Having caught a gar, you may wonder if you need to kill them like the Asian carp. Many people may view killing a fish without a purpose as wasteful and frown upon it. Let’s have a look.
Should you kill gar? A native fish species to the United States, you should not kill gar unless you plan to eat them. They serve an essential role in our aquatic ecosystems. In fact, the American gar, a relative of the bowfin, has existed in North American waters for over 215 million years.
As you can see, gar have lived in American waters for longer than humans have existed. If you’d like to learn more about why you shouldn’t kill gar, keep reading because we will explore the reasons behind why they matter to our aquatic wildlife system.
Good for the Aquatic Environment
Top predators to our rivers’ ecosystems, gar play in the role of freshwater sharks. They keep the other fish populations at a healthy level.
Seven species of gar exist in North America, Central America and Cuba as native fish species. While they can be good for the environment, you do have cases where they can overtake other fish populations.
A female gar can lay up to 20,000 eggs and averages 13,000 eggs per spawn, but they only reproduce a few times each decade. For that reason, you may want to go light on them unless the populations have gone out of control.
Gar have a size big enough to hold their own up against the invasive and destructive flood of Asian carp. Because they can grow up to 8 feet long, they double the size of Asian carp.
Alligator gar have proven a piece of the puzzle to controlling Asian carp populations. They like to feed off the rough fish like carp and gizzard shad.
Gar Put up a Good Fight
Gar have a reputation among fishermen as fighting well once you put them on the end of your hook. Many anglers dismiss them and don’t go after them, but alligator gar can reach a size of up to 8 feet long and exceed 300 pounds. In Texas, they have a reputation as being great for the Lone Star State waters. In fact, the state protects them so that you can only claim one per day, which began in 2009.
It may, however, be a good thing that this fish isn’t as popular because of its infrequent spawning habits, which would inevitably lead to its decline.
If You Kill Them, Eat Them…
Catch and release will ensure that this fish species continues to exist for future generations, but gar taste great. You might compare the texture and flavor to a lobster tail. That makes for one of the reasons that the gar received the nickname, “Poor Man’s Lobster.” This primitive fish has a heavy armor on it, however, and you will need to use tin snips, a fishing knife and a heavy-duty pair of fishing scissors to clean the gar.
Also, beware of how while gar aren’t poisonous by themselves, you should never eat the eggs from the female gar because of the toxicity. The eggs contain ichthyotoxin, a toxin that will damage your nerve tissues. This serves as a defense mechanism against things that would eat them. Gar eggs will kill you.
I would never advise, however, that you kill gar for the sake of killing gar because it doesn’t make much sense. With most fish species, in fact, I would advise against that practice. As fishermen or bowfishermen, we want to practice good sportsmanship and act humanely toward the fish that we take.
The smaller gar tend to taste better than the bigger gar, but all gar taste good. They don’t taste the same way as carp.
Why You Shouldn’t Kill Them: Misunderstood Apex Predator
Gar sit at the top of the list as a predator fish that keeps the other fish in check. Many fishermen don’t like them for one reason or another. They might dislike them because of the difficulty of unhooking them, or they might dislike them because of the challenge in cleaning their tough skin. For whatever reason, gar aren’t at the top of the list for fishing, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you have the opportunity, there’s nothing wrong with practicing catch and release for this majestic fish species. They’re a fascinating fish because the alligator gar can even live out of water for up to two hours. To put that into perspective, most fish species won’t live for longer than three to four minutes out of water.
Not Equal to the Dogfish
Some people have equated the gar to the bowfin, but unlike bowfin, gar taste good. By the way, bowfin may not be as bad as what you think. If you’re interested in learning more about whether you should kill bowfin, check out the article I wrote here about them.
Bowfin and gar both have as primitive of a history in North America as any other species on the continent. The gar came about 215 million years ago, and the bowfin first appeared 150 million years ago.
Are gar protected? Check your local regulations because in some parts of the country, state law protects gar on some level. Efforts have been made to reintroduce gar to areas where they previously lost their habitat. Alligator gar especially have fallen under these protections.
What are gar good for? Gar make for good eating, and in some places like Louisiana, you can find them available in restaurants. Along with eating, gar serves an essential role in the aquatic environment where they keep fish populations at healthy levels. They also have a liking for the taste of the invasive Asian carp.
You shouldn’t kill gar for the sake of killing them, but you may want to try eating them once because this fish tastes delicious. It’s a highly underrated fish except in certain parts of the country. In some cases, they have even used gar scales to make jewelry. Native Americans in the past used to use the gar scales for arrowheads, and in the Caribbean, they used the skin for breastplates. Early American pioneers used their skin for the blades of their plows.
The gar has a history in North America as far back as mankind, and for that reason, they deserve respect as a fish species.