May 26, 2024

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Anglers’ Guide to Alligator Gar Fishing

Reading Time: 8 minutes

When you think of freshwater fish species, what comes to mind? Maybe Bass? Crappie? Bluegill? There sure are plenty out there. But I’m here to focus on one pretty peculiar fish. These fish are unique looking, with long skinny bodies, and long snouts. They look pretty similar to the saltwater species, Needlefish, just bigger and different colors. I’m here today to talk to you about fishing for Alligator Gar!

Photo courtesy of Ram Outdoors

These beasts are fun to catch – for one because they’re considered living fossils! That means they’ve been around for a very, very long time. Another popular reason is because they put up an incredible fight. In addition to that, they’re among the largest freshwater fish species in North America. It’s no wonder that plenty of anglers are constantly chasing these critters.

So, as you can see, there’s plenty to learn about before you land yourself a trophy Gar. I hope to be of help. I’ll give you all the tips, tricks, and techniques when it comes to fishing for Alligator Gar in this article. Let’s get started!

Alligator Gar Characteristics

The Alligator Gar is a long-bodied fish with an extended beak full of sharp teeth. They’re actually the largest species in the Gar family, growing up to a maximum length of 10 feet. They have white bellies with dark backs and are covered in black spots. Hints of yellow are present in their fins as well.

A bearded man in sunglasses and a baseball cap standing on a fishing charter on a cloudy day and holding a small Alligator Gar
Photo courtesy of Angling With Adria – Myakka River

The difference that sets them apart from other Gar species is their snout. The snout of an Alligator Gar is reminiscent of an alligator, meaning it’s wide and thick, unlike the skinnier snouts of other Gars. If you look at an Alligator Gar from above, you’ll have no trouble realizing why they got their name! You could even mistake an Alligator Gar for a small alligator if you only saw the top view of their snout!

Their larger fins are in the back of their body to help them maneuver and reach nearby prey. They aren’t the fastest fish out there but they have more of a “sit back and wait” type of attack. They wait slowly and quietly before ambushing and quickly attacking when they see their prey.

When to Go Fishing for Alligator Gar

The best time to fish for Alligator Gar is during the hot, summer months. They prefer warm water temperatures and are more active during this time. The spring and fall months also are proven to be productive, but you won’t have much luck during the cooler months of winter. To add, the warmer months are also when these fish spawn, therefore, they’ll be more fired up and hungry.

A view from behind of three anglers, with the two on either side shirtless, looking out of the bow of a fishing boat in Texas towards the sunset in the distance
Photo courtesy of Slick Rock Outfitters LLC

The best time of day to go fishing for Alligator Gar is during the low light hours. That could mean dawn or dusk, nighttime hours, or even the middle of the day in overcast weather.

When fishing in freshwater you’ll notice that the water heights will often change. This has a lot to do with rainfall. Therefore, whenever the rain has been heavy and the water levels rise, flows will be more present from creeks, pipes, etc. This is a great time to fish for Alligator Gar because the sudden flow attracts fish and sometimes pushes smaller prey into the area as well.

Common Techniques for Alligator Gar Fishing

Now that you know when to fish for Alligator Gar, let’s talk about how to fish for Alligator Gar. Understanding the fighting style of the species is beneficial in knowing how to target and successfully bring one in.

A view from behind of an angler in a hood on the right of the image holding a fishing rod with an Alligator Gar visible underwater on the end of their line
Photo courtesy of Twisted Arrow Outfitters – Gar

As mentioned previously, Alligator Gar is the type of species that will quietly lurk around, waiting for its prey to come to it. The best method for fishing for these guys is to have your bait sit at the bottom. An appetizing bait will cause the fish to lunge and grip the treat with its sharp teeth. Typically, they like to hold the bait in their mouth and continuously bite down on it, thrashing here and there, before eventually swallowing it. Give it just a bit before you hookset to ensure they actually have the hook in their mouth.

Once hooked, be sure to fight strategically as the fish try to stay close to the bottom or run into structure looking for shelter. Anytime there’s any slack, reel in quickly and keep tension off the line. Try to steer them from any banks or structure. They also like to thrash out of water, so be careful to keep the tension balanced and prevent the hook from pulling out.

Once you get them to the boat, be careful with dehooking. Watch out for their rows of razor-sharp teeth! If they’re on the smaller side, scoop them up with a net. It’s best to use pliers for these guys. Once you dehook them, hold onto their tail and ensure they’re revived well enough before you let them go.

Best Alligator Gar Bait

This next section dives into the recommended bait to use for Alligator Gar. These fish enjoy a variety of different baits, both live, cut or dead, and artificial. As long as you have a bait that will sit on the bottom and interest the Gar, you shouldn’t have an issue in getting them to bite.

For live bait, a few of examples include shad, mullet, common carp, smallmouth buffalo, shiners, suckers, and perch. These guys can be thrown on a circle hook with a sinker to get them to reach the bottom. Once on the bottom, they still have the ability to freely move around to entice the Alligator Gar to eat. You can also use them dead or as cut bait.

Artificial lures are another option for Alligator Gar bait. Soft plastics and spoons work great for these beasts. They can bounce along the bottom and make movement and noise underneath the surface. To switch things up, you can use topwater plugs for an exciting topwater bite in shallower waters.

Best Alligator Gar Fishing Gear

Great – you’ve got your bait sorted. But now you need to know what gear to match it with. Most Alligator Gar are on the larger side and are quite strong, therefore it’s best to use reliable gear on the heavier side.

A man wearing a baseball cap up to his chest in murky waters and struggling to hold a large Alligator Gar in front of a dry shoreline on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Giant Alligator Gar Trips

Use a rod and reel that can handle medium to heavy action. A lot of experienced Gar anglers recommend using an 80 lb braid. But, if you’re fishing in an area with smaller Gars, you can always downsize.

The starting point for a fluorocarbon leader should be 50 pounds. Your leader is especially important for Alligator Gar fishing because their teeth are very sharp. For larger Gar, you should definitely size up. Some fishermen even recommend using steel leaders so they can’t cut through the line.

For hooks, 4/0 is a good minimum. The larger the Gar, the larger your hook should be. The same applies whether you’re using circle hooks, treble hooks, lures, etc. If you prefer fly fishing, just ensure your gear is heavy enough to withstand a fish that can reach 200+ pounds.

Alligator Gar Fishing Hotspots

You’re almost ready to get out there! The most important step now is to know where to locate your Alligator Gar. In this final section, I’ll outline areas you should focus on and provide some popular hotspots.

A view across the waters towards some grassy flats and a bridge in the distance in Lake Pontchartrain, LA, not far from New Orleans, on a sunny day

Fishing around lakes, rivers, creeks, bayous, channels, swamps, estuaries, etc., will provide great opportunities for Alligator Gar fishing. Any areas with deep cuts, structure, and muddy or clay bottoms are great spots. Here are a few hotspots across the nation:

  • Choctawhatchee River, FL. Most people know “the Choc” for its brackish waters pouring out into the Gulf of Mexico. But further upstream, this wide river is a popular breeding and spawning location for Alligator Gar. Get ready for a real Floridian experience by casting a line here!
  • Henderson Swamp, LA. Louisiana’s bayous are hotspots for Gar, but head further inland and this 7,000-acre is home to oversized Gar. It’s needless to say, you’ll need plenty of strength to land a fish from here.
  • Trinity River, TX. This long stretch of water carries plenty of Alligator Gar and, as you’re about to find out, harvesting is allowed under certain conditions. This is possibly Texas’s prime Gar hunting ground so come and fish like the locals do!
  • Lake Pontchartrain, LA. You can’t mention fishing in Louisiana without Lake Pontchartrain. Home to an incredible ecosystem, Alligator Gar grow to big sizes, adding to your list of potential catches.
  • Mississippi River, MS. Alligator Gar are some of the oldest fish in the Mississippi River. Wherever you are in the southern portion of “Ol’ Man River,” you could run into some serious monsters!

Alligator Gar Fishing Regulations

So you’re almost ready to go out and land your next monster fish. But before you do, you need to understand the regulations when fishing for them.

An infographic featuring an illustration of an Alligator Gar followed by text that says "Alligator Gar Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" along with the FishingBooker logo against a blue background

You can find Alligator Gar in various areas such as Texas, Florida, Louisiana, other US states, and even Mexico. But they’re most abundant in the southern US. For this reason, I’ll focus on this area for regulations.

In Florida, you’re not allowed to harvest any Alligator Gar unless you have a special research permit. On the other hand, states like Texas do allow anglers to harvest Alligator Gar. Some areas, such as the Trinity River, require you to apply for a harvest drawing, where you may take one Gar under 48 inches. Other locations like Falcon Lake give you a daily bag limit of five with no length specification.

Whatever region you reside in or plan on fishing in, be sure to check the local regulations and harvesting rules. Also, make sure you have a valid freshwater fishing license when participating in the act of Alligator Gar fishing.

Alligator Gar Fishing: A Unique Experience

Two youthful anglers standing aboard a fishing charter at sunset and holding an Alligator Gar each with the water and a shoreline visible behind them
Photo courtesy of Saltwater Therapy Guide Services

Alligator Gar are an incredibly popular fish in the freshwater fishing world. With so many anglers enjoying chasing after them, it’s time you joined them. Whether you’re a new angler or an experienced one, this is a fish that you should fight at least once. You never know, one day you might just beat the current record of 327 pounds. Get out there and test your skills and strength!

Have you ever been fishing for Alligator Gar? Any tips and tricks to share with our readers? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

The post How to Go Fishing for Alligator Gar: An Angler’s Guide  appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Caitlyn Gatrell
Title: How to Go Fishing for Alligator Gar: An Angler’s Guide 
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Published Date: Mon, 06 Nov 2023 14:10:05 +0000

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