MATHIS, Texas — On Monday morning, Joanne Garcia was getting ready to celebrate the 4th of July. Garcia and her sister-in-law were in the shallow water of Lake Corpus Christi, off Sunrise Beach, setting up a canopy, when Garcia felt something clamp on her foot.
“It was full pain immediately, there was no little bit, it was just clamped on, and as I shook my foot, I think that’s where more damage was done,” she said.
Garcia says it was an alligator gar that bit her.
“I started kicking my foot, and [my sister-in-law] didn’t know what it was, but she started kicking too,” Garcia said. “She saw the body come up out of the water and swim away, but he had gotten a hold of my foot, and tore it up pretty good.”
Garcia’s sister-in-law estimated the alligator gar was about 2-3 feet long, but it got a hold of her foot on the back of her ankle and the sole.
“It’s almost 3,000 pounds per square inch of pressure, from what I understand, and it hurt,” she said.
Alligator gar biting people is uncommon, especially in Coastal Bend.
“I’ve not locally heard of any cases of this,” said Texas Parks & Wildlife Game Warden, Lerrin Johnson. “But, talking with some other wardens who have worked in east Texas, where we have higher populations of gar, they have heard of cases where people get nibbled on by alligator gar on their fingers or on their toes, where the gar are mistaken for little fish.”
Garcia believes the fish was laying in the water and she stepped near its snout. Johnson thinks the animal mistook Garcia’s foot for a smaller fish, or she startled it.
“It’s probably one of those two things; either dinner or fear response,” Johnson said.
Garcia said she doesn’t blame the animal for biting her, and the wounds on her foot weren’t too bad. She said she’s been cleaning the wound and treating it with antibiotics.
However, while her friends and family enjoyed their 4th of July festivities, Garcia was resting.
“I was inside the rest of the day, whatever they did, they had fun, they went boating, they had a good time, but I was relaxing inside,” she said.