How to fish for alligator gar

Is alligator gar good eating?

The flesh of the alligator gar is white and firm with a mild taste, comparable to the flesh of many sport fishes that anglers eat. While the flesh is tasty, it should be noted that the eggs of the alligator gar are toxic and may cause sickness if eaten.

How do you cook gar fish?

Dust a few garfish in plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper – coat the whole fish except for the tail. Dust off any excess, then fry them in the hot oil until the skin is nice and golden, turning over once only. Drain on paper towel and in the same oil quickly fry pita bread until golden.

Does gar fish taste good?

Gar flesh is not flaky like most fish, nor is it fishy flavored either. It has the texture of chicken but does not taste like chicken. In fact, is closer in taste to alligator than chicken. Older gar flesh can be soaked overnight in salted water to moderate any strong flavor.

Do gar fish bite humans?

“Fact is, there has never been a verified gar attack on a human. “This is when you can get hurt,” said Hefner, sidestepping the gar. “The fish isn’t going to bite you; it’s those front teeth that stick out of the mouth that get you.

Can alligator gar walk on land?

These freshwater fish can grow as long as three feet. They are sharp-toothed predators and may attack humans who get too close to their nests. And by the way, they can walk on land. They use their fins to slither from lake to lake.

Are Gars dangerous?

Although they may look ferocious, alligator gars pose no threat to humans and there are no known attacks on people. They can pose a passive danger, though: The fish’s eggs are poisonous to humans if ingested. The toxicity of gar eggs serves as a defense mechanism against predators such as crustaceans.

How do you catch garfish?

Once the garfish have been attracted by the berley the easiest and simplest method for capture is to use a small long shank hook, size 12 or 10 are perfect, with a small amount of bait thrown placed on the down over the barb. This rig is then thrown into the berley trail un weighted and left move about naturally.

Why are gar eggs poisonous?

The flesh of gar is edible, but its eggs contain an ichthyotoxin, a type of protein toxin which is highly toxic to humans.

Does Gar eat bass?

Like sharks in marine systems, this fish helps maintain healthy numbers of many other species. Alligator gar primarily feed on fishes such as buffalo, carp, and shad. Although they will eat game fishes such as bass and crappie, consumption of these species is relatively uncommon.

Where are Gar found?

Five of the seven gar species are native to the United States. Gars are currently found within and outside of their native ranges in the United States from the Great Lakes basin in the north, south through the Mississippi River drainage to Texas, Mexico, and Florida. Florida gars are only found in Florida and Georgia.

What does a gar fish look like?

What do they look like? Gar are slender, cylindrical fishes with hard, diamond- shaped and non-overlapping scales. The head and snout do not have scales but are hard and bony. Gars have long, sharply-toothed jaws and the dorsal (rear) and anal fins (last fin on bottom of fish ) are far back near the rounded tail.

What do gar pike eat?

Gar are ambush predators, they lie very still near the surface and wait for a small fish to come near and then quickly grab the fish and swallow it head first. Young of the year gar eat insects, insect larvae, crustaceans and even small fish. Adult gar eat mostly fish: minnows and small forage fish.

The flesh of the alligator gar is white and firm with a mild taste, comparable to the flesh of many sport fishes that anglers eat. Commercial fisheries exist for the alligator gar in some southern states — a testament to its use as table fare. While the flesh is tasty, it should be noted that the eggs of the alligator gar are toxic and may cause sickness if eaten.

Like all fishes, alligator gar are exposed to contaminants in the waters in which they live, as well as the things they eat. Over time, these contaminants can build up in the fish’s flesh, organs and eggs, and can pose a health risk to humans if consumed. The Texas Department of State Health Services monitors for the presence of harmful contaminants in edible fish tissues and alerts the public through consumption advisories and bans. Consumption advisories tell the public which fish species in a given river or reservoir they need to be concerned about, and provide guidance on how much and how often those fish should be consumed. Consumption bans prohibit the possession or consumption of fish from a listed waterbody; however, catch and release fishing is allowed.

Currently, consumption bans in Texas waters are limited to parts of upper Lavaca Bay (Calhoun County) and the Donna Irrigation System (Hidalgo County). All fish caught from these waters, including alligator gar, must be immediately released. Consumption advisories for alligator gar (and other gar species) are in place on a number of systems. These include the popular fisheries on Lake Livingston and the Trinity River, where no consumption is advised. Details can be found in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual.

The size and toothy appearance of alligator gar both excites anglers and frightens those that play in the waters they inhabit. Unfortunately, stories of alligator gar attacking people and dramatizations in popular television shows have given these gentle giants a bad rap. While there are no confirmed attacks on people, alligator gar continue to be feared by many.

The fact is these large fish can be quite sluggish and docile. For example, the feeding behavior of large adults makes them a challenge to catch. Alligator gar can be slow or hesitant to swallow a bait. If something is amiss or they feel resistance, the bait is often dropped. The teeth of the alligator gar are designed for holding and subduing prey, not tearing it into bite-sized chunks like sharks. Therefore, alligator gar don’t eat things they can’t swallow.

The only time alligator gar pose danger to people is when anglers try to land and handle these large, powerful fish. In addition to hosting a mouthful of sharp teeth, alligator gar are also covered with sharp, bony scales. If anglers are not careful, they can easily get cut or bruised. While landing, unhooking, and releasing a bass or crappie requires relatively little preparation, doing the same for an alligator gar takes a plan. Fish should be landed using a rope lasso, large net, or cradle. They should be kept on their stomach on the ground or boat deck in an area free and clear of debris or equipment. Anglers should use tools and wear cut-resistant gloves when removing hooks. Never stick your hands in the fish’s mouth and stay clear of the powerful tail. If released, the fish should be sent back head first. Finally, be careful! These fish leave behind a very slippery coating of slime that can cause slips and falls. Be prepared to clean your boat deck after landings, or land fish on the river bank.

People claim to see alligator gar just about everywhere in Texas. And even though Texans are lucky enough to have some of the best remaining populations of alligator gar in the world, gator gar — as they’re sometimes called — are one of the most misidentified species of fish around. There are actually four different species of gar in Texas, including the spotted, shortnose, longnose and alligator. Illustrations provided by A.J. Hendershott, Missouri Department of Conservation

How to fish for alligator gar

Adult spotted gar are perhaps the easiest to identify due to the presence of dark spots on the head, body and fins. They are also the smallest of the gar species when fully grown, reaching just under four feet in length and about 15 pounds. Without close examination, juvenile alligator gar can be confused with spotted gar.

How to fish for alligator gar

Shortnose gar are similar to spotted gar in size and weight, but lack dark spots on the top of the head and paired fins. There is only one river basin in the state where shortnose gar can be found, and that’s the Red River below Lake Texoma along the Oklahoma and Arkansas borders.

Longnose gar differ from other gars by having a much longer, narrower snout, which is why they are sometimes called needlenose gar. Longnose gar are found throughout Texas. Adult longnose can be large, reaching 6 feet in length and weighing up to 80 pounds.

How to fish for alligator gar

Because of its large size, people are sometimes fooled into thinking a common longnose gar is a gator gar. However, for fish of the same length, alligator gar are much wider and have a distinct short, wide snout (alligator-like when viewed from above). Also, alligator gar can be huge, reaching lengths of up to 10 feet and weighing over 300 pounds. It is the second-largest freshwater fish in North America, second only to the white sturgeon. The Texas state record for rod and reel is 279 pounds, and the current world record is 327 pounds!

How Ordinary People Experience the Great Outdoors

Home diy Grilled Alligator Garfish Recipe

How to fish for alligator gar

For such an ugly animal, Grilled Alligator Garfish sure is tasty!

I know..I know… Garfish tastes terrible, fishy, nasty…I’ve heard all that too. Don’t let the Alligator Garfish’s not-so-sexy outer appearance abate the wonderful inward flavor hidden beneath its primal armor. I’ve taken the time to clean it properly, and prepare it in a variety of ways. Alligator Garfish can be some of the best tasting fresh water fish out there when coupled with the right recipe.

If you’re wondering how to get the beauty out of the beast when it comes to the meat, check out How to Clean an Alligator Gar Fish. This article will show you step by step how to remove the two delectable tube shaped boneless fillets out of this tasty river monster.

Before we get started, I’d like to reiterate several things from the “How to Clean” article, as well as add a few insights so that you end up with the most flavorful garfish fillets possible:

How to fish for alligator gar

  1. The first thing is to clean the fish soon after it has been killed, and keep it cool, and out of the sun until it is cleaned.
  2. Only collect fish from waterways that are lacking in contaminants. Don’t collect the fish from a trailer park oxidation pond, and expect it to be of good quality.
  3. The most important thing when it comes to flavor, is that you MUST remove any discolored meat, and fat from the fillet. You should be left with a beautiful, white meat lacking any blood, or red/pink color. When in doubt cut it out. You are always better off with a bite of food that tastes delicious than a plateful that tastes like the dumpster behind a Chinese restaurant in August.
  4. As with all fish, the fresher the better. Eating any fish after it has been frozen will reduce the quality of the texture and flavor. If you will be freezing this fish, then you need to follow steps 1 thru 3, then freeze in a manner that removes all air from touching the fish. Think vacuum sealer, or the like.
  5. Finally, it is easier to handle the fish when the meat is just shy of freezing, and firm. This prevents you from mushing the meat when slicing, marinating, etc.

How to fish for alligator gar

As with any fish, you clean up the fillet’s until you are left with nothing but clean, white meat.

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs of Alligator Garfish fillets cut into equal sized pieces for the grill.
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil.
  • 2 tablespoons Dale’s Steak Seasoning

How to fish for alligator gar

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce.
  • 2 tablespoons cracked red pepper (1/2 tbs if you are spice sensitive).
  • 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning.
  • 1 teaspoon course ground black pepper.
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic.
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin.

How to fish for alligator gar

All cleaned up & ready for the marinade.

Preparation Method:

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a Ziploc bag, and mix thoroughly.
  • Place the bag in ice, or the coldest part of the fridge or the freezer (but don’t let the contents freeze) while prepping the coals.
  • Prep the coals. This gives you time to wash some veggies, coat in olive oil, salt & black pepper to throw on the grill with the garfish.
  • After the coals are white hot, place the marinaded garfish on the oiled grill.

How to fish for alligator gar

The alligator gar after the marinade.

  • Grill the marinated garfish as you would chicken making sure to cook it all the way through but don’t allow to dry out.
  • I cut my fillets about 1 1/2 inches thick, and grilled them covered about 5-8 minutes on each side.

How to fish for alligator gar

Enjoy your Grilled Alligator Garfish

Serve with your grilled veggies, and enjoy!

The alligator gar bears no relation to alligators, but with its wide, crocodilian head and razor-sharp teeth, it’s easy to see how this giant fish got its name.

Appearance

The largest of seven known gar species, this megafish has a torpedo-shaped body in olive brown and comes armored with glistening scales. It can grow up to 10 feet long, and historical reports suggest it may grow to weigh nearly 350 pounds. This makes it the largest fish species in North America that spends almost all its time in freshwater. (The white sturgeon is often considered North America’s largest freshwater fish, but it spends substantial time in salt water.)

Range and habitat

The prehistoric relatives of the species first appeared 157 million years ago and inhabited many parts of the world. Today, however, gars live only in North and Central America. Alligator gars were historically found throughout the Mississippi River Valley and may have even existed as far north as Iowa and as far west as Kansas and Nebraska.

Today alligator gars are known only to live in the lower Mississippi River Valley, from Oklahoma to the west, Arkansas to the north, Texas and portions of Mexico to the south, and east to Florida.

Alligator gars are able to tolerate brackish and even salt water, but they prefer the sluggish pools and backwaters of large rivers, swamps, bayous, and lakes. The fish’s thick, spongy, and highly vascular air bladder behaves like a lung to aerate the alligator gar’s blood. It also allows the fish to gulp air to “breathe” in waters with low oxygen. It may obtain as much as 70 percent of the oxygen it needs from the atmosphere.

Defenses

Although they may look ferocious, alligator gars pose no threat to humans and there are no known attacks on people.

They can pose a passive danger, though: The fish’s eggs are poisonous to humans if ingested. The toxicity of gar eggs serves as a defense mechanism against predators such as crustaceans.

Alligator gars have few natural predators, though alligators have been known to attack them, and young fish are preyed upon by other species.

Adult alligator gars primarily prey on fish, but they are opportunistic feeders who also eat blue crabs, small turtles, waterfowl or other birds, and small mammals.

Rehabilitated image

In the past, the gars developed a bad, but largely undeserved reputation as “trash fish” among anglers who believed they damaged nets and devoured game fish. Resource managers commonly recommending culling them, and throughout the 20th century the alligator gar numbers plummeted, with only Texas and Louisiana maintaining stable populations.

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How to fish for alligator garAlligator Gar 2019 Update

Alligator Gar is the largest fish native to Illinois. With records dating back to prehistoric years, this species had not been seen in the state since the last documented Alligator Gar catch in the Cache River cutoff channel in southern Illinois in 1966. Alligator Gar were officially declared extinct in Illinois in the 1990s.

In 2010, the IDNR’s Division of Fisheries began an Alligator Gar reintroduction program. During that time, Alligator Gar were stocked in a few waterways, including the lower Kaskaskia River.The program had a brief hiatus in 2014 – 2015, however in 2016, this program become active again with more research backing up this stocking initiative to help ensure success of survivability.

Read more about the Reintroduction Program here.

Alligator Gar Accomplishments in Illinois for 2019:

  1. Illinois IDNR received no Alligator Gar fry to rear from the USFWS in 2019. The USFWS had a very poor production year on fry from the brood fish collection in 2019. However, on July 26th, the USFWS, Pvt. John Allen Hatchery was able to provide the Illinois IDNR with approximately 800 Alligator Gar from their limited 2019 year class. These fish averaged approximately 10 inches in length and were all tagged with Sequential Coded Wire Tags by the USFWS.
  2. On July 26, approximately 750 of these fish were stocked into Horseshoe Lake in Alexander County. Horseshoe Lake SFWA encompasses an old Mississippi River oxbow that is 1890 acres in size with a maximum depth of 6 feet. In recent years it has been occasionally reconnected to the Mississippi River with the historic floods and levee failures. This site is in the southern tip of Illinois and adjacent to Missouri and Kentucky, most likely harbored the species historically.
  3. Fifty-nine fish were transferred to the Illinois Cordova Exelon hatchery. These fish will be reared in raceways for the remainder of 2019, and will be used for propagation hosts for the endangered yellow sandshell mussel in early 2020. Like most native mussel species, the yellow sandshell requires a “host” fish for their young to attach to fish’s gills throughout part of their early life stage. The plan is to stock these fish into an appropriate Illinois water in the late summer of 2020 after further growth at the Exelon hatchery.
  4. A statewide administrative rule for Alligator Gar was started in Illinois on 4/1/2019. The regulation allows the sport harvest of one Alligator Gar per 24-hour period, and no commercial harvest is allowed. Anglers are encouraged to report any Alligator Gar harvest or catches with a picture to the IDNR. An informational page is included in the annual regulation book and the number to report your catch is also shown below. Requested information will help biologists to collect data from anglers and bow fishers regarding fishing pressure and harvest. No Alligator Gar collections by the public were confirmed by IDNR Fisheries in Illinois in 2019.
  5. Personnel with the IDNR Division of Fisheries and the Exelon Hatchery completed multiple interviews with print and television media on the reintroduction of Alligator Gar in Illinois and the management plan. The overall response was positive and good biological education was provided to the public. Rob Hilsabeck with IDNR Division of Fisheries and Jeffrey Stein with the Illinois Natural History Survey were able to attend the Southern Division of the American Fisheries Society meeting in January. At this meeting they attended the Alligator Gar Technical Committee meeting, symposia and workshop. Current techniques for Alligator Gar rearing, sampling and management were shared by the leading biologists in the field.
  6. Powerton Lake is on the warm water temperature extreme for water bodies in Illinois. On 8/6/2019, a total of six Alligator Gar were collected by IDNR Fisheries(one is pictured above). Four of these fish were 10-year-old fish that were stocked as 2-year-old fish on 6/9/2011. On 8/6/2019 they had an average length of 1467 mm (57.7 inches) and 24,062 grams (53 pounds) each. Two additional fish were collected from the 9/20/2016 stocking of Alligator Gar into Powerton Lake. These 3-year-old fish had an average length of 1194 mm (47 inches) and 14,500 grams (31.9 pounds) each. All of these fish were collected with the 4″ Alligator Gar gill nets. In 6 sampling trips over 6 years, we have collected 41 of the original 78 stocked fish (52.6%) from 2011! These fish had moved to an interior intake canal at this warm water power plant lake (coal fired). This interior canal has no fishing access, and a constant supply of forage of Gizzard Shad and Silver Carp. Stomach content analyses was not attempted with the high water and air temperatures. We should be able to sample them at this location for many years to come.

Report Your Catch!

If you catch an alligator gar, we are asking anglers to please call (309)543-3316 to report your catch. Fisheries biologists can gain valuable information about Alligator Gar growth and movements with help from anglers like you. Be sure to take a picture!

Copyright © 2004-2021 IDNR INHS

The alligator gar bears no relation to alligators, but with its wide, crocodilian head and razor-sharp teeth, it’s easy to see how this giant fish got its name.

Appearance

The largest of seven known gar species, this megafish has a torpedo-shaped body in olive brown and comes armored with glistening scales. It can grow up to 10 feet long, and historical reports suggest it may grow to weigh nearly 350 pounds. This makes it the largest fish species in North America that spends almost all its time in freshwater. (The white sturgeon is often considered North America’s largest freshwater fish, but it spends substantial time in salt water.)

Range and habitat

The prehistoric relatives of the species first appeared 157 million years ago and inhabited many parts of the world. Today, however, gars live only in North and Central America. Alligator gars were historically found throughout the Mississippi River Valley and may have even existed as far north as Iowa and as far west as Kansas and Nebraska.

Today alligator gars are known only to live in the lower Mississippi River Valley, from Oklahoma to the west, Arkansas to the north, Texas and portions of Mexico to the south, and east to Florida.

Alligator gars are able to tolerate brackish and even salt water, but they prefer the sluggish pools and backwaters of large rivers, swamps, bayous, and lakes. The fish’s thick, spongy, and highly vascular air bladder behaves like a lung to aerate the alligator gar’s blood. It also allows the fish to gulp air to “breathe” in waters with low oxygen. It may obtain as much as 70 percent of the oxygen it needs from the atmosphere.

Defenses

Although they may look ferocious, alligator gars pose no threat to humans and there are no known attacks on people.

They can pose a passive danger, though: The fish’s eggs are poisonous to humans if ingested. The toxicity of gar eggs serves as a defense mechanism against predators such as crustaceans.

Alligator gars have few natural predators, though alligators have been known to attack them, and young fish are preyed upon by other species.

Adult alligator gars primarily prey on fish, but they are opportunistic feeders who also eat blue crabs, small turtles, waterfowl or other birds, and small mammals.

Rehabilitated image

In the past, the gars developed a bad, but largely undeserved reputation as “trash fish” among anglers who believed they damaged nets and devoured game fish. Resource managers commonly recommending culling them, and throughout the 20th century the alligator gar numbers plummeted, with only Texas and Louisiana maintaining stable populations.