Angling for Oddball Fish
state record longnose gar is a whopping 34 pounds, 7 ounces. The shortnose gar is found primarily in large rivers and ditches in the Bootheel. The spotted gar is most common in the Bootheel region. The alligator gar, Missouri’s largest fish, is known from only a handful of sightings in the Bootheel and lower Mississippi River. An alligator gar caught in Dunklin County in 1956 was 7.5 feet long and weighed 220 pounds! The alligator gar population in the state has declined drastically over the past century due to habitat loss and overharvest. In an effort to reestablish the species, the Conservation Department started a reintroduction program at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge in 2007.
Gar will hit most lures that anglers would typically use to catch bass. However, because of the way they feed and their bony, beak-like jaws, few are hooked and landed. Unlike bass that ambush and engulf their prey, gar tend to slowly glide up next to a potential meal, usually a small fish, and grab it with a sideways swipe of the head. Impaled on rows of needle sharp teeth, the prey eventually stops struggling. The gar then turns the prey so that it can be swallowed headfirst. The problem with using a lure such as a crankbait to catch gar is that there is next to nothing in a gar’s beak to set a hook into. Any pressure on the line and the gar will usually release the bait.
A novel approach to catching gar, longnose gar in particular, is to use a rope lure. You won’t find these at your local tackle store, but they are easy and inexpensive to make. The best type of rope to use is the twisted nylon variety that frays out into very fine strands. Take a length of rope that is 20 to 24 inches long and the thickness of a pencil and fray it out. Run this group of fibers through one side of a barrel swivel and tie it in the middle with an overhand knot so that 10 to 12 inches of fiber sticks out on each side. To keep the knot from coming undone, put a few drops of super glue on the knot. When tying this lure to your rod, put a slip sinker above the lure as if you were rigging up a plastic worm. For added flash, you can add several