The largest species of gar known to modern science, the alligator gar can weigh over 300 pounds and measure nearly 10 feet in length.
Found throughout the lower Mississippi and freshwater systems along the Gulf Coastal region, the alligator gar is one of North America’s largest, most rewarding fish species to angle—and quite possibly, the most difficult as well.
Alligator gar occupy the upper water column region where they nocturnally stalk their prey; alligator gar primarily feed on small-to-medium fish, but occasionally will consume wadding waterfowl and small mammals—they’re opportunistic piscivores (an animal that eats primarily fish) as well.
Location, temperature, and time
By far, the best time of year to fish for these freshwater behemoths is in the hot, dry months of late-summer. And while this may seem counterintuitive for a fish to be most active in the heatstroke heavy days of August, one activity trumps any-and-all fatigue—intercourse.
It’s at this specific time of year that the gar will congregate in the deeper river bends to spawn, later surfacing in the nearby shallows to hunt—that’s where you cast. It’s best to have a large spinning wheel, strung-in with a filament line that’s capable of with standing heavy amounts of both dead and active weight; I always recommend using a line rated at 100 pounds or more.
Floating on by
Because gar have a tendency to hug the upper water column, a hollowed plastic, cork, or Styrofoam float (bobber) is needed; I’d recommend the iconic red-and-white plastic floaters for the simple fact that you’ll be more aware of how that contrasting bobber’s acting than that of a monochromatic corked one.
Once you’ve chosen your bobber of liking, it’s then time to string in a small, quarter or third ounce sinker, completing the line with a multi-barbed hook.
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Fish are friends—and bait
Alligator gar are, first and foremost, piscivores. And being such fish-savvy consumers, anything-and-everything’s on the table. But, like numerous predatory fish, I always recommend using a bait fish that’s lustrous in nature—shine on, shine on.
Visual signaling and motion-based ques are any ambush predators’ enticing points. Often times, the quick-glimmer off a struggling fish’s reflective scales is all that predatory fish needs to validate and stimulate a feeding response from—and gar are no different.
Let it got, let it go
Whether its your first or 100th alligator gar, once you’ve landed such a large, prehistoric-like creature, odds are that images of mantle pieces and plaques will begin to flood your adrenaline-laden cerebrums.
Alligator gar may be formidable in appearance, but they’re quite the opposite in terms of sustainability—they’re cornered, frightened, and fighting for existence. Because of over-harvesting practices, river damming, and declining water quality, these giants of the gar realm have experienced major population declines in the 20th Century.
In Louisiana, the species was even deemed “state extinct” in 1994; populations of gar are now being farmed and reintroduced. So yes, feel free take a picture of that gargantuan gar before returning it to its river home—a picture’s worth a thousand words, anyways.
Alligator gar ( Atractosteus spatula) have not yet been evaluated by the IUCN Red List.