Alligator gar population numbers are on the decline. You should practice catch and release so we can continue to catch these giant monsters in the future. A 6 footer is around 30 to 40 years old and an 8 footer could be 50 to 75 years old. If you kill a trophy size alligator gar, it will be 30 to 75 years before another one reaches that size.
Alligator Gar Gear:
You need a conventional reel capable of holding 40 to 100 pound line. An open face or levelwind is fine. Some types that I've seen used are Penn 209, Penn 309, Penn 330, Penn Senator 4/0, Abu Garcia 7000 series and Daiwa Saltiga series. If your really on a budget you can buy the Shakespeare Tidewater Trolling combo at Bass Pro Shop for $50 and string it with 40-50lb line. I haven't used it but I've seen a lot of YouTube videos with people using it for alligator gar.
You need a 30lb to 50lb medium to heavy 6.5 to 7ft rod. I use cheap rods that cost $20 to $40 and they have never broken casting 10 to 13oz bait. I have a friend that uses a $20 Beefstick 20lb - 50lb and it works just fine.
You can use mono or braid 40 to 100 pound. I use 60 pound Big Game mono or 100 pound PowerPro braid. Sometimes in alligator gar habitats there are a lot of branches so I like to use thick line.
You need 100 to 200 pound metal wire cut 30 to 36 inches long with a 100 to 200 pound swivel on one end and a hook on the other. You crimp the swivel and hook on with 2 sleeves each. I buy these materials at Bass Pro because Academy never has all the correct sizes. You do not need a weight, your bait is heavy enough.
I use a 7/0 Mustad J hook. I know that's not the standard but I've had a good hook-up rate. A lot of people use treble hooks around 4/0. Some use smaller hooks and some use hooks up to 10/0.
You need a bobber with a hole all the way through with no slits in the side. This will slide freely on the line. It's not used to float the bait, it's just a marker so you can see the direction in which the alligator gar is moving.
You need a rope about 10 feet long. Tie a small loop in one end so you can quickly wrap it around the alligator gar, just behind the pectoral fins, so you can pull it on the bank or boat.
The standard bait is cut carp or cut buffalo fish, however you can use almost any fish for bait. Just make sure the bait is at least 8oz. I use 10 to 16oz cut bait. You should catch your bait and freeze it before you go or visit a fish market and try something new. Don't use catfish or bass, I'm sure the gar will love them but you might get a visit from a game warden. Also, if your not sure if the bait is big enough, make it bigger.
Finding an Alligator Gar near San Antonio:
I have spent around 3 months chasing alligator gar around this city. Everyone says they have seen them and it's posted all over the web that they are in local fishing spots. Those are longnose gar not alligator gar. Large longnose gar are commonly seen around San Antonio. The closest spots I have found alligator gar are Choke Canyon, Frio River, Brazos River, Nueces River, southern Guadalupe River, southern San Antonio river and Lake Corpus Christi. These are all within two hours of San Antonio.
Finding a Spot:
If you are on a river fish the outside river bends with a deep hole near shallow water. If your on a lake look for a deep cove next to a shallow area. When you first get to the body of water take the time to look for a spot to fish. If alligator gar are there they will frequently pop above the water. Walk or drive around quietly to look for them breaking the surface. One trick is if you see the sun behind a cloud then just wait. For some reason when the sun moves out of the cloud the gar will start popping the surface for a few seconds. I don't know why they do this, it's just something I noticed.
Fishing for Alligator Gar:
Adjust your drag so a large fish can pull line without snapping the string or bending the hook. Flip the side switch to open your conventional reel and cast your bait out. You'll see where your bait is because of the sliding bobber. Set your pole down and make sure nothing is touching the string. Also keep your reel open so the gar can easily pull string. Now wait.
Setting the Hook:
The first thing you need to understand is how an alligator gar eats. It grabs the bait in its jaws, then swims away. It will not stop and start to swallow until it feels safe. After the gar starts to swallow it will begin to move again. When the gar first takes the bait your bobber will glide across the water, remember your conventional reel spool is open so the fish can easily take line. It might run more than 100 yards or 10 yards, you never know. When the Gar stops, you'll see your bobber just sitting there. Just wait, it might take him 30 seconds or a few minutes to eat it. Then when he starts moving again, you'll see your bobber moving along. That's when you flip the side switch to the close the spool. Then reel up the slack line until you feel the fish. Now set the hook. If you time it just right you can set the hook just before it reaches the stomach so you don't gut hook him. If you set the hook too early it will probably not hook into his bony jaw. This is something you will have to just feel after a few failed hook settings. Just remember this rule: LET THE GAR RUN, WAIT UNTIL IT STOPS, SET THE HOOK WHEN IT STARTS MOVING AGAIN
Landing an Alligator Gar:
You'll probably have to let the gar run a few times to wear him out. Reel the gar close to the bank or boat. Now have your buddy wrap the rope just behind the pectoral fins and pull the gar up. Be careful not to hurt the pectoral fins. For a video on how to do this click the following:
Releasing an Alligator Gar:
Alligator can breath air so they can stay out of water for awhile. You have a little more time to take pictures, but hurry up. When you start to see his fins and belly turning red it's time for them to go back in the water. If you can't get the hook out just cut the leader as close to the hook as you can. It might fall out or eventually rust out. If you gut hooked the gar then you need to get him back to the water as soon as you can, you don't want to stress kill him. If the gar needs to be revived, get into the water holding it and try to get his gills moving until it swims off on its own.
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