You might compare bowfishing to bowhunting, but with bowfishing, you can shoot a lot more. Especially while warm out, you can grab your buddies and head out to the lake or river to take some bowshots at gar. Important note, I think you will find more gar on rivers. While they say they inhabit lakes too, I’ve never seen a gar on a lake, but I’ve seen them in plenty of rivers. Here are some tips to help you with bowfishing gar.
Tip #1: Understand Gar Behavior
To bowfish gar, you should understand them. Gar aren’t the same as the alligator gar. The alligator gar usually has an upper jaw with a dual range of sharp teeth. The gar doesn’t have this. Gar usually move slowly until they strike. You will especially find them in the shallow and weedy sections of a river.
This voracious predator loves to strike its prey from the side with its head. It happens so fast, you’d never expect it.
Tip #2: Head South
Most often you will find gar in open waters. In the warmy waters, they will often flock to the weedier shallows. Perhaps one of the reasons that I haven’t seen a lot of them is because I live in Minnesota, and gar are more common in the south of the United States. On my trips to Texas, however, I have bowfished for gar. One of the best places to find gar if you live near it is the Mississippi river. You will have ample opportunity for gar on the Mississippi.
Tip #3: Eat What You Kill
If you don’t eat gar, leave it alone. Don’t bowfish them. In a lot of places, gar have even become protected because of how this fish species dates back to prehistoric times. Gar have grown less common, and they have a limit on this species to protect them. In fact, gar are one of the few species that eat baby carp, which helps to control the population.
If you shoot gar, there’s no such thing as catch and release. Either eat what you kill or don’t shoot it. This majestic creature shouldn’t be left to rot. Gar tastes good. It doesn’t have a flaky texture like with most fish meat. At the same time, you don’t get a fishy flavor either. You might say it has a flavor closer to alligator or chicken. For older gar meat, you might soak it over night in a process called brining it to help give it a juicier and tastier flavor.
Also, pay close attention to the state laws because of how this will make a big difference.
Tip #4: Opportunity to Shoot Some Gar
One of the best opportunities that you will have against the gar is when they come up to gulp for air. They do this regularly, which has occasionally caught bowfishermen off guard. When they do this, you can do a quick snapshot against the gar to see if you can’t bag it.
Again, it should be stressed that while you can bowfish for this target, you don’t want to go as hard on them as carp. Personally, I don’t even target the gar much because I feel like it does better to go after overpopulated carp populations that will help the ecology as you eliminate some of them.
Tip #5: Beware of the Eggs
After you have shot and killed a gar, you will go to eat it. One of the most important tips that you can learn to stay safe is to beware of the eggs of the gar. It contains ichthyotoxin, which is a protein that is highly poisonous to humans. Because of that, you should exercise extreme caution when you go to clean the gar because you don’t want to get poisoned.
Especially the big gar, you have to be careful because of how they potentially have eggs in them that can be toxic to you. To avoid this, you cut right behind the head of the gar. I use a hatchet called the Coleman Camp Axe. It doesn’t cost much, and at the same time, it does the job as needed. Be careful because you don’t want anything to splatter on you if the gar is a female and carries eggs. For the next part, you will need a machete like the Snake Eye Tactical Full Tang Two.
Cleaning the gar can be a lot of work. Beware of the eggs. They may look as if they’re inside of a sac. You don’t even want to touch it because it is poisonous to humans. Cut more deeply along the spine because this ensures that you don’t cut into where the guts and the eggs are located. Keep your fillet knife slid up against the cavity of the backbone. You do this without ever getting close to the guts. Filleting gar will give you some of the most tender fillets that you have ever seen.
Tip #6: Easier to Bowfish Gar
Hooking gar on a line can be next to impossible because of how the bony bills on the fish resist it. You can take gar from the river much easier if you bowfish for them. That’s not to say that you can’t hook them on a line, but you’ll have a much easier time doing it with a bow and arrow.
If you were going to use the hook, you might use cocahoe minnows. Entanglement baits especially work well against them.
Tip #7: Perfect Temperature for Gar
Understanding gar behavior through water temperature can play an interesting role. For example, when the water temperatures rise to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, they will usually start to spawn.
As the water temperatures rise between 80 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, you will notice how gar activities shoot through the roof. That becomes an opportunity for bowfishermen to especially target gar during this time. Because of water temperature playing a big role for gar, you may even want to target gar with bowfishing during the daylight hours.
Tip #8: Where You Find One, You Find Many
Usually, where you fnd one gar, you will find 100 more. That is one of the great things about bowfishing this fish is how you will find them clustered together.
That makes them easy to bowfish, but as always, you should keep in mind the limits on these fish. You have stricter limits with bowfishing gar than what you do with carp because of how these fish don’t cause as much destruction. Not to mention, gar are native fish to the United States.
Tip #9: Where to Look for Gar
While the gar spawn in the spring of the year, the best time to go bowfishing for gar will be from the start of July to the beginning of August. Any time that it is hot out, you will typically have better luck bowfishing for gar.
In general, when I go bowfishing for them, I will look for slower waters on the river because gar like to hang out in areas like this. You will especially find gar in deep holes in slow water, and in fact, they like to congregate there. They rise to the surface from time to time, which makes them prime bowfishing targets.
The other place where I look for gar is around river bends. This usually creates a natural deep hole where the gar like to hide in. In some cases, a place like this might get surrounded by sandbars.
Usually, you can find shallow gar in shallow and open waters. I like to look for them in water between 3 to 5 meters deep, which makes gar the perfect target for bowfishing.
Tip #10: Use Strong Line
One of the things that has made the gar a popular bowfishing fish comes from how it puts up one heck of a fight. With that said, you don’t want to skewer the fish with an arrow only to lose it. That will kill the fish, and you will lose the arrow as well. For that reason, you typically want a stronger line with robust strength.
Usually, you will choose anywhere from 30 to 100-pound test. I prefer the heavier test for bowfishing line because of how it ensures that I don’t lose the fish while I’m bowfishing. This fish when it takes your line will put up one heck of a fight that will be worthy of fishing stories everywhere. In addition, you may want to get superbraid line because of how this will keep the gar from snapping the line with its teeth.
Tip #11: Rinse the Meat Well
Even after you have filleted your gar, you should take care to rinse the meat well because of how the eggs of the female gar can be poisonous. Here’s the general rule to keep in mind when you do this, however. Do not soak the meat in water because of how it turns mushy when you do this.
In general, you will want to rinse the gar meat right before you go to cook it. For the next step, you crab boil the meat for it to taste good.
Tip #12: Know the Regulations
Especially with gar, you have to acquaint yourself with the bowfishing regulations because of how it does differ from other forms of fishing. With carp, you can often take as many as you’d like because of how this controls the carp population, but gar differ in that certain places have a limit on how many you can take.
For example, going after alligator gar in Texas, you have a daily limit of only taking one alligator gar. That is done to protect the giant gar in Texas that have made the state famous. Check with your local regulations because each state and even region will differ.
Bowfishing for gar is a fun experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. Even if you don’t have a boat, you just need a bow and arrows that can piece the gar’s armor. This fish has tough armor, which can be difficult to get through.
If you’re looking for a good arrow to pierce through gar scales, I’d recommend the Muzzy Bowfishing 1010 Quick Release Gar Point Fishing Point. This arrow will help you to pierce the hardened scales of the gar, and it ensures that if you hit the gar, you don’t miss it because your arrow tip wasn’t sharp enough. In general, you want to keep the sharpest arrow tips on hand for this.
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