When some one says alligator gar or gator gar the first place most people think of is the Trinity River in Texas. The Trinity is the number one alligator gar location in the world. Fisherman have known this for a long time but thanks to shows like River Monsters and channels like Animal Planet and Discovery who have all filmed shows on this river now even more people know and a lot of those folks don’t even fish.
There are several places to catch alligator gar, Louisiana for example has a good population, and now because of their powerful fight and the sport of fishing they are being introduced in locations as far away as Thailand and other Asian countries but none compare to the Trinity, like it or not the importing of these fish is happening in other countries. I’m not sure introducing a species into a new ecosystem is ever a good idea but one can make a case for several species of animals who were saved from extinction because of this. Several antelope species from around the world no longer exists in their home countries but thrive here in Texas, but that’s a different discussion for a different day.
I was talking to a guy at the fly shop about the trip and he said, you know you’re not really selling this trip? I asked what he meant. He said you’ve told me, the river is not pretty, the water is muddy, it’s gonna be hot, you may only catch a couple of fish a day, and as far as fishing trips with a guide go its fairly expensive. I said all this is true but it’s an alligator gar, a living dinosaur, a prehistoric beast that you can’t just go anywhere and catch and you surely won’t find as many big fish anywhere else. He said it’s not for him and I was kind of glad, that’s one less boat in my way on the river.
This is really not a big group trip like some we’ve been on. This is really a two man deal because of the way these fish have to be caught and fought so I called my cousin Ronnie and told him the plan, of course he’s in just tell me when and where he said.
We got to the river at daylight and met Chris Moody the owner of Gar Fishing Addiction. Chris is not just a good guide but a good guy. I like to fish with guides that make me feel like I’m fishing with friends and most times after a trip we will be friends and this was true with Chris. I talked to him for months about the trip and felt I had made the right choice. There are several good gator gar guides on the Trinity but there’s no place for arrogance or rudeness on a fishing trip and I got none of this from Chris like I did from a few others in the area. Chris will be my alligator gar guide from now on. I haven’t ran this commentment by him yet so I hope he approves.
The boat was in the water and ready when we got there so we stepped in and off we went. It was likely the best morning weather wise that we have had in 4 or 5 months, 65 degrees, very little wind, and clear skies, I wasn’t sure how that would effect fishing but as far as just being outside we had hit the weather jack pot this day. The river was still up some from the flooding we had earlier in the summer but the current was slow enough that we could fish it.
I came here for big fish, really big fish, of course all gar fisherman want a 200 pounder but realistically anything over 100 would be considered a good day. Big fish eat big bait, and since Chris also guides bow fishing trips for carp and buffalo getting bait is easy for him. The carp are cut into chunks that weigh about a pound or so and are put on a big 4/0 or 5/0 treble hook.
No weight is needed, the bait is hooked onto the hook which is attached to a steel leader that’s tied on to some heavy braided line that’s spooled onto a big reel. Big reels aren’t just needed because of the weight and power of the fish but for the line capacity. Gator gar are not strikers like a lot of predatory fish. Gar like to take their food and play with it awhile, dragging it around and dropping it and then picking it up and swimming away again so having 200 yards of line is necessary. You have to let these fish have the bait for a long time or you will not get a hook into them.
We anchored the boat to the river bank and baited two lines and waited. The wait was short. Just minutes after setting them out the clicker on one reel started alerting us to a visitor. The reels all have clickers and are left to free spool when the fish is biting. There’s no reason to jump up and get ready when you hear the sound like you do in other fishing. This took Ronnie a couple runs to get used to, it made me laugh when the first reel sounded off and he jumped and Chris never moved.
Once Chris felt like the gar was serious we reeled up the other rod and pulled the anchor and started to slowly troll toward the fish. The location of the fish is kept up with by a big sliding float on the line. This is not for showing you the bite but to show the location of the line as the fish makes his way up and down the river. This fish had taken over 100 yards of line and once we gained most of our line back and locked the reel in we just waited for it to get tight and Ronnie set the hook hard. Being close to the fish is necassary when setting the hook because if you try to set the hook with 150 yards of line out you will never get the leverage needed to bury it in their hard mouths.
I could see by the bend in the rod and the look on Ronnie’s face that it was a good fish with plenty power. The fight of a big gar is different than other big fish I’ve caught, it’s a fairly short fight for the size of the fish with short bursts but it is violent. These fish will come out of the water like a bass which is unusual for freshwater fish this size.
After the first run there was a lull which was when Ronnie gained a lot more line back but I don’t think he was ready for the second run because when the fish took off he pulled Ronnie forward and I laughed again and then the fight was back on. Once the fish is wore down a rope is placed around the head behind the pectoral fins and its pulled into the boat.
The first fish of the morning was 5 and half feet long and weighed about 75 pounds or so. This is a very big fish but not a giant as far as gator gar go. I would bet that 90% of people that own a rod and reel have never caught a fish that was even 3′ long of any kind let alone a fish over five feet long. This is the biggest freshwater fish Ronnie had ever caught and by the day’s end we would both have caught our biggest fish a couple times over.
By the end of the fight we are over 100 yards down the river from where the fight started and the boat is a mess. Like I told the guy in the fly shop, there’s nothing pretty about it but it’s a helluva lot of fun and worth it.
After we made it back to our spot and got our lines out 45 minutes had passed. The fight itself is not that long but the chaos of the whole situation was. Minutes after baits hit the water again the reels were talking to us. I picked up the rod that was getting bit and we pulled anchor, Ronnie reeled up the other rod and we started the chase. When we got most of our line back and felt he had the bait I set the hook in him and he made his first run.
You can tell the difference in fish species by the fight if you have fought a lot of different fish. At the first of the fights the gar remind me of a big blue cat as they just pull hard and run a little but I think they realize that’s not working and get angry because when they come to the surface it’s an explosion. Water and sometimes blood, flies everywhere and the fish seems mad at the world. The action on the top is what makes the fight, there are huge head shakes and jumps that will rival any large mouth bass you have caught but this fish is over 100 pounds not the 3 pound bass that you’re used to seeing clear the surface.
As the day went on the bites continued, some were smaller fish about four feet long and some were fish around six feet long. The biggest fish of the day was a 6’2 inch fish that weighed in about 120 pounds that Ronnie caught. This was noticeably bigger than the 75 to 80 pound fish we caught earlier and I was amazed to think that there are fish in this river pushing 8 feet long and weighing over 200 pounds.
We averaged a fish an hour but most of the action was in the morning. The day got a little warmer and the fishing slowed some but because the gar surface for air we could see some huge fish so we knew we were in the right spot when they did decide to feed. Between bites we had a little lunch and Chris cut bait but I’m not really satisfied sitting idle knowing there’s other kinds of fish to be caught in the river so I did a little catfishing while we waited.
We had been on the water about 8 hours and we’re all getting a little tired but honestly I think sometimes I hire guides just to make me go home because if I were there on my own I would just stay until I starved to death. Ronnie had caught four nice fish and me three so we stuck it out just a bit longer and it paid off. After about an hour of no action at all one reel had a take so we went through the ritual of taking up rods and untying the boat, by now me and Ronnie felt like old hands at this and Chris turned the motor toward the float. When I set the hook we realized the fish had swam back under the boat and in doing so had tangled in another line and it was a mess. I was pretty convinced we weren’t gonna get this fish but we finally got things squared away and the fish was still there. It was my biggest of the day, a 5’10 inch fish about 90-95 pounds. A great way to end a great day. It was one of my best days fishing I’d say. Always good to meet a new friend and have your family come along too, that combined with the weather and the new experience of the alligator gar on rod and reel and I was a happy happy man.