This is the heavyweight champion of American freshwater predators. Forget your big catfish, your muskellunge, and yes, your salmon. Here is a fish that can snap them all in half.
One look at its massive, wide snout and vast arsenal of impressive teeth explains why humans call this fish the alligator gar. Its ganoid scales provide it with a suit of armor that has withstood time. Though it is a predator, and though it is enormous (up to ten feet and several hundred pounds), the alligator gar has a fairly tranquil lifestyle. These days, it makes its home in the Southeastern United States (Texas, Oklahoma, occasionally Illinois, Misouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida), where it calmly cruises around in the slower parts of rivers, backwaters and manmade lakes. Gator gar will take a break from tranquility to ambush their prey, but they will also gladly gobble up any recently dead creature they come across. It is said they migrate to areas with stronger current to spawn.
Should you wish to take it upon yourself to angle for these beasts, first you must ask yourself if you can bring yourself to use a fish that would normally be a nice catch on an ultralight for bait. A large shad will do, as will a small carp. In a pinch, you could get your bait from the fish section at the supermarket. You must ask yourself if you can use fishing gear that feels less like gear and more like heavy machinery or tools. You must ask yourself if you can sit under the scorching Southern sky, your bait positioned in a likely spot, an eddy, a confluence, a current seam, yourself sulking in the warmish mud in water moccasin and snapping turtle territory, as you wait for all hell to break loose. If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you might well meet the mighty Alligator Gar.
Alligator Gar Guides
Since we created this website in 1998, a number of guide services offering trips for alligator gar have emerged, mainly in Texas. Many of these outfits are people who respect the gar and are very good at catching, photographing, and releasing these slow-growing, toothy giants. Others, on the other hand, offer bowfishing for alligator gar. While legal, we at roughfish.com do not condone bowfishing for alligator gar. We recommend you select a responsible gar guide who shares our values and does not take money from people who just want to wantonly kill this amazing and sensitive species indiscriminitely. There really is no place for commercial bowfishing in alligator gar management.