How to – Gar Fishing

Video how to catch alligator gar

So, you want to learn how to catch an Alligator Gar? Before we get into the specifics, I want to let you know this fish is HARD to target. It takes time, patience, and most of all, a love for fishing to target.

Alligator Gar holds a special place in my heart. They are the fish that I have dedicated my time, blood, sweat, and tears to target full time. My journey with this fish started some years ago, thanks to my best friend, Howard Fain. I was always told that Alligator Gar was “trash fish” and is a nuisance. Still, once being out in the field and studying this fish, I concluded that Alligator Gar is, in fact, one of the most docile, gentle giants you can be around. They may look menacing, but it is far from it. Alligator Gar holds a vital role in our Texas ecosystems. They are the main reason our rough fish (carp, buffalo, shad, etc.) population stays in check. It helps keep a perfect balance between every species in the environment.

Where to find Alligator Gar

Alligator Gar is a widespread species across Texas and many other states. Found in creeks, lakes, rivers, ponds, and even the saltwater of the gulf coast. I tend to have the best luck targeting Alligator Gar in rivers and creeks. They hold together in rivers and streams, deep eddies, and long flats. An Eddie is an area of swirling water behind an obstacle in the water ( logs, trees, rocks, etc.). Targeting these areas seems to regularly produce fish ranging from 3 feet to 7 feet. Another good indicator for Alligator Gar being present is an abundance of air bubbles trapped on top of the water in slow-moving water. If you do not know, Alligator Gar is a one-of-a-kind species with an air bladder, meaning that they can breathe air!

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Now let’s talk about equipment. I will share what I use and then what I use on my guided trips. You’re going to want a rod stiff enough to hold a gar and a reel with enough drag to keep the fish from spooling you. Also, we will cover leaders, lines, and the rigs we use.

Personal Use Equipment

  • Penn Fierce 8/0 reel
  • Penn Fierce 8 foot surf rod
  • Marsh Tarpon leaders (currently prototyping a leader you can load your hook of choice on). If not, Marsh Tarpon has 8/0 2 foot treble hook leaders and 10/0 3 foot treble hook leaders for shark and gar!
  • Reaction Tackle 100lbs. No abrasion line
  • My favorite hook to use is the SandBar Tackle 8/0 Live Bait Circle hook (as they tend to hook through the mouth)

Guided Trip Equipment

  • Quantum Optix 6000 reel
  • Berkley Big game rods
  • Everything else pretty much stays the same tackle wise

This is a fundamental outlook of the different types of tackle I use. I have found that the Quantum Optix 6000 and Berkley Big Game rod are a good bang for your buck setup, compared to the highly-priced Penn fishing equipment that I use for my personal fishing. The most common rigs I use for Alligator Gar (besides my fly fishing rig) are a typical bottom fishing Carolina rig and a float rig. I mostly use the Carolina rig when fishing from land, as I can get my bait to stick to the bottom better than with the float rig. The float rig is ideal for when you are in a boat to stay on top of the Alligator Gar. Below are illustrations of the two leaders I use to understand better what you need and how to set up to catch Alligator Gar.carolinarigslipfloat

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Bait for Alligator Gar

Now that we have the geography and tackle needed to catch Alligator Gar, all we’re missing is bait. The most popular bait is Common Carp or Tilapia. Still, you can use anything from Smallmouth Buffalo to giant Gizzard Shad. I tend to use either Carp or Tilapia due to how tough the fish is and the fact you can possibly use the same bait twice. I catch my bait and use what is in the waters where I am fishing.

How to effectively catch an Alligator Gar

Let’s talk about how to catch Alligator Gar. Most of the time, Alligator Gar anglers find their preferred way to fish, as I have done myself. My goal is always to get a hookset in the mouth, as I do not want to get a hook stuck in the gullet/throat. (Sticking your arm in an Alligator Gar’s mouth and throat is terrifying). The bullet points below are a step-by-step guide to exactly how I catch Alligator Gar with a live bait circle hook.

  • Find the Eddie or flat.
  • Once you get a bite, you will know when it’s a gar as they tend not to bite but RUN with your bait.
  • While the Alligator Gar is running with your bait, give him 15-30 seconds before setting the hook (by this time, the fish is positioned for a proper hookset)
  • Sometimes, though, you will run into the problem of the fish dropping the bait, but don’t worry as they, 9 times out of 10, will pick it back up.
  • Once you hook your gar, be ready for the fight and ensure your drag is adjusted correctly, as Alligator Gar loves to spool you into logs, trees, and holes.
  • Once you get the gar close to or on land, get your lasso ready; it is crucial to securing your fish.
  • Get the lasso behind the pectoral fins and tighten it up. Congratulations, you just caught your first Alligator Gar.
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Remember that these fish can be giant. It is always essential to have at least one person with you while fishing unless you are seasoned or a professional. I hope this article can give you a better understanding of this beautiful, legendary fish and how to target and catch them.

Good luck, tight lines, and remember always to be safe!

How to - Gar Fishing

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by Ryan House (Outhouse Productions, CEO and Owner of OHP Alligator Gar Adventures) on December 27, 2021

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Sean Campbell’s love for hunting and outdoor life is credited to his dad who constantly thrilled him with exciting cowboy stories. His current chief commitment involves guiding aspiring gun handlers on firearm safety and shooting tactics at the NRA education and training department. When not with students, expect to find him either at his gunsmithing workshop, in the woods hunting, on the lake fishing, on nature photoshoots, or with his wife and kid in Maverick, Texas. Read more >>