GAR: A BRUTE OF A FISH!

Discussion in 'LUKE CLAYTON' started by Luke Clayton, Jul 13, 2009.

  1. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    Messages:
    831
    State:
    Texas
    "GAR: A BRUTE OF A FISH!"
    by Luke Clayton

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    Luke Clayton


    As a young angler, I read about catching Northern Pike and Muskie in the cold pristine waters of lakes in the northern US and Canada. Something about these toothy critters perked my angling interests. Years later, I had the opportunity to fish for Pike in lakes along the Canadian border but never caught a really big one. I recently began fishing for a very similar species here in Texas that also comes equipped with plenty of teeth, grows to gargantuan size, is very numerous, makes great table fare and, with a little training, is relatively easy to catch! Southern waters are full of three species of gar, the Longnose, sometimes called Needle nose, Spotted Gar and in rivers or pockets of water near rivers, Alligator Gar.

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    Photo courtesy of Luke Clayton.

    Throughout my fishing career, which now spans a half-century, I’ve caught lots of gar, all by accident while running trotlines, bass fishing or using live bait for catfish. I usually cut the line at the boat and released the fish. Until recently I simply didn’t know what to do with them. Now I do, thanks to a lot of research on the internet, watching YouTube videos on catching gar and learning how to prepare them for the table. I’ve also spent some time visiting with the Kirklands, a father/son team that have become famous putting clients on big alligator gar in the Trinity River and Lake Livingston.

    If you are looking for a very sporting freshwater fish to challenge your angling skills and, if you enjoy a good fish dinner after your outing, consider fishing for gar. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed in either the battle they supply in the water or the flavor of the snow white meat when grilled, blackened or fried. Please don’t mistake me for an expert gar fisherman. I most definitely am not but, I’m learning. I’ve learned that consistently catching gar requires some specialized gear and techniques; it’s not rocket science but without the right gear, gar cannot be landed with regularity.

    When I began quizzing the Kirklands about technique, they first asked if I would be targeting monster alligator gar in the rivers or smaller Long nose or spotted gar in still waters. I remember they referred to the later two species as ‘smaller’ gar, fish weighing between 5-25 pounds. I was quick to point out that fish in this size category were definitely what I planned to target. Long nose and Spotted gar provide exciting fights on medium tackle and are great for eating. “For these fish, you will want to use live bait, minnows or small bream on 10-ought circle hooks. Gar often suspend near the surface so rig with a floater, use heavy swivels and set the baits so they will be about 2-3 feet under the surface. Fish the live bait weightless so they will dart around more to entice strikes.” I was instructed. The primary reason many gar are lost after they take the bait is that fishermen usually jerk the bait out of their tough, toothy mouths without getting the hook set. Circle hooks ‘set’ themselves when the fish picks up the bait and begins to swim away; by design, they corkscrew into the corner of the fishes mouth.

    My first gar adventure took place on my friend Donny Rice’s place, located a few miles east of Cedar Creek Lake. Donny offers waterfowl hunts during the fall and fishing for bass, crappie and catfish on his over 700 acres of private waters which, incidentally, happen to be chock full of gar, thanks to stockings from the nearby Trinity River. Donny’s gar fishing experiences, until we began employing our newly learned techniques, was largely the same as mine; he’d caught lots of gar accidently on trot lines and occasionally while fishing for other species.

    When we launched my little Buster Two-man boat at daylight, I noticed Donny eying the rigging I had on our rods. He and his kids had done a bit of ‘perch jerking’ the day before and he had an abundance of small sunfish for bait. Before our trip, he was ‘pumped’ and, I’m sure, hoping Ole’ Luke had done his homework and actually gleaned enough information to put a ‘mess’ of gar in the boat!

    “I don’t think getting a gar to hit our baits will be a problem", I tipped as we used the Torqeedo electric outboard to quietly push us toward some open water where I’d seen an abundance of gar on previous trips. “The trick will be not jerking the bait out of the fish’s mouth before the circle hook has the chance to work its magic and thread itself into the fishes lip.”

    With polarized sunglasses, spotting gar just under the surface is easy and after motoring a few hundred yards from shore, we began seeing the long, slender forms of Spotted and Long Nose Gar darting in front of the boat. I eased the throttle back on the Torqeedo and quietly slipped the anchor to bottom. Following Kirkland’s instructions, we pinned the small sunfish just below the dorsal fin with the circle hooks (after widening the gap a little, to facilitate easier penetration of the barb). Making long casts to place the baits in undisturbed waters, we soon had our frisky sunfish dancing a jig just under the surface. My plan was for us to use a couple of rods each, placing more baits in the water, and increasing our chances of catching gar. I quickly learned that one rod each would suffice! My bait had been in the water maybe twenty seconds when the cork disappeared and I did what came naturally, “SET THE HOOK”. I didn’t follow my own advice and allow the gar to run with the bait and let the circle hook work as it was intended to do. I pulled the bait from the fish’s mouth and began reeling in to re-bait. I cast an eye toward Donny’s floater and saw it disappear under the surface. “Let him run with it”, I instructed, probably in a less than calm tone. “I just lost one by trying to set the hook too quickly. When you feel pressure on the rod, THEN pull back, hard! Donny probably didn’t need my hasty instructions, he calmly waited for the bow in his rod, and then he applied pressure and was hooked fast with the first gar of the day!

    Our morning gar fishing produced hook ups with several gar, the biggest probably weighed around 25 pounds. Heavy gloves are necessary when landing the gar but a piece of burlap with two wooden handles do a better job of ‘scooping’ gar into the boat. I’m planning on making one of these landing devices before our next outing. Two 4 foot pieces of dowel rods connected to a 4 foot piece of burlap makes a great ‘landing net’ for gar.
    This first ‘shake down’ gar fishing trip proved to Rice and I that these monster fish are pretty easy to trick into taking a bait but a real challenge to bring to net. We’ll remain busy researching this brute of a fish and hopefully will refine our techniques in the next couple of outings! I promise to keep you tuned in as my learning curve gets steeper!

    Outdoor tip of the week- Shark fishing peaks about this time each summer along the Texas coast. Capt.Mike Williams at Galveston (www.galvestonfishingguides.com) reports his clients are enjoying lots of action. Fishing is within sight of Galveston, 2-4 miles offshore. Best baits are big chunks of shad floated under balloons behind shrimp boats. “Down lines” fished below the boat are accounting for lots of redfish. The kingfish bite has also been excellent and anglers can expect to catch an occasional tarpon while fishing for shark. Capt. Mike Williams can be reached at 713-723-1911.

    RECIPE FOR ‘GAR BALLS’

    Marinate the meat 4 hours in half apple cider vinegar and water

    2 lbs. Gar meat, small chunks
    1 lb. Potato, mashed
    2 large onions, chopped fine
    1 cup parsley, green onions & celery tops, all chopped fine
    ½ cup prepared yellow mustard
    ½ cup vinegar
    Flour & cooking oil

    Make a sauce by mixing prepared yellow mustard and vinegar. Follow by mixing the fish, potatoes, onions and vegetables together. Shape the mixture into balls approximately 1 ½ inch in diameter. Dip in mustard sauce, dredge in flower and deep fry until golden brown.

    FRIED GAR FILLETS

    After removing the two boneless ‘backstraps’, one for either side of the gar, remove all the surface red meat and cut the white gar meat into small, frying size pieces. Place fillets in a 50-50 marinade of buttermilk and Louisiana Hot Sauce for 1-2 hours, roll in cornmeal and deep fry until crispy.

    CLEANING GAR- Begin by making a cut down the top of the gar, along the backbone from tail to just behind the head. Sharp tin snips work well but some folks use a meat cleaver and, beginning just behind the back fin, hack the skin from the top of the gar. Next, use a sharp fillet knife and remove each of the two boneless ‘fillets’, one on either side of the fish. Cleaning a gar is not difficult. I’ve watched pros remove the two strips from 30 pound gar in about 5 minutes. The first gar I cleaned took about 10 minutes each. If you have computer access, do a Google search for “cleaning gar” the internet has some excellent videos that will help you get started. LC

    Want even more of Luke's hunting/fishing tips and tricks, wild game recipes etc?​


    Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton for a new show each week at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com

    Contact Luke at lukeclayton@prodigy.net

    The BOC has a virtual library of Luke's stories right here on the forums; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 15, 2009
  2. buckethead

    buckethead New Member

    Messages:
    469
    State:
    arkansas
    Right on Luke !!

    Good article, I am a big fan of Mister Gar !! I can truthfuly tell you that I have never had the pleasure of eating one, but I do enjoy catching them, they will test your tackel for sure,
    I have never understood why Gar have such a bad "Reputation" from fishermen and women, and Department of Fish and Game ,
    I compare the Gar to the Wolf, he is the top preadator, and at the top of the food chain , he doesnt have a lot of enemy's except man .

    Thanks for your article

    cliff
     

  3. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    Messages:
    831
    State:
    Texas
    Glad you enjoyed the article, Cliff. There is a great deal I do not know about catching (or landing) gar but I have learned it's not difficult to get them to hit and once hooked, they provide a battle royal! Good fishing to you and God Bless. Luke
     
  4. Catmanblues

    Catmanblues New Member

    Messages:
    2,224
    State:
    S.E Ohio
    Awesome power packed post thank you!
     
  5. Francachela

    Francachela New Member

    Messages:
    5
    State:
    BOLIVIA
    Awesome, it's always a pleasure to read stories like yours..... fantastic trip.... i wish you had pictures..... but anyway well done.....keep up the great work.:big_smile:
     
  6. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    Messages:
    831
    State:
    Texas
    Thanks much. Glad you enjoyed reading about my latest adventure! I don't have this gar thing figured out just yet but I'm working on it! Happy fishing to you. LC
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2009
  7. lookin_4_moby

    lookin_4_moby New Member

    Messages:
    1,143
    State:
    Guthrie, OK
    I've caught gar for years back home in oklahoma and have caught some very large ones over 70 pounds. they're very abundant in my favorite catfishing river but I never knew you could eat them. I've always heard that they were a trash fish and didn't have any meat on them so we would always just throw em up on the bank and let em die because we would always seem to catch them instead of catfish. After reading this I'm going to have to try and eat some now. thanks for the article.
     
  8. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    Messages:
    831
    State:
    Texas
    Luke here. I JUST finished a big platter of fried gar. No, kidding this is AWESOME vittles!! There are two 'backstraps' on each gar. I just cut it into small pieces, dusted it with Country Bobs (www.countrybobs.com) my favorite dry seasoning, put it in milk and egg, rolled it in cornmeal/flour and fried it.. I was amazed at how easy gar are to clean and... how tasty. Good fishing to you my friend. lc
     
  9. Little Mac

    Little Mac Active Member

    Messages:
    1,828
    State:
    NW Arkansa
    Luke thanks for the write up, was a good read. I had always thought you had to pressure cook those gar, sounds like easy enough to do. Do you only use the backstrap? I catch plenty gar! :embarassed: Thanks again Mac
     
  10. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    Messages:
    831
    State:
    Texas
    Yep,Just the backstrap. The meat is snow white. I just cut them in nuggets, seasoned them, dipped them in milk/egg, dusted them with cornmeal/flour and fried them. They are very easy to clean. Just take a small meat cleaver/heavy knife, chop the hide off the top, beginning behind the back top fin and hack the hide loose up to the head, and then fillet out the 2 'backstraps", one on either side of the backbone, just like in a deer or hog...These straps are boneless.
     
  11. CatFighter

    CatFighter New Member

    Messages:
    526
    State:
    Morgantown, WV
    Excellent - I try to catch longnose gar in the West Fork River in Fairmont, WV (Monongah, actually). they love minnows, but never seem to get hooked.

    Still a lot of fun.
     
  12. cavereric

    cavereric New Member

    Messages:
    96
    State:
    Austin,Texas
    I wished I had known sooner that Gar where good to eat I catch at least 1 every time I go fishing on lake Travis. Man they are fun to catch too. I have to start keeping them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2009
  13. Swampfox.

    Swampfox. New Member

    Messages:
    1,182
    State:
    Louisiana
    think i might get some tommarow, they are thick around here son.
     
  14. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    Messages:
    831
    State:
    Texas
    I'm working on a rig for gar. I'm putting a three way swivel above an 18 inch wire leader, with a circle hook on the tag end, baited with a small live sunfish. From the the three-way, I also have a length of frayed nylon rope that drops down to almost the top fo the hook (so as not to get tangled up in the hook. I've been catching gar on just the circle hook but this frayed nylon rope should greatly increase the catch ratio!
     
  15. buckethead

    buckethead New Member

    Messages:
    469
    State:
    arkansas

    Good morning,

    Say, Luke, that sounds like it might just work, ((( I may try that)) LOL. I do agree with you that the Circle Hook is the way to go, it took me awhile to figure it out, long shank hooks just dont cut it,

    I pretty much use the same rig, as I do for Catfish, I use a

    Slip Bobber, instead, I use a FatKat Bobber, with a 1 oz. No Roll sinker
    and #50 test mono leader, I have not had a Gar cut the leader yet, with the Circle Hook they always hook them selves in the cornner of the mouth 90% of the time ,what we have here in Arkansas or the Long Nose, biggest one so for was a 41/2 ft. I am sure that we have a few Aligator Gar just never caught one yet.

    cliff
     
  16. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    Messages:
    831
    State:
    Texas
    I'm betting that you probably know more about catching gar than I. But, I do know I am having a ball learning how to catch these toothy critters. LOTS OF FUN! Good fishing to you, LC
     
  17. Swampfox.

    Swampfox. New Member

    Messages:
    1,182
    State:
    Louisiana
    yeah Luke, a wire leader is a must, those teeth cut threw mono like butter
     
  18. catfishclammy

    catfishclammy New Member

    Messages:
    1
    State:
    nebraska
    That was a fun read luke! I catch 10-20 pound gar in The Lake of the Ozarks quite often while fishing for blue catfish, and have always wondered about preparing one for the table. They do put up a great fight and are a challenge to land. It is nice to see variety in fishing articles such as this. Keep up the good work!
     
  19. Luke Clayton

    Luke Clayton New Member

    Messages:
    831
    State:
    Texas
    I'm glad you enjoyed the article. Catching gar intentionally is new to me but, it's FUN!
     
  20. festus

    festus New Member

    Messages:
    7,660
    I caught a 3-1/2' gar fishing a couple months ago in some swift water and thought I had a trophy striper or something the first few seconds. The crappie were hitting well that day, and someone down the bank from me caught a 4 footer and a 4-1/2 footer right before I got mine. Mine hit a 2" twister tail grub, his hit tube jigs. Everyone in the area sorta reeled in their poles every time a gar was hooked, none of us had a clue what was on the other end. It sure created chaos there for a while, they were all longnose, and a few days earlier, I saw one bust a friend's 17 lb. test line. He was fishing for catfish with shrimp, the dern thing looked at least 5-1/2 feet long and came to the top and rolled over his line. Don't know if he had a bad knot or his line was frayed.