Species of the Week: Longnose Gar

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Corey's picture
Species of the Week: Longnose Gar
<div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item even"> <div class="field field-name-body field-type-text-with-summary field-label-hidden"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item even"> <h3> Welcome to the third installment of Species of the Week!</h3> <p>This (weekly or biweekly) system allows the community to add more comprehensive information to the species pages.&nbsp; Everyone should post their best information, tactics, and descriptive information for the species.&nbsp; Pictures of average-sized, juvenile, and jumbo specimens are all required.&nbsp; Each species should have at least one habitat photo (This means getting creative)!&nbsp;</p> <h3> This week&#39;s species is the Longnose Gar, <em>Lepisosteus osseus</em></h3> <p><em>Click <a href="http://www.roughfish.com/~roughfis/species/25"><strong>HERE</strong></a> for the current Longnose Gar page.</em></p> <p><img alt="" src="http://www.roughfish.com/~roughfis/sites/default/files/longnosegar_cg1.jpg" style="width: 599px; height: 447px;" /></p> <p>Please share your experiences with this species below!</p> <p>Grab your rope flies and your gar-jacks!&nbsp; Let&#39;s get gar-ish and swap some gar-bled tales about longnose gar!&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p>
Conecuh's picture


I found this website because of the longnose gar. My brother and I thought we could catch some big bass if we fished live bluegills under a float below a dam.
Instead, a gigantic yellow catfish snatched my brother's bluegill and broke his line. Huh, wonder what that could be?
We decided that catching flatheads would be more exciting than bass, so we came back with heavier tackle. The flatheads didn't bite, but we encountered a mysterious, aggravating fish that would swim around with the bait but never get hooked.
The longnose gar. I came across roughfish.com while researching how you could actually hook up with one of these beasts.
The method I use now isn't very high percentage, but I usually fish in waters with a lot of gar, so I get lots of strikes. The best bait, for me, is the "swampland" longear sunfish. They're very common around my neck of the woods (The deep Deep South), and they stay much more active, much longer than a bluegill. Spotted sunfish, if you can get them, also work better than bluegill.
I clip one of the pectoral fins of the sunfish (it causes it to be off balance and cause more commotion), and hook it with two large treble hooks (#2) with enough line connecting the two trebles to make kind of a loop, maybe about 8 inches of line. I fish it under a large float about 1 1/2' deep. If the sunfish swims up to the surface and flops about, that's fine, it just helps attract the gar. I usually do this below a dam where there's a large concentration of gar.
If the float goes down and stays down, or takes off across the water very quickly, it's a catfish or bowfin, or a gar that has somehow got hooked right away. Immediately set the hook if this happens (to prevent guthooking).
If the float leisurely starts moving around the pool faster than the bait can move it, it's a gar that has the sunfish in the tip of it's snout. As it swims around, it will tangle the extra line between the treble hooks around its snout, and also the line between the bait and the float. It's essential to use floating line  when doing this, so the gar doesn't drag your line under every rock and sunken log in the pool.
The gar will stop every so often and work the bait further back in its mouth. If it feels the treble hooks, and/or the line has become wrapped sufficiently around its snout, it will panic and take off in a fast run. Sometimes it gets hooked by one of the trebles, sometimes it gets "noosed" by the excess line. With large sunfish and large trebles, and setting the hook as soon as it starts a fast run, the gar is not likely to get gut hooked.
In the Deep South, they're in every decent size stream and river, in the slower pools. They will concentrate below dams.
I don't know if you want to put the following pics on the species page, but they are interesting.
I can't think of anything else but a longnose gar that would make this wound. The spotted bass was probably 11" long or so.
I saw the gar that nailed this highfin carpsucker. It was pushing 4 feet. It was nosing around in a pool above where we were wading. There was a big commotion and this poor fellow came floating down.
I don't know if big gar normally eat fish this big, or if it's a case of them underestimating their target.
Corey's picture
Great stuff!

Great job Conecuh!  Thanks for helping out!

zippyFX's picture
Nylon Rope

I hope to catch some of these in the spring and I have been researching local locations. Other than the quick strik rig you discuss above the other option I have heard about is the fraid nylon rope.

I would be interested in finding out if this method allows for successful catch and release given the time it takes to detangle. Soem of the pictures I have seen look nasty.

To make it technically legal in Ontario I may need to jerry rig it onto a lure with hooks. I am not sure if angling with no hooks is legal here.


Nice report BTW!

andy's picture
In case any of you haven't

In case any of you haven't seen it, I helped a comrade put together a very good article about longnose gar. Ok, well I just took him fishing... Here's a link to the article.

Cast_and_Blast's picture
Here are my best pics.

Here are my best pics.





Here's a few more I dug up.






DavidG's picture
Love them!  I have spent more

Love them!  I have spent more hours chasing longnose gar in the last several years than any other.   I play around with rope lures from time to time but for the most part I am kicking back relaxing with a few minnows or other cut bait suspended under a float.  They are a great prospect for sight fishing, and I do that with artificials and chunks of natural bait alike.   I too have written more extensively on them like Andy.




DavidG Blog:  http://www.boundless-pursuit.com

fishingwithpole's picture
Because posting juvenile one

Because posting juvenile one is encouraged. What a contrast after a record class fish...


Eli's picture
Gotta love longsnouts. I live

Gotta love longsnouts. I live at the northern-most part of their range, but even here they grow to a respectable size. I'll share my limited experience with this species.


Rope lures:

These are deadly if conditions are right and if they are presented correctly. In order to trigger a strike, the rope must be presented to the gar in a perpendicular manner, ideally at a ~90˚ angle to its nose. Otherwise, the lure will be either ignored, or at best followed to the side of your boat without contact. I call it the 90˚-effect or simply the 'Eli effect'cheekybut thats neither here nor there. As well, it's worth while mentioning that the more active the gar, the greater the strike distance between the fish and the lure. In the peak of summer heat, a gar will shoot forward and hit a lure presented as much as ten feet away. Cold water gar require more precise casts, but even in mid-April a gar sunning itself on the surface will strike a rope if it is "tickled" with it. 

Rope lures seem to be most effective when gar are hanging out in small groups, rather than as individual fish. If you can find a group of four or five fish all facing the same direction, you can enjoy watching all five race each other towards your lure and may the longest fish win.

Last point about rope lures is that you should always use heavy line and check your knots. A rope-hooked gar that breaks your line and gets away is a fish doomed to death by starvation.


Live bait:

I like to keep it simple. Usually I will canoe around until a gar is spotted then drop a medium size minnow several feet away from it and work it slowly towards the fish. I use very small quickstrike rigs and hangthe minnow under a small slip float. Once the minnow is picked up, the spool is opened as the gar will inevitably run before stopping and repositioning the bait for an easy swallow. As soon as the float stops moving, I count to five and set.

The best hookset when using the above rig is to sweep your rod tip sideways parallel to the water rather than upwards. This helps to jam the hooks between the gar's jaws.


Well marked juvenile


Plain sub-adult


Big girl with jaws full of rope





andy's picture
tough, tough fish...

Been chasing them for many years, a favorite of mine for sure.  More text later, but I wanted to put up a few of my favorite photos.   Click to enlarge, it's worth it.










zippyFX's picture
Great reads

Both these reads were good and answered many of my questions!

Gunnar's picture
I'm no expert on gar, but I

I'm no expert on gar, but I am obsessed.


Here's my lifer 47" gar from the Mississippi near Cassville, caught on a rope lure:


Here's a close-up of a smaller longnose caught on a rope lure and 7wt fly rod a little later the same day:


A rope-caught longnose from Gar Lake (seriously, that's its name):


Some useful tips I've picked up from gar gurus:

  • When fishing with a rope lure, DO NOT SET THE HOOK! You'll pull it away before it has time to tangle. When you feel (an often see) the strike, just breathe. Feel yourself relax. Give the fish time to really get a good grip. Then tighten up. No need for any hookset. If it's tangled, it's not coming off. Enjoy the fight.
  • Always have at least one tough glove accessible. Either that or some band-aids. In a pinch, use your shirt or something to protect your hand. Those teeth aren't designed to OSHA safety standards. That's why we'll be extinct long before the gar.
  • When the gar is boatside (or at the shore), grab the beak firmly (with gloved hand). No hesitation, just decide to do it and then do it. A gar is one long muscle and it it will not like you or what you're doing, so make sure your grip is solid and constant.
  • Have some needle-nose pliers ready so you can get the rope fibers untangled without too much damage to you or the fish.
  • Once the fish is controlled on the ground or the boat, you can open the beak with your gloved hand or by putting the tip of the closed pliers between the jaws and then opening them. Hold the beak open with gloved fingers near the "hinge" or by putting something (a broomstick perhaps) between them.
  • Get all the fibers out so the fish doesn't end up retangling and starving to death after you release it.
  • If your boat isn't too fancy, you might want to paint/mark some measurements on the gunwale. A 4 foot gar is unlikely to lie still while you find your tape measure, especially if you're fishing alone with one hand occupied holding an angry, toothy, 20 lb fish. (Note the yellow line painted on Garman's boat, below. I think his are every foot.)
  • Some say it's good to spray your rope lures with some sort of attractive scent.
  • Keep scissors in your boat/tackle box so you can trim off uneven or excessive fibers as necessary.
  • I've heard from some gar gurus that a rope lure gets more effective as it gets more tangled. From others I've heard that it's better when newer and loses effectiveness as it gets tangled.
  • Sometimes it works to move the lure fast and straight, sometimes a jerk-pause-jerk works better. Try working the lure right at the surface if you see gar, but if they're lounging up there for air and sun and won't bite, let the lure sink a couple feet then jig it up and down as you retrieve it.
  • Remember: don't set the hook when using a rope lure.
  • Also, remember not to set the hook.
  • Finally, setting the hook could lose the gar.


Rope lure firmly tangled:


Reach out and grab it without hesitation:


Hold jaws open and use pliers to remove the rope:


Nice clean beak, ready for release:

I tie rope lures using a variety of materials. One of my favorites is the pure white core of soft 3/8 inch nylon dock line (after I've used the outer sheath of the rope to make slinky weights with 36 caliber muzzleloading balls). I've also used rock climbing rope (including multi-colored ones, black ones, etc.) with and without including its white core.

I incorporate a few features I learned by looking at rope lures made by Garmaster Bob and Garman. Foremost among those is building in a long braid leader with a sliding bullet weight permanently threaded onto it (sort of like a Texas rig) with a swivel at the end.

White seems to be the standard choice for most rope lure makers. The weight and bead can slide up and down the leader (it's about a foot long):


Here's a more colorful one:

The yellow head and the yellow fibers are the nylon twine you get at Home Depot for hanging a plumb bob or marking where to dig on a construction site. It comes in bright pink, bright orange and (I think) bright green. I happened to have some yellow. It frays nicely. The head is heavily saturated with super glue. This leader has no weight or beads. I've used sharpies to make all sorts of colored ropes, but haven't tried them yet.

Here's the one mentioned above that's small and light enough to use with a fly rod. It caught several longnoses in the Mississippi last June on a 7 wt. The rope portion of this lure is about 4" long.

White nylon dock line core, melted to a hard cone shape at one end, then pierced with a hot nail. This one has a spinner wire, but I also just tie heavy braided line through the hole.

And here's the first gar I ever caught on a fly rod (using that little white rope):


Garman ties red fibers into his white rope lures, and also includes strips of silver mylar. I'm hoping to make some glowing rope lures for night fishing and/or deep water. I have a bunch of black rope lures that I'm pretty confident will be excellent, but haven't tried them yet.


Gar meat is white, firm, not flaky. Not fishy. No strong flavor. Getting it out of the gar is unlike cleaning most other fish. You'll need tin snips, heavy gloves, and a knife you don't care too much about. You'll also benefit from watching some youtube gar cleaning videos.

Basically, you need to open the gar's back like the cargo bay of the space shuttle. Rather than write it all out, I'll just advise spending some time watching videos. Essentially, you cut down both sides behind the head, then cut a straight line all along the top of the fish toward the tail, then down both sides at the rear end. You lift the armor and use a sharp knife to separate the meat from the skin while folding the armor out and away from the body. Think space shuttle. Then you can easily remove the two long strips of muscle from the fish. These have no bones at all. Done correctly, there are no bones to cut or remove, the guts remain contained the entire time, and you end up with perfect pieces of meat.

Beware: the cut edges of gar armor are just as sharp as sheet metal!


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2020: 10 days fishing 11 species 0 lifers. 2019: 34/45/13 2018: 39/40/5

BemidJim's picture
MN Conservation Volunteer

I loved that article in MCV, Andy.  It prompted me to buy Fishing for Buffalo.  I read the article and bought the book in the same day.

zippyFX's picture
Me too....

That's funny.... I did the same thing!

andy's picture

Awesome!  So glad to hear that you guys found that article interesting enough to inspire your angling.  I know Mike, the author, very well and it was his hope that it would do just that!  What a great day on the river that was...


I have to ask, is that the first time you learned of roughfish.com?

zippyFX's picture
I learned about roughfish

I learned about roughfish when someone refereed me here to ask about a fish identification.... I liked waht I saw and keep comming back... Love these species reports!

BemidJim's picture
I had heard about it several

I had heard about it several times before actually coming here.  I think somebody from HSO led me here.  Quite different forums this one and that one.

Mike B
Mike B's picture
Great stuff everybody. I'm

Great stuff everybody. I'm going to make a serious try for this species this summer I think.

mike b

Jknuth's picture
Here are a few things I can

Here are a few things I can add and some rigs I use.

First an illustration.

And then some rigs.


Its a bobber rig with two hooks. The diea is to snare the gar if the hook is not solid in the hookset.
The larger treble hook is looped onto the line and is able to slide when under pressure. 
The second hook is placed a about 3" below. This is a small treble hook, normally a 10 or 12 this hook is tied on securly and the tag of the line is left long. I then will tie the tag around the shank of the hook and place 2-3 split shot on the tag. This is secured with a small knot on the end of the line. 

The way it works is. the gar hits the baited hook, during the hookset when the gar surfaces they will thrash. When they thrash the weights swing the smaller hook around and and it will spin around the snout and hook onto the main line. The pressure of the weight of the fish pull the snare tight. 

This is my main technique used on lake winnebago. 


The next rig is similar to the first, but it is designed for bottom fishing or distance fishing. 
Frequently when I fish gar they are further from shore then I can cast with a float. I will use this rig to give me distance and allow the bait to reach the fish.

I use a sliding weight with a bobber stop to hole the weight in place. I place a small float about an inch or so in front of the baited hook. This allows me to set the depth the bait is at. 
Often I am fishing in 6 feet of water and set the bait about 5.5' off the bottom. 


This rig uses a long cigar style float with the bait set a few inches behind the float. The rig is cast out and twitched along the surface attracting the gar to the rig.

Jknuth's picture
and a few Gar videos

and a few Gar videos

Gary's first longnose gar

One of mine

And another nice one of Gary's This one is from Hookest to landing.

Gunnar's picture
Wondered if/when the various

Wondered if/when the various Knuth rig diagrams would appear!


Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com

2020: 10 days fishing 11 species 0 lifers. 2019: 34/45/13 2018: 39/40/5

Jknuth's picture
One other trick is to take a

One other trick is to take a foam float that is about an inch around or perhaps larger. You want to make sure the float is larger then the throat of the gar you are chasing. This is placed about an inch or so above the hook. 
I started doing this on Winnebago this year and it helps so much with them swallowing the hook. 
You can easily get to the hook and the float prevents them from swallowing the hook.


Jknuth's picture
And one last one.

And one last one.

A snare rig I played with.
I landed a few using this. For the snare line I used 100lb mono, so it was very stiff, but wire would work also. 
The bait is attached to a safety pin that is on a tube so it slides freely in the loop. 
The fish grabs the bait and the snare closes around its upper jaw as it swims off. 

Jknuth's picture
And last but not least. A

And last but not least. A song that sunms up the frustrations of gar fishing. 



andy's picture
dirty lowdown no good no gar blues!
Ah, what a great anthem. Rich was in rare vocal form that night, the digeridoo and frog rasp accompaniment was flawless, and I, well, I drank a lot of beer and hammered out a couple chords. Instant classic!
Corey's picture
Hell yes

That's the roughfish.com roundup right there, ladies and gents.  Mister Andrew Geving on the Gee-Tar, your humble webmaster Corey playin' the frog, digeridoo by mistress Frogchaser, and the incomparable Captain Rainbow on the vocals.  Can't wait for spring.

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
Cool pic of a Longnose that

Cool pic of a Longnose that hung around after it was released.  I sight fish Longnose Gar with 2 or 3 fathead minnows on a plain gold or brass hook.  I use cheap, flimsy hooks in hopes they rust out in case of a gut-hooked fish, which is sometimes common when fishing smaller minnows like fatheads. I usually try to cast or lob the minnow cluster right infront of the cruising gars face.  Odds more often than not they eat it up.  I let them run with the bait for a minute or two, then smack 'em.  Technique works good on Shortnose Gar as well.



perkinsdonald's picture
Gar Addiction!!!!


Wow what a bunch of great information! Im going to have to get my hands on that book FFB! Great article Andy

Gar is by far my favorite fish to catch!!! The Wisconsin river is full of these toothy Fish! I usually catchem in 2-4' of water using a leader of 50lb braid with a small red treble hook and a split shot a foot from the hook. The rest of the line is 20 lb braid. They love cruising the shallow water for minnows.

The bait I like to use is bluegill, mooneye, or sucker they seem to work the best. small strips on the hook casted out from a sand bar with beer is a good time em k. The current brings it back  by shore where alot of the bait fish hang out. I will place the pole on the back of the canoe to keep from shore about 4'. unless I'm fishing at the end of a sand bar. the drag is set really loose as a bight indicator. 



The runs are incredible!!! Here's that fish with my friend holding it.

the 2nd part of the video is on here some where.

here are some pics of other WI river longnose.



The gods do not subtract the alotted span in men's lives the hours spent in fishing.

Corey's picture
Great post, Donald

Great info, thanks for sharing!

Garmaster Bob in WI

I don't think I ever posted this pic. It's my pb longnose for length I caught Aug. 31, 2012. It was 54.75" but lacking girth so it was only 16lbs. Caught on livebait (can't remember if it was a sucker minnow or a bluegill) under a bobber using the 2 treble hook rig that Jknuth illlustrated. I've been using that rig since the beginning (1995). We used to use creek chubs or common shiners from a nearby tributary but due to Wisconsin's ridiculous VHS rules we have switched to bluegills straight from the mighty Miss or cutbait. We also use cutbait with a 1-2" cube on each hook. If we have money burning a hole in our pocket we occasionally buy sucker minnows. We usually resort to live bait or cut bait only if the rope is failing us and often times we float one rod and cast rope on another rod.

andy's picture
Bringing this to the top of the forum

UMRA said he wanted to see a Species Of The Week on longnose gar.  This is from a while back, the last one of these we did I believe.  I never got around to adding all this knowledge to our Species Page, but I'll try to do that soon...

UpperMi roughangler
UpperMi roughangler's picture
Thanks Andy. A lot of good ga

Thanks Andy. A lot of good gar info here.

FP4LifesDad's picture
Awesome gang!

This is exactly what I was hoping for!!  A warehouse of info from the pros. 

When we caught the prehistoric longnose, we tried a bunch of different areas and techniques and after probably a dozen trips to the Pomme De Terre lakes and river (closest area to us where they existed) we had yet to see a gar.  Finally a tip from Muskymags put us in the right area of the lake we'd been searching.  The gar were up during the middle of hot days in shallow water (1 to 2 foot max) so we would troll around using the bowmount until we'd spot them sitting up in the shallows (you don't want to get to close because they'd spook and take off like a rocket). We tried casting rope lures, but they seemed to spook or ignore them completely.  Then after reading tips here, we switched over to a small bobber set about 8 inches to a foot down with a single split shot up by the bobber (to cast further) and shiner minnows. Don't use a big bobber as it's right above their heads when they strike and they really take off then I suppose they think it's following them (also 2-3 other gar would chase after them when they had a minnow, very cool to watch). Shiners were a problem however the gar would hit them almost instantly but didn't seem to swallow them, so the next trip we dropped down to fatheads and bang.  We had to cast almost right on top of them and you could see the gar come in and grab them, after many failed hook sets, we let them run, and run, and run, sometimes 100 yards or so, finally when they stopped swimming we new they'd swallowed the hook, and bang, we caught all the lifers we needed and pretty fast too.  Got the pics and carefully unhooked them and put them back where they came from.  What an exciting fish to catch.  We fished alot of emergent weeds (bulrushes) and such, and I suspect the gar were in there, getting one out would have been a mess and we didn't see more then a couple.  Almost all the fish we seen were suspended over weedy bottom without reeds sticking up in about 1 to 2 feet of water and you could see them plain as day when the water was calm.  Same with sandy and rocky areas, no gar to be seen.  If you didn't cast with in about 4-5 feet of them though they didn't seem to travel far to get food.  Hope this helps, like I said once we figured out where to look, they were easy to spot and catch.  I do have friends that bowfish, and no way will I tell them where to go for gar, a very cool fish that was swimming while the T-Rex were roaming our planet.  Same goes for any other fish that's open season for spearing etc.  Catch it on a hook and line, then you've got my respect as a fellow angler and a much bigger challenge then ramming a fiberglass shaft thru one and killing the fish for no reason.


For some reason I can't get the habitat photo to post on here, it's actually not good habitat it's the weedy area we were searching and only seen a couple.  The background in FP's photo you can see how calm it is, no emergent veg, and we were sitting in super shallow water, big motor all the way up and my bowmount set just deep enough so it wouldn't splash, otherwise we'd be hitting bottom with either of them.

Birddog's picture
After reading this thread

After reading this thread backward and forward for a few days (I know it's an old thread!) I'm making my second return to a spot near my home that's loaded with longnose gar.   I went there last time with only standard tackle and didn't hook a fish, but saw dozens.   This afternoon I'm headed out with some flies and bait rigs inspired by this thread.    I can't wait to get out there!

Joel Spring
Author of "The Ghosts of Autumn" 2016 and "The Ultimate Guide to Kayak Fishing" 2017. New book in 2018, just released is "Strong is the Current: A Grieving Father's Meditations on Life, Loss and Fishing" (West River Media).