Gar are some of the oldest fish still alive on earth today. Much like Barramundi, their ancestors were around when dinosaurs existed! Gar are often disliked by anglers because of their sharp teeth and tendency to bite through fishing lines.
But if you’re using the right equipment, gar can be a ton of fun to catch. Plus they make a great trophy fish for pictures.
So how do you fish for gar? What kind of gear do you need, and what types of gar lures work best? We set about finding out the answers to all of the above questions as well as others like when to fish for gar and what types of gar you can fish for.
After reading this article, you’ll be ready to go after a prized gar!
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RUNCL Floating Popper
Tackle Needed for Gar Fishing
Top Tip: The type of rod and reel needed for gar fishing depends on the size of gar you’re going for. If you’re going for a smaller Florida gar, you should use a crankbait rod with a medium-sized spinning reel.
If you’re going for alligator gar, we recommend using a surf fishing setup: buy surf fishing reel or a large bottom fishing reel. This will allow you to cast your gar lure far away from your boat/the shore and give you the line capacity needed to fight a massive fish.
It will also help you muscle a massive gar out of the water.
As far as rods go, we recommend getting a large surf fishing rod that can withstand the appropriate test strength of the fishing line you’re using. Most anglers enjoy a long, heavy action rod for gar fishing.
The long length of the rod helps cast your bait and keeps you covered if you hook into a monster gar. If in doubt, bigger is better.
Gar Fishing Line
Berkley Trilene Big Game Monofilament
For fishing line, we recommend using monofilament instead of braided fishing line due to it’s resistance to scratching. If you’re fishing for gar anywhere near rocks or logs braided line is a bad choice. If you have to use braided line (your reel isn’t big enough for the desired length of monofilament), use it as backing.
Depending on what size gar you’re fishing for, you’ll need a different strength fishing line. For gar under 6 ft long, we recommend using 20 to 50 lb monofilament. For gar over 6 ft long, we recommend using 80 to 100 lb monofilament. View this post on Instagram
Steel Leader for Gar Lures
If you’re fishing for a massive gar, we recommend using a steel leader that prevents hungry gar from biting through the line when attacking your lures. As you probably know, gar have tons of razor-sharp teeth that will cut through even the thickest non-metal lines.
A steel leader also helps the bait bounce along the bottom which attracts gar. Using a #12 weight fishing wire works great for building a gar proof leader. You can then attach your gar lure on the end.
For smaller gar that you want to catch using artificial lures and casting, you can skip the steel leader for a thicker monofilament leader.
The Best Gar Lures
So what types of lures do gar like? We’ve found that topwater plug lures work best for gar of all sizes. We recommend getting a Yo-Zuri popper or a large Rapala to start.
You can also try Arbogast’s Hula Popper that imitates a frog or mouse running across the water. Go with the largest size you can find for your gar lures. As with many fishing techniques, big fish like big lures. Musky bucktails are also a good place to start with artificial gar lures.
How to Present Your Gar Lures
Gar fishing is often sight fishing. First, you need to find the gar before you can try and catch it.
Look for large gar sunning themselves near-shore mid-day. This is when using a spotter or fishing drone can really improve your chances of catching a monster gar.
Author Note: Once you’ve found a gar, cast your lure quietly as close to the gar as possible. When it hits the water, don’t do anything right away. Let the gar see it and stay calm. Then begin to twitch it back towards you as if it’s a wounded baitfish. If the gar doesn’t bite, try recasting with a different action.
If using live bait, wait patiently for the gar to decide if it’s hungry. When you feel the gar take your bait, do not set the hook right away!
Gar are notorious for holding food in their mouths and not eating them for several seconds or more.
Wait for the gar to begin swimming away before setting the hook. When a gar does take your lure, be ready for a long arduous fight.
When hooked, large gar tend to swim towards deeper water or underwater cover. Be aware of any nearby underwater logs you could get snagged on.
Erratic lures like crankbaits and jerkbaits that can be paused in front of shallow-water fish in an attempt to get them to react can be one of the most effective methods to catch gar, especially in the spring.
Longnose gar are notorious for being difficult to hook.
The reason for the hooking difficulty is due to their long snouts, which are also very bony and filled with teeth, this means that there isn’t much flesh to hook into.
Pro tip: When fishing for gar, be sure your hooks are razor-sharp and don’t get discouraged if you lose a lot of them after setting the hook, it happens and is par for the course when gar fishing.
Many anglers fishing for other species like pike, musky, or bass will hook into gar, especially in the spring, and due to the ferocious strikes, it seems like they hooked a trophy of one of these species, but never see it as it doesn’t get hooked.
If you are fishing and experience very aggressive strikes but never hook up, whether for gar or another species, it most likely was a gar.
In many cases, gar won’t actually attempt to eat a lure, but will smack it with their long noses, this is especially the case when fishing jigs.
Landing a Gar
KastKing Cutthroat 7” Fishing Pliers
When trying to land a gar, be very careful! It has rows of razor-sharp teeth that are designed to cut flesh. If you have some rope nearby, create a small lasso you can lay over the gar’s snout. This will help you control its jaws and prevent it from gashing you. You should also use a pair of fishing pliers to remove the hook safely. Don’t even think about doing it with your bare hands! View this post on Instagram
What are Gar?
Before we close, we thought it made sense to quickly go over the different types of gar you can catch in the United States. Chances are if you go fishing for gar, you’ll end up catching one of these species.
Alligator gar are the largest type of gar. They can measure up to 10 feet long and have been known to weigh over 300 pounds! These monster fish got their name because they look like an alligator when swimming close to shore.
Top Tip: Alligator gar can be found in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Ohio, and Missouri. They like to live in lakes and large rivers with slow-moving currents. They are deep green or yellow in color and enjoy eating other small fish in their habitats like catfish and carp.
Another large species of gar is the longnose gar. They live in Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, the Mississippi River, and other estuaries in Texas.
Longnose gar have lots of green and brown dots that run down their sides and enjoy eating other smaller fish that live in their habitats.
The longnose gar lives primarily in the midwest and is found in Wisconsin, Indiana, Mississippi, and Louisiana. They are much smaller than the alligator and longnose gar, only growing to 2.5 feet.
They’re also predators and enjoy eating small baitfish.
The Florida gar is smaller than the alligator gar and has many large brown spots down its side. Florida gar are found in Florida and Georgia and enjoy living in muddy rivers with plenty of vegetation.
They grow up to 3 feet long and 30 lbs.
Gar fishing is hardcore. It often takes many hours to get a bite, and when you do get a fish on it can easily bite through your line or break a hook with its powerful jaws.
But if you do end up landing a gar, you’ll have caught a fish many have only dreamed of catching. Got an awesome gar story to share with us?
You know what to do!