Garfish (Lepisosteidae)

Garfish

  • Size 20-70"
  • Food Value Average
  • Game Qualities Good
  • Habitats Inshore, Nearshore

Many species of fish around the world go by the name of Gar, some of them more closely related than others. At the end of the day, all Garfish bear a resemblance, due to their long slender shape and abnormally long noses. From freshwater lakes and brackish marshes to the open sea, you can look forward to a good fight from a Garfish–no matter what kind it happens to be!

How Big?

Many kinds of Garfish are quite small, averaging 20-30” long and weighing only several pounds. Some species, such as the commonly encountered Longnose Gar, can reach up to 50 lbs or more (still insignificant when compared to its relative, the Alligator Gar).

When and Where

Different species of Gar live in the waters of North and Central America, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Great Britain, Australia, and the Baltics. In the eastern part of the United States, Longnose Gar is common in the Mississippi River, large streams, and brackish water along the coast. In Great Britain and Australia, anglers commonly catch Garfish near reefs and rocky areas in the ocean.

No matter where you’re fishing, you can usually count on these fish being abundant in spring and summer months when they move to shallow water to spawn.

Saltwater Garfish Saltwater Garfish bear a strong resemblance to Needlefish

How to Fish

Garfish feed near the surface and anglers catch them using a wide variety of methods.

For smaller species, you can rely on a light spinning outfit of good quality, but you’ll need heavy tackle to land a real brute of a Gar. You can also catch Garfish on a fly rod. Many anglers also use a steel leader to prevent them from cutting through the line with their razor sharp teeth.

Topwater plugs, soft plastics, or small pieces of bait will entice a bite from these fish, but first you have to get their attention! A basic chum consisting of bread pieces (some recommend mixing in cat food) will bring them to the surface within minutes. Cast your bait (unweighted) into the chum slick and let it float around freely. Once hooked, these fish tend to make energetic leaps into the air.

A less conventional method used in some freshwater areas involves casting a 4-6” nylon rope attached to a wire leader. The fibers on the loose end of the rope are unraveled for several inches, acting as a lure. When a Garfish strikes, the loose fibers will get thoroughly tangled in his teeth, and you can reel him in without the need for a hook, rod, or any of the other usual tackle.

Good to Eat?

Freshwater Garfish caught in the United States are rarely eaten, but their relatives found in other parts of the world are considered downright delectable. Saltwater Garfish (such as the British Garpike) are baked, grilled, fried, boiled, and smoked. Some species have green bones, which many people find off-putting, but the color is harmless. The flesh of these fish is described as succulent and sweet. You won’t need to do much in the kitchen in order to make a fantastic Garfish meal!

Fish Species Similar to Garfish

Alligator Gar

Needlefish


Top Garfish Fishing Charters

Top Garfish Fishing Destinations