Introduction to Gar Fishing

Garfish are one kind of voracious predators who live in shallow and weedy spots of the water bodies. Some anglers don’t eat gar but still enjoy hunting because of their strong fighting nature.

However, the boneless flesh of a gar is not only edible but also very tasty. If you are a pro in gar fishing, try eating one after catching. And if you are a beginner, you should know some details first. Here we go.


A garfish looks slender, cylindrical in shape. It usually features solid, diamond-shaped scales that don’t interfere with each other. It has a hard, protruding snout and a hard head despite not having any scale there. The shape of the jaw is elongated, and it is full of sharp teeth. These needle-like teeth are a great treat for small fish. Vascularised swim bladders act as lungs in gar’s body.

These organs help to adjust their buoyancy as well as saves energy while swimming. Gar’s size can be different depending on species. For example, a spotted gar can be 3 feet long, where an alligator gar grows up to 7 feet. The majority of alligator gar weigh more than 40 kg. In most cases, their upper looks brown or olive, and it turns white towards the belly. There are also some dark irregular spots everywhere.

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Image by Jason Goh from Pixabay

Major gar species

There are seven major gar species in the world. Let’s have a look at them:

  • Alligator Gar: It is the most widespread gar family. As the name suggests, they look like alligators. Some of them can grow above 9 feet and weigh more than 120 kg.
  • Spotted gar: Unlike alligator gar, their length lies below 4 feet. You can easily identify them by the random dark spots all over its body and fins.
  • Longnose Gar: They are available in Southern Canada and Mexico. A long snout is part of their slim frame. It is way longer compared to the rest of the head.
  • Shortnose Gar: They have a short and broad snout. People generally find them in riverine systems.
  • Florida Gar: These fish look almost similar to the spotted gar. Sometimes, they are mislabeled as alligator species. They are mainly found in the roadside canals and rivers of Florida and Georgia.
  • Tropical Gar: Tropical gar live in the slow-moving stream of lakes and rivers in Central America.
  • Cuban Gar: It is the most understudied and extinct gar so far. Luckily, a few places in Cuba still yield them.

Where to find

Gar like shallow and weedy regions of different water reservoirs such as ponds, canals, rivers, lakes, etc. They prefer roaming in small groups. They are more likely to stay in the same place for days to years if the spot seems to be comfortable. They are very effortless to locate. Areas with enormous small fish or other food supplies, shoals along the banks, weedy covers, stream turns, dam tailwater, underwater structures are the best locations to search gar. The deepwater fish like to hide in or close to heavy cover.

When to catch

The fishing activity typically starts from the last weeks of May to the first weeks of November. Winter is not a favorable season to catch most freshwater fish. Experts claim that 70°F to 90°F temperature is ideal for gar fishing because their feeding tendency increases a lot then. They constantly get hungry and don’t mind consuming any type of food. So, they take the bait in most hot summer months. The same goes for the late spring days. These two seasons bring the most comfortable weather for the gar. Make sure to pick a clean and sunny environment. It will help you to locate the fish quickly. Besides, they can see the baits more clearly. Avoid rainy, cloudy, windy days. Anglers found post-dawn times, dusk, and night best for big bites.

Gar Fishing techniques

Aggressive behaviors, fastest escapes, powerful jumps are the key struggles while capturing gar. Therefore, you have to practice a lot to become successful. The fisherman uses multiple strategies to catch gar including:

  • Fly-fishing: You can fail not with this method while hunting gar, carp, or trout. Basically, you have to bring many artificial flies which look and act like living food. When it comes to gar, rope lures are perfect. They are designed to cast into shallow sections. The success rate is high because the surface gar can barely resist them. There is no need to use hooks with them. As soon as a fish bite them, its teeth get tangled, and it can’t escape from the lock. You will need suitable rods, reels, lines, and other fishing gear. Medium-weight rods paired with weight-forward floating lines may give good results.
  • Trolling: this famous fishing technique requires fishing lines, lures, and moving watercraft. All you have to do is pull a fish bait or other lure behind your boat at a different pace. Be sure to keep the lures underwater with single or multiple lines. You can change the speed and water depth as per your need. Before trolling, check the previous statistics to know which places yield the most gar. Guide your boat all over those places while keeping the speed between 1.5 to 2.5 mph.
  • Rod and reel fishing: It is the most practiced fishing technique all over the world. Since the gar is heavy, large, and aggressive, choose the fishing kit carefully. The rod should be long, strong, and durable. Get a compatible reel and a 20 to 30 lbs line. For alligator gar, a 40 to 80 lbs line seems more effective. Minnows, goldfish, carp, and buffalo are widely-used gar baits. If you target fish from the deeper layers, add one or weights along with the lures based on how deep you want to cast. Small hooks are a big no for aggressive fish like gar. Use a big one instead. It should be curved to hold the fish properly.
  • Fishing with topwater plugs: They are lures, which float in the water and attract the gar. Some of them are non-floating as well. They mimic the activities of small fish. This process will not work unless you are patient. You have to wait until you see a gar. Then, put the floating bait right next to its head. It will start coming towards the bait. Don’t pull the bait yet. When the fish get closer, move the bait, and the fish will run after it.
  • Bow fishing: It is also called archery fishing. In brief, you have to bring a specialized set consisting of a bow, a reel, sharp arrows, and a line. You can either be on the shoreline or a slow-moving boat. Observing the water with patience is the first job. If a group of gar is coming to the surface, you will hear the noise. Then, go to the next step. Prepare your archery set because you may not get time to do it later. As soon as you see the gar, fire your arrow. It should be pointy enough to penetrate the gar’s hard body. As the arrow is attached to the line, reel it in and get the fish. It is an easy strategy because garfish are big and easy to identify. However, it may not be efficient for heavier catches.

Fishing tips according to gar’s behavior

  • Gar swim slowly except when they run from anglers or attack their prey. They consume crabs, sunfish, catfish, and other small juvenile fish. Their strong appetite becomes stronger during the night and early morning.
  • They do not have a fine vision. If anyone casts a bait far away from them, they hardly notice it. The early morning and dusk hunters must drop the lure right in front of them.
  • Some people start fishing with the right gear in the most favorable time but still don’t get a bite. It happens when they don’t use fresh bait. A gar doesn’t fall for the old lures.
  • As we mentioned earlier, they have a hard head and jaw. It is the reason why hooking a gar is very difficult. You better find a hook that can easily go through their hard skin. Using rope lures will make your job easier.
  • Do not drag fish as soon as a gar takes the bait. Wait for a couple of seconds, pull up the rod’s tip, and reel in.
  • Gar’s activities become unpredictable with the weather change. Use fishing apps to know the optimal conditions.
  • Don’t get yourself hurt while retrieving the fish. They tend to jump a lot after being hooked. If they hit your body, you will be injured for sure. Wear fish-handling gloves to protect your hands from their bites.
  • Try to target a school of gar instead of a single one. It will increase the success rate even if you are not a skilled shooter.

That’s all for now. We hope that you find our article informative and useful. Don’t worry if you don’t catch one fish despite following all instructions correctly. Keep trying, and you will be an expert one day for sure.

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