One of my favorite shows on television was “River Monsters” with Jeremy Wade. Each show featured a story of a fresh water fish attack on humans.
Wade then heads to the area to see what type of fish would be responsible for the attacks. Wade is considered the world’s top angler and is a renowned biologist. He blends an informative narration to the action. The types of fish he brings in really make the show more interesting.
Fresh water rivers and lakes are the settings, and everything from the ferocious piranha to fresh water stingrays to catfish weighing in excess of 300 pounds are caught and studied.
While “River Monsters” ended a few years ago, Wade is now back with a new show titled “Dark Waters.”
That had me thinking about North Carolina’s water system. I have heard rumors of giant catfish in our lakes, and snakeheads have infiltrated some of our rivers. To me, though, nothing looks more prehistoric or sinister as the longnose gar. Most adults will range in the 3- to 7-pound range, with the North Carolina records hitting the mid-20-pound range. During spawning season, you can pick the males from the females easily. The females are very large, and many males will surround the female.
The gar is considered a nuisance fish. Due to its elongated mouth lined with penetrating rows of teeth, they are hard to catch by line, and they put up a huge fight when hooked. Many times you will see a fisherman cut the line without touching the gar to avoid the teeth.
Because of this, bow fishing is one of the preferred methods for harvesting gar. Even when bow fishing, though, you need special equipment. The gar is lined with diamond-shaped scales with a thick skin; therefore nearly armor-piercing fish points are a must.
I took up bow fishing several years ago as a way to keep the bow in my hand during the non-hunting seasons. Since that time, the gar has been a favorite for its toughness, challenge and, well, appearance.
Like I said, it looks menacing. One of the larger gar I have taken swam up to me while I was standing in the creek. I took the shot no further than five feet away, and even after getting the hit, the gar turned slightly and swam between my legs. The arrow shaft was still sticking out of the water while embedded in the back of the creature. I quickly reached down with one hand and pulled the fish from the water and carried it to shore. Able to breathe air, the gar was still alive for several hours before filleting it.
As far as the meat goes, it tastes much like a scallop, depending on the recipe. The eggs are toxic, though, so be careful during spawning season. In fact, just be careful around gar, period. Instinct is to grab the fish near the mouth, but unless you have a glove on, you will learn quickly not to.
So if you see one of these fish at the lake or river next time you are hitting the water, stop and appreciate it for a change. It truly is a magnificent river monster.