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looking to take my skiff up to the trinity river to get an opportunity to get some shots at big alligator gar, but i can’t find any “diy” information on catching the big boys, anyone in here who could share any insight and information on that sort of fishery would be greatly appreciated
 

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No idea on alligator gar. I catch long nose gar on fly w hookless fly ( 3-4” nylon rope ) filament gets hung in teeth. No need for hookset. They are terrible for holding bait in their mouth, then dropping at first sign of pressure
 

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Interesting read. I never knew they are protecting them and yet it's been a while since I've seen them. But I know a place (up a river) where they will roll right along side of juvenile tarpon and unless you have a good eye, it's be hard to tell the difference.

I don't know anything about the Trinity River nor it's gator gars.

A lil story on my experience with them as a kid.

I've caught lots of them when I was a kid on the Caloosatchee river where I grew up on here in Florida. Back then, we'd consider them to be a trash fish but I was always fascinated by the dinosaur appearance to them. Yet when we caught one, it would get thrown out on the bank because we mostly targeted them in our beloved snook hole (pure sweet water) and it was our way to clear them out for fear they were feeding on juvenile snook. Periodically, I'd check the bank where we'd throw them and see how much work the ants did on their body and head to see how they were progressing. If it was a big one and the ants did their job and ate all the stuff outta them that cause it to stink and left the skull and the armor plating on the skull, we'd take our machete and cut the head off the rest of the skeleton and armored scaling and take it home. There it would get an elaborate coating of varnish with the jaws proped open to display the teeth and hang in our fort (sort of a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn type of fort, along with all our other trophies (bass heads, hog jaws, empty bottle of booze we lifted off our dads (Lol), etc).

Those gator gars averaged 20-30lbs and was about all we could handle on our light spinning gear. Sometimes we'd get on the occasional monster (we'll according to us), which could be a giant gator gar or full grown tarpon and there was no stopping them. My largest landed ironically was right behind the house where our home sat about 80ft to the river. One day I noticed one rolling behind the house and I quickly caught a live bluegill, grabbed my new ambassador 6000 (was 16yrs old then), quickly tied on a steel leader and a big popping cork and slung it out there. What I liked about that reel is it had a lot of capacity and with a full spool of 17lb mono, when it grabbed the bait, I could get it run as far as it wanted to before it swallowed the bait which was usually about when you got to the end of your spool capacity before they would stop and swallow the bait. Then you could reel down on them, turn and run up the bank with your rod to get all the stretch out of your line and hit them real hard multiple times with the rod so the look could penetrate whatever (hopefully they swallowed it a bit). Weirdly enough, they were not sure what was happening for about the first few minutes and would come on it while you gained back at least half of your line out there. Then they'll wake up and figure something was wrong and then they will come un-glued and even explode on the top of the water. Ok, where was I..... So after 15-20 minutes of hard battling, I landed this 40lb fish and it was a struggle to get it up on shore, but I finally did. I ran to the house and grabbed a sharpened machete and ran back to cut it's head off, but the blade ricocheted off it's armored scales like I was trying to cut a steel pipe in half. Finally got thru it from the underside and discarded the rest of the carcass back in the water. I found an fire ant pile and let them do their thing and I ended up processing the trophy head like usual. But the ole fort was torn down by my buddy's dad (guess he found the few empty bottles we stole and the Playboys we smuggled in. Lol So the gator gar was placed in the barn.

So going back to the peak gator gar bite periods where they were the most active, it had to be in the middle of the dog days of summer. I mean those very very hot days where even as a Florida boy, you wish you weren't out there. But late mornings and late evenings is when you'd see them roll on the surface. Maybe because the night would make the surface temps cooler then the subsurface temps. I think they gulped air just like a tarpon. So the bait of choice was a small mullet (about a 10-12 incher) cut in half. Large hook (about a 5/0-8/0) and 18" piece of steel leader wire, swivel, tied to a 3ft piece of 40lb mono and then tied to your line. Back then all we had was mono. Today if I fished for them, it's be like 30lb braid of the giants with be higher lb test. Back then out hooks were not as good as the hooks we use today, so we sharpened a Mustad 3407, which was what we used for tarpon. We used longer rods to cast further out to where the fish were because they seem to swim out towards the middle of the river. The floats were mainly a dried stick tied on one end because for some reason, regular bobbers of popping corks would cause them to shy away from the bait. Once they took the bait, you had to turn and watch your spool and watch almost all the line painfully melt off your spool before they actually swallow the hook. Otherwise, there was no penetrating their bill because it was hard as fiberglass and they would hold the bait like a gator swimming off with it's prey. So once you reach the end of the spool , you reel down, and if fishing from shore, you run with the rod about 20 to 30feet and bang the hook into them a few times with your rod once you feel the line come fully tight. If in the boat, that meant cranking up the outboard and motoring away from the fish and doing the same thing once the line came tight.

Today, with stiffer fast rods, braided line and chemically sharpened thin wire circle hooks, you could just reel down on them and even if the line is in their beak, as long as you kept constant pressure, it'd probably hold.

I've caught lots long nose gar on lures in my younger days and even a few on fly when I first started out fly fishing, but I've never heard of a gator gar caught on fly. One of my fly fishing buddies lives on the Withlacoochee river in Florida and we've talked about the gator gar they have in the river and he says one day if he comes across one with a fly rod, that he's try to throw a large black mullet fly or dalhberg diver at him and see what he does. But he says the numbers of them have gone way down there in the river since he was younger and it's almost a rarity. He's see them up to 5-6ft in that river in the past.

Funny thing, about 35yrs ago, I met a guy who owned a bait and tackle shop near the Hillsborough River that said he's eaten gator gar from the river and said it was good. Then I met a guy in our church that said they use to catch them in a lake in the Everglades near their hunting camp and they use to to go catch them in and bring them back to camp and shuck the back straps out of them, like shucking lobster tails and then grill them with butter and called them "poor man's lobster." Then years later I watch a show where they commercially caught them in Louisiana for the back straps. Humm, I wish I knew that when I was a kid growing up and fishing for them when nothing else was biting.

As for the MyFWC lint above where topnative2 shared, I can see the population going down for whatever reasons and I'm glad he shared that. Because if I ever caught one again, he been going on the grill since I've never tried it before. But in this case, I wouldn't and will respect them for what they are... a rare dinosaur of a fish that will grace us with it's presence if we protect it.

andresspinetti, good luck with finding them. I'm assuming that your post here on the Fly Fishing Forum here on microskiff means you'll be pursuing them on fly. I hope you succeed doing so and please report back here with your adventure and let us know how you did. I know if you were able to get it done, it's be another specie that I would put in my fly caught bucket list.

Good luck! ;)

Ted Haas
 

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Interesting. My son and I were just talking about this as we paddled the muddy creek behind our house yesterday evening and accidentally hit several with our paddles. I saw one that was at least 5-6' but the water is very turbid as I can't even see down 3-4". Chocolate milk. I feel like there is a guide on the Trinity who does target these on fly. The trinity has much better water clarity, in places, than I do here on the creek in my backyard. Happy to have you over to take a shot at them if you like.
Best,
Matt
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Interesting read. I never knew they are protecting them and yet it's been a while since I've seen them. But I know a place (up a river) where they will roll right along side of juvenile tarpon and unless you have a good eye, it's be hard to tell the difference.

I don't know anything about the Trinity River nor it's gator gars.

A lil story on my experience with them as a kid.

I've caught lots of them when I was a kid on the Caloosatchee river where I grew up on here in Florida. Back then, we'd consider them to be a trash fish but I was always fascinated by the dinosaur appearance to them. Yet when we caught one, it would get thrown out on the bank because we mostly targeted them in our beloved snook hole (pure sweet water) and it was our way to clear them out for fear they were feeding on juvenile snook. Periodically, I'd check the bank where we'd throw them and see how much work the ants did on their body and head to see how they were progressing. If it was a big one and the ants did their job and ate all the stuff outta them that cause it to stink and left the skull and the armor plating on the skull, we'd take our machete and cut the head off the rest of the skeleton and armored scaling and take it home. There it would get an elaborate coating of varnish with the jaws proped open to display the teeth and hang in our fort (sort of a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn type of fort, along with all our other trophies (bass heads, hog jaws, empty bottle of booze we lifted off our dads (Lol), etc).

Those gator gars averaged 20-30lbs and was about all we could handle on our light spinning gear. Sometimes we'd get on the occasional monster (we'll according to us), which could be a giant gator gar or full grown tarpon and there was no stopping them. My largest landed ironically was right behind the house where our home sat about 80ft to the river. One day I noticed one rolling behind the house and I quickly caught a live bluegill, grabbed my new ambassador 6000 (was 16yrs old then), quickly tied on a steel leader and a big popping cork and slung it out there. What I liked about that reel is it had a lot of capacity and with a full spool of 17lb mono, when it grabbed the bait, I could get it run as far as it wanted to before it swallowed the bait which was usually about when you got to the end of your spool capacity before they would stop and swallow the bait. Then you could reel down on them, turn and run up the bank with your rod to get all the stretch out of your line and hit them real hard multiple times with the rod so the look could penetrate whatever (hopefully they swallowed it a bit). Weirdly enough, they were not sure what was happening for about the first few minutes and would come on it while you gained back at least half of your line out there. Then they'll wake up and figure something was wrong and then they will come un-glued and even explode on the top of the water. Ok, where was I..... So after 15-20 minutes of hard battling, I landed this 40lb fish and it was a struggle to get it up on shore, but I finally did. I ran to the house and grabbed a sharpened machete and ran back to cut it's head off, but the blade ricocheted off it's armored scales like I was trying to cut a steel pipe in half. Finally got thru it from the underside and discarded the rest of the carcass back in the water. I found an fire ant pile and let them do their thing and I ended up processing the trophy head like usual. But the ole fort was torn down by my buddy's dad (guess he found the few empty bottles we stole and the Playboys we smuggled in. Lol So the gator gar was placed in the barn.

So going back to the peak gator gar bite periods where they were the most active, it had to be in the middle of the dog days of summer. I mean those very very hot days where even as a Florida boy, you wish you weren't out there. But late mornings and late evenings is when you'd see them roll on the surface. Maybe because the night would make the surface temps cooler then the subsurface temps. I think they gulped air just like a tarpon. So the bait of choice was a small mullet (about a 10-12 incher) cut in half. Large hook (about a 5/0-8/0) and 18" piece of steel leader wire, swivel, tied to a 3ft piece of 40lb mono and then tied to your line. Back then all we had was mono. Today if I fished for them, it's be like 30lb braid of the giants with be higher lb test. Back then out hooks were not as good as the hooks we use today, so we sharpened a Mustad 3407, which was what we used for tarpon. We used longer rods to cast further out to where the fish were because they seem to swim out towards the middle of the river. The floats were mainly a dried stick tied on one end because for some reason, regular bobbers of popping corks would cause them to shy away from the bait. Once they took the bait, you had to turn and watch your spool and watch almost all the line painfully melt off your spool before they actually swallow the hook. Otherwise, there was no penetrating their bill because it was hard as fiberglass and they would hold the bait like a gator swimming off with it's prey. So once you reach the end of the spool , you reel down, and if fishing from shore, you run with the rod about 20 to 30feet and bang the hook into them a few times with your rod once you feel the line come fully tight. If in the boat, that meant cranking up the outboard and motoring away from the fish and doing the same thing once the line came tight.

Today, with stiffer fast rods, braided line and chemically sharpened thin wire circle hooks, you could just reel down on them and even if the line is in their beak, as long as you kept constant pressure, it'd probably hold.

I've caught lots long nose gar on lures in my younger days and even a few on fly when I first started out fly fishing, but I've never heard of a gator gar caught on fly. One of my fly fishing buddies lives on the Withlacoochee river in Florida and we've talked about the gator gar they have in the river and he says one day if he comes across one with a fly rod, that he's try to throw a large black mullet fly or dalhberg diver at him and see what he does. But he says the numbers of them have gone way down there in the river since he was younger and it's almost a rarity. He's see them up to 5-6ft in that river in the past.

Funny thing, about 35yrs ago, I met a guy who owned a bait and tackle shop near the Hillsborough River that said he's eaten gator gar from the river and said it was good. Then I met a guy in our church that said they use to catch them in a lake in the Everglades near their hunting camp and they use to to go catch them in and bring them back to camp and shuck the back straps out of them, like shucking lobster tails and then grill them with butter and called them "poor man's lobster." Then years later I watch a show where they commercially caught them in Louisiana for the back straps. Humm, I wish I knew that when I was a kid growing up and fishing for them when nothing else was biting.

As for the MyFWC lint above where topnative2 shared, I can see the population going down for whatever reasons and I'm glad he shared that. Because if I ever caught one again, he been going on the grill since I've never tried it before. But in this case, I wouldn't and will respect them for what they are... a rare dinosaur of a fish that will grace us with it's presence if we protect it.

andresspinetti, good luck with finding them. I'm assuming that your post here on the Fly Fishing Forum here on microskiff means you'll be pursuing them on fly. I hope you succeed doing so and please report back here with your adventure and let us know how you did. I know if you were able to get it done, it's be another specie that I would put in my fly caught bucket list.

Good luck! ;)

Ted Haas
definitely will report back to y’all how i do, as of right now i’m just trying to put all the information together before i make a decision what to do or where to try first, funny enough i came up with this idea joking with a buddy of mine talking about how fun it would be if texas had arapaima in the rivers, and then we realized no one really pursued the big gators on fly
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Interesting. My son and I were just talking about this as we paddled the muddy creek behind our house yesterday evening and accidentally hit several with our paddles. I saw one that was at least 5-6' but the water is very turbid as I can't even see down 3-4". Chocolate milk. I feel like there is a guide on the Trinity who does target these on fly. The trinity has much better water clarity, in places, than I do here on the creek in my backyard. Happy to have you over to take a shot at them if you like.
Best,
Matt
really appreciate the gesture, would not mind taking you up on on that offer at all !
 

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Sure thing. I’ll have my 15 yr old go blind cast for them and give us a report
 

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I like catching gar on fly and use to live on Houston’s East side I got fairly serious about trying to get a big one over 5’ on my local rivers and lakes for about a year.

I have caught some in the 4-5’ range but not larger. From my knowledge it’s much harder to target these big fish in dirtier water as they don’t seem to like to swim and float around on the top of the water water column as much as the 4’ and below fish.

You see some people try and target them on the shoulders of their spawning season and while they are spawning. If you see a big gar in shallow water in the spring with other gar around it they are spawning and are very susceptible to be shot by bow fisherman so I try to leave these fish alone to breed.

I use to target deeper holes and shelf’s where I would see big ones roll. I used 3-6” baitfish patterns and at times sinking lines with varying strips. Slow and steady usually work best. I have hooked 4-6 really big fish. I lost one or two on jumps, had one hook break, and the rest just came unbuttoned.

I don’t like running the risk of hurting any type of gar while trying to dig rope fibers from their teeth so I just tie normal flies on really sharp tarpon style hook. Hooking these fish are a lot like tarpon fishing.

Good luck.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I like catching gar on fly and use to live on Houston’s East side I got fairly serious about trying to get a big one over 5’ on my local rivers and lakes for about a year.

I have caught some in the 4-5’ range but not larger. From my knowledge it’s much harder to target these big fish in dirtier water as they don’t seem to like to swim and float around on the top of the water water column as much as the 4’ and below fish.

You see some people try and target them on the shoulders of their spawning season and while they are spawning. If you see a big gar in shallow water in the spring with other gar around it they are spawning and are very susceptible to be shot by bow fisherman so I try to leave these fish alone to breed.

I use to target deeper holes and shelf’s where I would see big ones roll. I used 3-6” baitfish patterns and at times sinking lines with varying strips. Slow and steady usually work best. I have hooked 4-6 really big fish. I lost one or two on jumps, had one hook break, and the rest just came unbuttoned.

I don’t like running the risk of hurting any type of gar while trying to dig rope fibers from their teeth so I just tie normal flies on really sharp tarpon style hook. Hooking these fish are a lot like tarpon fishing.

Good luck.
yea i am mostly planning on fishing big hooks in a tandem rig instead of nylon rope aswell
 

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I've also wanted to catch an A gar on fly. I've caught the smaller cousin the long nose in lakes here in Georgia. I tied a fly with tandom tiny hooks and caught a few. The long nose has a long skinny mouth. Big hooks wont grab it on fly. Interesting fact on AG is there scales were used for arrowheads by the early indians
 

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We ran the mouth of the Trinity a few weeks ago. Found lots of the smaller ones (and really no redfish, so we started targeting them) and got a few eats, but nothing stayed stuck for long. Still fun. Like somebody else said here, it's a bit like tarpon fishing.

We also found loads of actual gators, including a real beast. Keep yur wits about ye, there....
 

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Gave this a shot on a local river yesterday. Wind was up and clouds were out so me and the girlfriend decided to try something new. Found a bunch of small floaters that are pretty receptive to a fly. Lots of fun, didn't land any but had a few hookups.
 

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Have caught them in Delacroix on fly! After watching a few big ones swim by (looked like poons) while looking for redfish, I could not resist the temptation to cast, baammm!!
 
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There is a dedicated commercial fishery for them in Louisiana. Mainly taken on jug baits. Guess they make fish cakes out of them? Guide pulled one up to the boat one time when I was over there for photos and it was a monster. Bet they would be a hoot on fly.
 

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Use shiny flies with a lot of flashabou and tinsel. Large gap hooks stripping fast with a hard set and try to get on the reel ASAP or at least hold on to the line and let the rod do the work. Trinity river fish have very high mercury content so you don't want to eat them. Me and my buddies bow fish for them, but I have caught them on spoons and flashy lures.
 
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