Longnose gar are commonly known for their sharp teeth and bad attitude, but who would have thought such a prehistoric looking fish could taste so good?
Hooked a gar and don't know what to do with it? Here are some tips to help you out.
Cleaning and cooking gar can be broken down into a few simple steps.
Longnose gar are best when cleaned right away. If you are fishing/bowfishing and plan on being out for a while, I recommend bringing a cooler with ice and fileting them as soon as possible.
This time I brought the gar home immediately and cleaned it on my kitchen counter. It can be messy, as cleaning fish usually is, so you can opt to clean them out of doors.
Gar eggs are poisonous to all mammals. The method I use to clean gar does not bring you in contact with the eggs, but if you are cleaning a female just be aware and wash thoroughly before cooking. There are several ways to clean longnose gar, but I have found this way to be the simplest and fastest.
To filet, you will need a few simple tools. A small hand saw or hatchet (I use a small hand saw as pictured), tin snips or large shears, and a sharp knife.
The first step is to cut the backbone directly behind the gar's head. No need to cut the head completely off, about halfway through the fish is fine.
The armor-like scales on a gar are extremely tough, so on large gar you can nail their head to a board to aid in the process.
The second step is using tin snips, to cut the scales in a straight line down the backbone to the tail.
Peeling the scales back, you will be able to see two strips of meat along the backbone, similar to the backstraps on a deer. Using the knife, filet the scales back from the meat.
The scales should peel away easily. Cut along the backbone on either side and you will be able to filet out the two strips of white meat.
You may end up with a few pieces of scales left on the meat, simply cut off any dark pieces and dispose of them. The meat should be firm, resembling the color and texture of chicken with next to no fishy smell.
If cleaned correctly, you should not come into contact with any of the entrails or innards or, in the case of a female, any eggs.
Although there are many methods for cooking gar, the quickest and easiest way to cook gar is to fry it. I always rinse the meat thoroughly in cold water and soak in milk for several hours.
Cut the gar into bite-size pieces, and dip in milk/egg wash and batter of your seasoning. I usually use seasoned breadcrumbs or dry pancake mix with cajun seasoning for a kick.
Heat oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat for five minutes. Add the battered gar meat and fry until golden brown, usually around 3-4 minutes on either side.
Drain on papertowels and serve with your favorite dipping sauce. In my opinion, gar does not taste like fish at all but more like chicken. Several friends have compared it to alligator meat.
*Caution: Make sure the gar is completely dead before fileting as their teeth are razor sharp. Gar teeth have a tendency to come out in your skin and the bite can easily get infected.
All photos via Beka Garris