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Has anyone ever tried spotted gar in their pond as a means to control overpopulation and stunting of the preferred gamefish?

This is certainly another one of my "crazy" ideas, but I don't see the flaw (yet).

(I can get mature spotted gar from our creek, just by using a bit of frayed nylon rope as the lure. Spotted gar side-strike their prey, and then throw it down their gullet a little later. Kind of like how a heron eats small fish.)

Many of the articles on spotted gar describe them as "voracious predators". However, despite the appearance of their long, toothy snouts, their gape widths are very small for a fish that is 36" long.

Their size is also strongly sexually dimorphic, with the mature females be significantly larger. I have observed a bimodal size distribution in our creek when the spotted gar are abundant. I think it might be possible to have a single-sex pond of spotted gars - and you could therefore strictly control the amount of gar predation.

Ideas

Could you use spotted gars to control reproduction in a pond where the channel catfish are pellet fed? I am envisioning the gars eating fingerling catfish, but being unable to consume the larger catfish. The pellet calories would then be distributed mostly to your "game" CCs, rather than the small fry.

Likewise, would the gar be effective in a crappie pond. It would be nice if the gar would decimate the population of small crappie, but leave the larger crappie alone. I think the key here would be a good food source for the crappie. Would it be possible to have an ongoing population of some smaller forage (Gambusia?), that is too small to be targeted by the gars, but an abundant food source for the crappie? It might be much easier to keep an abundant minnow/shiner population - if there are no small crappie consuming a portion of that limited resource.

Further, consider a scenario where it is impossible to keep enough standing weight of forage in the pond for your large crappie. You could add BG so the crappie could forage on the supply of small sunfish. If the crappie wipe out a portion of the small BG, and the gars wipe out a portion of the medium BG, would it be possible to have a trophy crappie and trophy BG pond?

I am sure I am wrong (or it is WAY more difficult than I have implied), or it would have been done before! However, if anyone has any good data, or even random musings, then I would like to hear about any experiments deliberately (or accidentally) using spotted gar as a pond management tool.

The most likely problems I can think of:

1.) The gar are more efficient than your gamefish at consuming the forage intended for your gamefish.

2.) Despite their small mouth gape, mature spotted gars DO NOT only consume small prey. Are they capable of killing a trophy bass or large catfish with many small strikes and then consuming the larger fish in a series of tiny bites? (Like a pod of orcas eating a whale?)

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FishinRod

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Go for it and report back! The only thing I can think of is that you need to catch one or two adults and measure the gape. Width and height. That will tell you what size fish they can consume.


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Can I measure the gape post mortem? (Those fish are toothy!)

I have never measured a gape. It is obvious on a LMB since their mouth has a "full-opening" position.

I think I will try a few gar next summer and post pictures and measurements. (Hopefully they will come up our tributary creek again next spring!)

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Fishing Rod,

It is generally agreed that the only measurement of gape that matters is the width of the gape. Laterally compressed prey are swallowed laying flat in the mouth.

Speaking about longnose gar particularly. I have hooked many very large gar of this species using a streamer fly no longer than 1.25". Wasn't really fishing for them but they took my offering in search of a creel of sand bass and other fish. They are hard to land. They want to take the fly with their forcep like mouth and just the tip of hook is barely engaged in that boney part of the mouth. You have to keep the line tight and that is very hard to do when they jump free of the surface shaking their head. They almost always get off. You can use frayed nylon rope to as streamer material and I have had mixed success that way. The fuzzy frayed rope can catch in the toothy mouth but you still have to play them.


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Rod, on trips to northern Michigan we used to catch gar at night by using 2 to 4 inch BG as bait. Spectacular leaping fights, average size around 30 inches.

Unhooking was an issue, however, since it was tough to bring them in unless they swallowed the bait.


7ac, 2015 CNBG, RES, FHM; 2016 TP, FLMB. 2017 NLMB & GSH,L. 2018 TP & 70 HSB, PK. 2019 TP, RBT,. 2020 TFS,TP, 25 HSB & 250 F1,L,RBT, -206. 2021 TFS,TP, GSH,L,-312




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The only gars I have landed with a traditional lure is where a hook managed to get stuck in the hinge of their jaw.

Originally Posted by jpsdad
The fuzzy frayed rope can catch in the toothy mouth but you still have to play them.

We had a bunch of spotted gar in a stream pool two summers ago.

Our best technique with the fuzzy rope was to hold your rod tip up with light, steady pressure after they took the rope. They would swim a while, and then make this powerful head jerk to try and throw the "prey" back into their gullet. They also rolled their heads a little with that movement.

We never lost a single gar once you were able to play them to that point. There were some steep banks around the pool, but one spot with a sand bar just above the water level. We used that as our landing spot. We even successfully passed rods around trees with "fish on" to walk over to the sand bar.

I could not remove the frayed rope from their mouths. I would have my son hold the fish with their snout's closed, and then I would cut off rope fibers with my sharpest Rapala fillet knife.

I hope they come back this summer!



P.S. If they turn out to have some value in a pond, but they get overpopulated, then I think you could cull the gar with an air rifle. When it is hot and still, they just float like logs at the surface.

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Thanks for sharing that. I danged near lived that experience as I read it. Gar get a bad rap but they are really cool fish IMWOT, poisonous eggs and all. Of all them the spotted are prettiest I think. Pretty cool that you get a run of them to fish and that you enjoy them as much as you do.


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It would have been a comical video to watch us clean a gar for the first time.

We eventually determined that aircraft sheet metal shears were the preferred tool for going through those ganoid scales.

I only had the straight ones in my toolbox. However, the big box stores carry shears with offsets. I think that would definitely be the best tool for cleaning gar!

We only fillet out the backstraps on the gar. (I don't know the proper name for that portion of the fish.) We don't go any where near the eggs.

The gar fillets are excellent eating. My family likes them grilled. To me, they taste like mild fish with a hint of "frog legs flavor". The fillets ARE NOT flaky, but they are not tough. Gar are certainly different than all of the other freshwater fish that I have eaten.

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Ha! that answered the question I was reluctant to ask. Good for you. I haven't eat them but I had a friend who did. What he told me was that it was good to eat as long as it was still hot. He said it was unpleasant after cooling off. He didn't used shears but since I know you will get a kick out of this I will share. He said he used a skilsaw opened to cut as deep as it would go. He would cut the fish orthogonal to its length in 3/4" or so chops, then he would cut the loin above the ribcage. So after cutting the loin all the way around he could pop them free of the chop ... just the tenderloin piece.

He said that when he cut them with the skill saw that "The sparks will just fly." I was never sure if he was goading me to try them as joke or if he was really being honest with me. One thing I can tell you is this. Another friend who knew him as a child road the bus with him. One morning the bus came to pick them up and he and his brothers had a bobcat treed just 50 yards or so from the house. He was frustrated that the bus had not come later because he had wanted to harvest the bobcat. He told him, "I sure hope the hounds can hold him till after school, they're mighty fine to eat." This gave me a little more confidence that he was telling me as he really saw it.

My dad and my grandfathers (both) really drove home in me the importance of using wildlife. The wanton waste of anything but something that was destroying livestock was taboo. So I've always released rough fish though I have kept some to eat. My favorite rough fish are buffalo but its been maybe 30 years since I have had some. I never built the courage to eat gar but I certainly support this use for any that do.

Last edited by jpsdad; 12/03/21 04:01 PM.

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Gar is good eating. Not terrible to clean if you have the right tools. Chop the head off, split the armor plate down the middle of the back, pull out the loins, done.

It don't last long enough here to get cold, so I can't speak to that.

There's lots of stuff on youtube that shows how to butcher them.

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Originally Posted by Augie
Gar is good eating.

It don't last long enough here to get cold, so I can't speak to that.

I have the same problem with tasty fish in my household.

I need to save enough money to get my pond projects moving. I figure I will make most of the money back as savings on our grocery bill!

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Living right here at the junction of the Sac & Osage rivers, there oughtta be plenty of gar. Might have to give it a whirl.

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The meat looks white and this guy will boil like crawfish. What is your preferred way to cook Augie and Rod?
[video:youtube]https://www.google.com/search?q=how...s-wiz#kpvalbx=_jbuqYZuuGJ60qtsP8bO6mAo35[/video]

I can't seem to get the video to post. Can anyone tell me what I did wrong and how to do it correctly?

Last edited by jpsdad; 12/03/21 07:13 PM.

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Video plays fine for me. As a crawfish connoisseur, I'd like to try gar meat in crawfish/crab boil. Bet it would be good with melted butter & lemon!


7ac, 2015 CNBG, RES, FHM; 2016 TP, FLMB. 2017 NLMB & GSH,L. 2018 TP & 70 HSB, PK. 2019 TP, RBT,. 2020 TFS,TP, 25 HSB & 250 F1,L,RBT, -206. 2021 TFS,TP, GSH,L,-312




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Originally Posted by anthropic
Rod, on trips to northern Michigan we used to catch gar at night by using 2 to 4 inch BG as bait. Spectacular leaping fights, average size around 30 inches.

Unhooking was an issue, however, since it was tough to bring them in unless they swallowed the bait.

Anthropic,

How were you rigging the BG baits?

We also see lots of gar loafing around every tree in the water when you go up the feeder rivers in our large state reservoirs during the dog days of summer.

We used to throw a crank bait past the fish, then slow retrieve to their snout and start twitching the lure on the surface. We would get explosive strikes, but could not hook up the fish. (We were bored and stupid teenagers!)

Your post made me contemplate another method to land gar.

Any improvements or comments from the gar fisherman would be appreciated.

(Using heavy line on a heavy rod and your fastest retrieve rate baitcaster reel.) Do a lip rig with a small hook on a 2-3" BG. Keep light pressure on the line after the gar's initial strike on the bait. Play it gently until you feel the gar re-adjust his grip on the fish. At that point, reel as fast as possible straight into the biggest catfish landing net they sell.

The theory is that the gar will just grip the BG long enough to land him. If you are only getting the gar halfway to the boat, then maybe partially scale the BG to make the bait softer and easier to grip? (Sorry, BG!)

Any gar you landed with that method would not require any hook removal!

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Originally Posted by anthropic
Video plays fine for me. As a crawfish connoisseur, I'd like to try gar meat in crawfish/crab boil. Bet it would be good with melted butter & lemon!

I was thinking the same thing. If afforded the opportunity I think I'll give it a try.


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Originally Posted by FishinRod
Has anyone ever tried spotted gar in their pond as a means to control overpopulation and stunting of the preferred gamefish?


Likewise, would the gar be effective in a crappie pond. It would be nice if the gar would decimate the population of small crappie, but leave the larger crappie alone. I think the key here would be a good food source for the crappie. Would it be possible to have an ongoing population of some smaller forage (Gambusia?), that is too small to be targeted by the gars, but an abundant food source for the crappie? It might be much easier to keep an abundant minnow/shiner population - if there are no small crappie consuming a portion of that limited resource.

FishingRod,

So I am going to bite on your "crazy" (your words) idea. Given you like catching and eating gar ... it seems to me you could build a management regime around them. I will share some thoughts.

A 5 lb gar doesn't get that way by eating nothing. It must be consuming enough fish to maintain itself and to grow. They live a really long time, so if they were controlling the panfish (the crappie/bg), they could probably do so for many years. You creek appears to be a source of replacements.

What are your thoughts on the ability of gar to successfully spawn in a pond? This of course can influence the outcome. Small gar would compete with the crappie for minnows, for example. A small crappie is a joy to clean but a small gar .... maybe not so much. Ideally, I think you might hope for no reproduction but I couldn't venture a guess as to whether they would. Big gar would thin their own kind I am sure so maybe reproduction isn't an issue.

One advantage of the smaller gape you mentioned could be in the number of fish they need to eat for maintenance. So a 5 lb gar may have to eat smaller fish than the 5 lb LMB (which might mean it would eat more numbers of prey provided a 5 lb gar has similar metabolic requirements relative to a 5 lb LMB). If so you may try to establish a standing weight that is similar to what LMB can achieve in the same pond. You may consider beginning with around 40-50 lbs/acre and allow them to grow into the pond.

I like your idea about Gams but I would also suggest that RSH (Snipe has them if your creek doesn't) would be a very good in addition to Gams for crappie. Both will reproduce all summer long with RSH beginning late April/early May. To feed the minnows, consider what aquaculturists do for fish fry. An organic fertilizer like cottonseed, alfalfa meal, or rice bran, or a combination. Otherwise minnows do just fine on catfish feed.

You should probably weigh and measure the length of gar going in and calculate their standard weight parameters. Using these you could monitor the relative weight. If fall caught fish are very lean, I think I would harvest some and then try to replace them the next spring when they run. I would want to replace with shorter gar than the ones you remove.

If you try it, good luck with it. I think you could manage it if this is what you want.

Last edited by jpsdad; 12/05/21 08:42 PM.

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I've always just rolled it in Andy's red and fried it up like you would any other fish, but I'm sure it would be good in a crab boil too.

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Ok dumb question but here goes. How bout having them in a pond with people swimming? Not sure if they would bother something as big as a person or not. Any thought's on this? Rod if everyone says they wont bother a swimmer I might have to hunt you down and get a couple. I love having a variety to look at.


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Originally Posted by jpsdad
Originally Posted by FishinRod
Has anyone ever tried spotted gar in their pond as a means to control overpopulation and stunting of the preferred gamefish?


Likewise, would the gar be effective in a crappie pond. It would be nice if the gar would decimate the population of small crappie, but leave the larger crappie alone. I think the key here would be a good food source for the crappie. Would it be possible to have an ongoing population of some smaller forage (Gambusia?), that is too small to be targeted by the gars, but an abundant food source for the crappie? It might be much easier to keep an abundant minnow/shiner population - if there are no small crappie consuming a portion of that limited resource.

What are your thoughts on the ability of gar to successfully spawn in a pond? This of course can influence the outcome. Small gar would compete with the crappie for minnows, for example. A small crappie is a joy to clean but a small gar .... maybe not so much. Ideally, I think you might hope for no reproduction but I couldn't venture a guess as to whether they would. Big gar would thin their own kind I am sure so maybe reproduction isn't an issue.

I have no idea if the gar will reproduce in a pond. (I was hoping you guys would tell me!!!)

When there were about 50 in our creek pool, there were clearly two distinct sizes. I thought it was two different species of gar, but both sizes were definitely spotted gar. I think they were females (larger) and males (smaller). If I do try gar as a predator, I will try for a single-sex population. That way I will only have a single variable to monitor for that predator. (If I see little gar in year 2 or 3, then I will also determine that I am not capable of correctly determining the sex of a gar!)

If I can get a single-sex gar pond, then I think it would be awesome if they preyed heavily on a small size class and left the larger. That also might be good for a trophy BG pond.

I do have lots of forage species in the creek. I need to get busy trapping next spring. I will definitely need some help with proper identifications. Hopefully, I have a few species that will also be suitable to ponds. I am pretty sure I have Red Shiners.

I guess I need to try this experiment and report positive and negative results back to the forum.

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Rusto,

Have you ever taken your family over to Big Hill Lake?

I remember some pretty spots around the lake, but I haven't been there since we have had kids - so I didn't really evaluate it for family camping and fun.

Regardless, there used to be lots of gar in the upper end of the lake where Big Hill Creek comes in.

If there are no gar in my creek next spring, I might try fishing at Big Hill. If we catch some gar, it would be very easy to run some over to your pond!

I have no idea if they are "safe" for swimmers. They look like terrifying freshwater barracudas. However, their diet is mostly invertebrates and small fish.

They might clean out all of your crawdads. (I can't remember if you like your crawdads?)

P.S. Your HSB should have gotten pretty big this year. Did the girls catch any of them?

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We go to big hill quite often. I didnt know they was in there. Iv never heard of anyone getting bitten there either. If they wipe out my crawdads it wouldnt be a big loss. I got them from the creek 100 feet from my pond. So they would be easy to her more. Last year I would just scope them out with a small fish net and get 20 or 30 small ones ever scope.

The girls havnt caught any yet (HSB). Only fished it couple times this year. I'm hoping next year they will have a fight on there hands with them. I caught one on reel and one in throw net. They were around 10: then and tht was several months ago. The one I got on a reel felt like a 5 pound lmb.


The people who say I can't do it can just sit the @^#% down and watch me. Friends call me Rusto I also subscribe to pond boss mag. http://forums.pondboss.com/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=504716#Post504716
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