount it.
On April 26, Kirkhart brought to Stuart the 327-pound alligator gar that Kenny Williams of Vicksburg, Miss., caught on Feb. 14 in a net in Chotard Lake in Issaquena County in Mississippi.
Alligator gar is the largest freshwater fish in North America. It got its name from the shape of its teeth and long snout, which make it look something like an alligator.
“It looks like a dinosaur,” said Kirkhart of the nearly 8.5-foot-long fish estimated at 50 to 75 years old.
“What a beautiful and ugly creature.”
Kirkhart has been commissioned to make a skin mount for the state of Mississippi and a full-size fiberglass reproduction for Williams. The mounted fish will be displayed at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson.
The mold is complete and drying in halves at the Stuart business. The fish is skinned with its head removed and frozen. The head will be rebuilt with its own mold, along with the intricate work of re-creating hundreds of teeth.
“When we reproduce it, we’re reproducing its beauty, not its death,” Kirkhart said. “In a sense, we’re bringing it back to life.”
TCPalm.com staff writer Ed Killer contributed to this report