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Start Catching Gar

Start Catching Gar Start Catching Gar

If you are one of those people who say gar are trash fish, or if you have no interest, then read this article. If you ache to catch a gar but don't know how to start, you will now know just how to catch them - fast.

I'll start here: Gar can seem challenging to catch with their bony mouths and teeth. I had always wanted to catch a gar - since I started fishing on the Harpeth River in 2003 at age 11.

The Harpeth River is located in middle Tennessee, and I live less than a mile from it. Its average width is only about a cast wide, but it can reach 8 feet deep in some places. Since I started fishing I have caught largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bream, freshwater drum, channel catfish, rock bass, and of course gar. There are many black buffalo and carp, which I have yet to catch. I have caught (using a cast net) many species of minnows and other smaller fish such as suckers and logperch. A few people I've met that fish the Harpeth have caught crappies - which I also have yet to catch.

Okay, now to get to the point. I caught my first gar in 2005 on a live shiner. You can hook them, but they must swallow the bait to get the hook in far enough. Rope lures are popular and work, but I only use fresh fish on a hook.

Two hooks I use to catch gar are the treble and Kahle. I had been using the Kahle up until I caught a gar on a white Rooster Tail this summer. That got me started on trebles - the fish was hooked in its bony snout by two of the hooks. Either hook works, but when using bait it is best to let the gar swallow it first before setting the hook.

Below I will show what baits to use and how to use the different types of hook; and how to use it as a lethal weapon against gar.

Bait - I harvest all my bait in the shallow current and rapid areas of the Harpeth with my 4.5-foot radius monofilament cast net. I catch shiners, redhorse, logperch and the occasional bass or bream.

Any fish will work for bait. Larger ones can be cut into chunks and smaller ones can be fished whole or live.

I have seen a gar attack a grasshopper I was using once and one bite a nightcrawler. They will eat almost any live or dead bait you present. My personal favorite is the fish, being the most abundant food source.

Okay, the hooks - a Kahle usually hooks the fish in the corner of the mouth but sometimes is swallowed. I have removed a hook from the throat of a gar with little harm done to the fish, but usually if it's in the throat it becomes embedded. When this happens, cut the line with no effort to remove the hook; the gar will most likely be fine.

Treble hooks can more easily catch the snout but can also cause a lot of harm when embedded in the throat. I have had times where four or five gar in a row spat out the hook. Trebles can be a problem, so I would reccomend starting with a Kahle.

For hook sizes and how to rig the bait: Kahle 1/0 or 2/0 or treble to match the size of the gar. It is a lot easier to rig bait on a Kahle - just push the hook all the way through the middle or toughest section of the bait. With a treble I usually run two of the points through the bait and leave a third one free. I always fish weightless for gar, and sometimes use a small float to track the fish.

If you fish for alligator gar (which I have not), use larger hooks because they can exceed 100 pounds. I catch longnose in the Harpeth and would love to get an alligator, which do not live in the Harpeth.

Time to go fishing - Now that you know what to use to catch gar, all you have to know is where and how to actually catch them. Ask fishermen you know where they have caught or seen gar. Find the right spot and you're on the easy road to a great fishing experience.

If the spot is a good one, you should see gar during the summer just under the surface resting. If not, they may still be there. If you fish there several times during the mid- to late summer and see no gar, move to a different spot. You can catch gar when they are not near the surface, but I prefer the action and excitement of surface gar fishing.

When you spot a gar within casting range, make sure your bait is ready and your rod and line are suitable for the size you are targeting. The next step is important - it's time for the action.

Throw the bait just in front of and slightly beyond the gar. If it is moving, throw it farther in front. Reel slowly with the rod tip raised until the bait is just in front of the gar. Let it sink and watch the gar swim down after it. After several seconds your line will begin to move. Make sure the reel is open and free of tangles.

Gar have a way of eating - they will chew on the bait, then swim a distance, then chew more, and repeat this several times. Usually they swim around instead of straight out. Remember this for when you have your first gar on the line.

It is very important that you give the gar time to eat the bait - you never know when it has swallowed but you should allow 4-5 minutes. You will know you didn't wait long enough if you set the hook and the whole bait comes back. Give the fish time.

Once you are sure the fish has swallowed, you are ready for the battle - but the fish is not. Reel up all the slack until you feel the pull of the fish. Immediately set the hook hard - you'll know in the next three seconds whether your fish is hooked. Play it carefully until you can net it. A net is important - I lost a big one because I didn't have one with me. Lift the fish onto the bank/boat and you have landed your first gar!

If you have never caught a gar, use this info and when you catch one, leave a review and tell me the story. I would be glad to hear. If you catch one during the winter - tell me what technique and bait you used and where you caught it. Thanks


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Ken | Posted: February 20, 2014

I just become a member in looking forward to a future post. I live on warrior River in central Alabama. I love bass fishing in will be able to help out with suggestions in that area. But this question is about Gar, at times the bass fishing can get slow. And I see a lot, a whole lot of 3 to 5 foot long Gar. Would I use the same techniques in catching this size Gar. what type line, mono - braided line - ext and lbs. I also had seen on TV someone using a mixture of canned Cat food ( fish flavored ) and cut bait. Do you know any more on that? Also someone had said you could make a rope tight bait, the know how that's done. I just see so many big Gar here and think how much fun it would be to catch on of them. I did catch a big Bowfin while bass fishing. Took me about a week on Facebook and the net to find out what it was. But if you can help me with this, I really would appreciate it

matt demaio | Posted: November 1, 2012

you're right, gar are NOT trash fish i broke two state records for the largest spotted gar in the harpeth river. 5 foot 2 inches, 27 pounds, on a 6 pound mono. one of the biggest fights of my life.

Mattr | Posted: May 22, 2012

If you want to know how I clean or cook the gar you can ask me through email at

MattR | Posted: May 22, 2012

I like to catch longnose gar at Enid spillway in mississippi. In mid-summer when nothing else is biting, the gar are jumping like crazy down there, I usually clean and eat them, they have a similar texture and taste like chicken. We use nylon rope lures attached to 12" steel leaders and 65 pound test spiderwire on an 8ft pole. I recommend using a gaff instead of a net to pull them onto the bank since the gars teeth get tangled in your net and rip holes in it

Chase | Posted: April 25, 2012

Spotted Gar: Thanks for the info. I am fishing in new orleans and and see spotted gar (i'm pretty sure) about 2-3ft long in the 3-5deep lagoons of City Park. They have much shorter and less needle-like snouts than the other types of gar. I have often had them approach live and cut bait (worms, blue gill, perch) and many bass lures, but cannot seem to hook them. I have also seen some very large 4-6ft alligator gar back in the recesses of the park. I even had one big enough to make a pretty sizable wake take my cut bait, but I set the hook after about ten seconds because I didnt know any better at the time. Anyway, and tips on rigging, bait, or technique for spotted gar would be greatly appreciated. Please email They seem like a lot of fun to catch and are easily to spot. They seem to run the perimeter of the ponds pretty regularly, but are used to seeing humans and getting out of dodge. I'm going to try some rope lures, but dont know if they have the teeth and snout that would catch on one of those. Thanks and happy fishing.

semo | Posted: March 3, 2012

TREBLE HOOK IDEA: I've watched gar bite a treble hook and noticed it will not penetrate the hard snout because they are biting the BEND in the hook, not the point of the hook. So... bend the hooks in a 90 degree angle (straight out) and get ready. The sharp point will penetrate and the barbs will hold them on.

Caleb | Posted: July 26, 2011

I've been trying to catch a gar forever. And i have had no luck. I followed all this information but nothing still. They always seem to spit out the hook. I have tried snag hooking too and nothing. You got anymore ideas? email me them

patrick semeraro | Posted: May 29, 2011

u can also catch gar another way if u are also fishing for other fish. I sometimes use a bottle and a couple feet of line...just tie the line on the bottle....attach the hook rap the line around the bottle....put ur bait on the hook and toss it....the biggest gar that i have cought was about 26lb.....i go out gar fishing everyweekend...i usually catch about 5-6 everytime amongst catfish and crappie and stuff.

earl denney | Posted: April 13, 2011

This will b useful. I live in clarksville tn and after the flood last year my pond has been taken over by turtles and gar. It was stocked with catfish and brim but the river got into the pond and I am wanting to get rid of the gar so I restock it. They are a nuisance and have eaten all of the fish in there. If anybody has any tips for me please call (931)378-9722 thanks

Brock Stover | Posted: March 17, 2011

I was fishing in the Steinhachi River in Florida (north of the Swaunnee River) and it was about 830pm and i was about to go in cause of the no-see-ems' (bitting gnats) when i was reeling in my rattle trap and a gar took it. I didnt know there were gar in florida lol cause my family never goes fishing. But i had kavlar line (50lb test) on a 8-14lb rod, i though i was reeling in another mud fish untill it got up to the dock and jumped and snapped my grandpas rod. The gar i caught was actually over 3.5ft long and had to wiegh 20lb+. Needless to say i spent the next 4 nights tring to catch one but no luck, i didnt know what kind of bait to use. But thanks to this article i will get that next bitch lol.

daniel | Posted: June 6, 2010

i live on lake conroe and the only way i can catch then is when i wait for them to surrface and then swoop them up in my net, but this sounds more fun thanks

Tom | Posted: May 24, 2009

I just read this review last night and today went fishing in the bayou behind my house following the exact instructions using a baby bluegill and a kahle hook. I immediately caught a 30 inch spotted gar. Thanks man

Robb | Posted: April 28, 2009

This was a great article... I have caught gar before but, they usually get off the hook very easily. Now I have figured out there eating style... which will help me alot! - Robb B.

billy | Posted: January 4, 2009

i believe i found a spot loaded with gar i have fished this spot twice and have coaght nothing i guess i was fishing with the wrong bait but will try this thanks

jlc | Posted: July 15, 2007

i live in south texas we have big gar 4to6 feet if you can get a way give me a call and come down and go fishing (956-358-2245)cell james compton P.S. im from tenn (greenback) 35 mi southeast of konxvill

16 | Posted: April 11, 2007

I catch gar in the winter better than the summer. The way i do that is right down the road from where i live there is a TVA and they heat the water for energy so the water is about 85 degrees F. while the water further outis 50 somthing degrees F. The water around TVA is about 3'to 5' deep and the gar come in there in the winter and feed. So there is usally 80 turning at the top and a bunch more on the bottom. I usally fish with cut bait like bream, crappie, bass, or shad, but some times i fishwith worms and lures. I always use a steal leader line with a plastic worm hook about a 2/0 for cut bait. I prefere to fish on bottom but some time i will fish weight less> I have better luck on bottom. When fishing lures i usally use a ike or a broking minnow. When fish with plastic worm i use a 11" bass assassin tequlia sunrise worm. That is how i fish gar.