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Gar Anglers' Sporting Society Book Review:

Fishing For Buffalo, A Guide to the Pursuit and Cuisine of Carp, Suckers, Eelpout, Gar, and Other Rough Fish

--- Rob Buffler and Tom Dickson

A few years back, I was planning a family fishing trip to LaCrosse, so I called up the Wisconsin DNR for info. The fisheries biologist was not available so I left my name, number, and my request for gar fishing hotspots. The next day, I picked up the phone and, without even a "Hello", a voice says, "Are you SICK in the HEAD?!?"

No, we roughfishers are not necessarily clinically ill. However, we do recognize that we are oddballs. Maybe even eccentric. Contrarian, perhaps, but we relish in our role. We see the funny looks we get when we make our way down to the river side geared up for gar. But we're catching fish and having fun, so we're laughing all the way to the bank.

Buffler and Dickson get it. The authors of Fishing For Buffalo understand our love for the toothy, the lippy, the whiskered, the big scaled. Like us, they have tumbled a nightcrawler down a rocky river, thrilled with the mystery of what will hit. They share in the pride that comes with being able to identify ten different suckers. With us, they smile at the irony of landing the toughest, iron-plated gar not with the sharpest, strongest hooks, but with no hooks at all. Their writing shows their deep appreciation for these fish that swim off the beaten path.

Fishing For Buffalo, the roughfishers' bible, first published in 1990, tragically went out of print years later. But the right-thinking folks at the University of Minnesota Press have now re-released this monumental work. Just like us anglers who are not restricted to one species, Fishing For Buffalo is not restricted to one aspect of roughfishing. Buffler and Dickson delight in the many fascinating facets of suckers, carp, catfish, sturgeon, bowfin, and drum. This book is packed with legends and lore, tips and techniques, ecology and biology. It is full of charts and maps and photos and artwork. Fittingly, they devote an ENTIRE CHAPTER to our favorite prehistoric piscivore, the gar! And, beyond being informative, Fishing For Buffalo is flat-out fun to read. Bottom line, I am a sucker for this book. There is simply nothing to carp about.

But I fear that my praise to this point has been far too subtle. Allow me to make my view more clear: I believe Fishing For Buffalo is the reason humans developed a written language.

Buy it at: University of Minnesota Press or even Amazon

GAR Pins!

I found good quality GAR and BOWFIN pins at:

GAR Scale Gem Trees!

While not many people can imagine a gar (or parts of the gar) being used in Arts and Crafts, we have found them almost indispensable! The poor gar is not as colorful as a parrot fish or a Japanese koi fish, but the gar has something that other fish do not have. The gar has scales that are large, thick and very durable. These scales, after being properly treated are used in many craft and lapidary projects. We use the scales as leaves and flowers on the Gem Trees. What is a Gem Tree and how are the gar scales used? Read on!

A Gem Tree is a tree made by twisting wire (usually brass or color coated copper) to form the shape of a tree. The wire tree forms range in size from only 3 inches high with about 6 branches to over 2 feet high with 50 to 60 branches. The trees are designed to look like a pine or an apple tree or even a wind swept Bonsai tree. When twisting the wire, to form the tree, each branch will have a varying amount of twisted loops to hold semi-precious stones or gar scales. The stones representing flowers, fruit, etc. While the gar scales are used as leaves and also flowers.

Before the gar scales can be used as leaves, a considerable amount of work is required. First, the gar scales must be removed from the gar hide. We know of two very different methods. That result in the same final end.

First, if you are in an area with a lot of ants and sun, you can use the cheap, slow method. You place the gar hide on an ant hill in the sun. The sun dries the hides while the ants pick apart the hide leaving only the scales. This method takes six to eight weeks to pick apart the hide and leave only the scales. The scales are then bleached, washed and ready to use.

The second method, if you donít have a lot of ants or sun, is much faster but much more dangerous. Great care must be exercised as this method causes noxious fumes and a VERY DANGEROUS solution. You mix one can of lye into four gallons of water in a steel container. The mixture is then heated to boiling. The gar hides are then carefully and slowly added to the boiling mixture. In a matter of only minutes, the liquid will destroy the gar hide but not the scales. After things cool a bit, the mixture is poured off (this mixture must be disposed of in accordance with your local toxic waste disposal instructions) and the gar scales are washed, bleached and dried.

Next the gar scales are dyed. Usually they are dyed green, to look like tree leaves. But, around Christmas, they are also dyed red or other bright colors. There is no secret process in dying the gar scales. The same dye used to dye fabric will also dye the gar scales. The scales do have to soak in the dye solution for a longer period of time, but that is all. After being dried, they are finally ready to be used on your tree.

The gar scales are glued onto the wire loops along with the semi-precious stones. A few scales are also glued onto the base, around the bottom of the tree, to look like fallen leaves.

So, now you know a use for gar fish scales. They add beauty to a craft project and bring joy to many people who donít even know what a gar looks like.

--- By Dick Eberhart

Contact artist Marty Capron for the following prints:
"Man on a Raft"---Whimsical, yet richly and accurately detailed scene features alligator gar, bowfin, paddlefish, flathead, and more!
"Ozark Dream Stream"---Detailed underwater scene of alligator snapping turtle, hellbender, sucker, crayfish, and more!

Hollywood Gar

A few days ago, GASS Editor Garman was enjoying a creepy old movie, The Night of the Hunter (1955) { it starts at 1:09 in the YouTube clip - thanks Veronica G}. In it, Robert Mitchum plays a twisted preacher preying upon a pair of children who know the whereabouts of $10,000 cash. In one scene, young John and kindly old Uncle Birdie are fishing the river when they encounter "the meanest, orneriest, sneakiest critter in the whole river." Though it contains ignorant ideas, this scene also includes a somewhat accurate depiction of gar fishing. (CAUTION: Contains words and images of gar abuse):



They look down into the water.


Meanest, orneriest, sneakiest critter in the

whole river, boy! A gar!


They sit up into it.


Here's your can o' hooks, Uncle Birdie.


There hain't nary a hook in the land smart

enough to hook Mister Gar. What a feller needs

is mother-wit -- and a horse-hair.

Over this, he pulls horse-hair out of his hatband. He sets to work rigging

his noose.


Won't he bust it, Uncle Birdie?


Shoot, a horse-hair'll hold a lumpin' whale.

He puts over his line. Pause.


You don't mind my cussin', boy?




Tell you why I ask -- your step-pa bein' a

Preacher an' all...

JOHN's lips go like string. BIRDIE sees it.


Never was much of a one for preachers myself.

I dunno what's wrong up at your place, but just

remember one thing, Cap -- if ever you need

help, you just holler out and come a-runnin'.

Old Uncle Birdie's your friend.

A powerful strike. BIRDIE lands the gar. The air is full of sparkling water.


There! You slimy, snaggle-toothed, egg-suckin',

bait-stealin' so-and-so!



He beats the fish with the heel of an old shoe.



Mind what I told you. If ever you get in a

crack just come a-runnin'.

Now there is no sound or thumping or beating.


Admiring BIRDIE, he squares his shoulders, full of confidence.


Can we eat him, Uncle Birdie?


If you got n appetite for bones and bitterness.

On this, he flings the dead gar in a wide arc out into the river.

GarMan Jack shows his beautiful gyotaku fish print gART

GarMan Jack Barnett again graciously guided GASS Editor Bill Meyer on the third somewhat-annual Lake Lanier gar excursion. On a beautiful day, seven longnose were landed using Jack's Original Gar Lure. Jack even had the grace to allow the largest gar, a 13-pounder, to fall to his guest. The action of GarMan Jack's rope lures was increased by using his latest invention, the Automatic Rod-Tip Vibrator, a clever device that imparts more motion to any lure. Read more about the gar world's Jack-of-all-trades at:

For fantastic gar scale items, visit Bayou Dianne's website at


Artist Marty Capron wrote of gar tattoos which reminded me to dig out this picture (and of Tattoo'd Ladies). Jeff of the rockin' bluegrass band Split Lip Rayfield has this beautiful gar across his back. That's dedication to the cause!

Patrick Cooney, fisheries Biologist at the University of Florida (Gainesville) writes:

Here is a picture of my boss and I in the Gulf of Mexiconear Cedar Key, Florida. We both work for the Fisheries Department at the University of Florida and we were in a tournament this past Saturday (May 1st, 2004) that our department puts on every year. We were out fishing for cobia, and happened to catch a longnose about four miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. I was excited to see what I pulled up form the depths, but was upset that I wasn't wearing my GASS or GASSBAG t-shirt at the time of the tournament because I figure it would have made the picture even better. I frequently fish for gar in freshwater, but never in salt water. I hooked the 51 inch longnose on a huge slab of dead cut bait with a 10/0 hook and 70 pound test, making it the easiest gar I have ever reeled in. My boss was kind enough to grab the leader and hold up the fish for me, despite his despising the fish I have tried to teach him to love.....GAR. He will come around sooner or later.

Patrick also send directions for making this fantastic gar belt buckle:
First, go to any website that sells belt buckle blanks and purchase one. We used: They are inexpensive (about 3 to 4 dollars a piece and get cheaper in bulk) and work very well. Then go and catch a gar. To tell you the truth, we found that smaller gar work better because you have more scales on the buckle, whereas larger gar would only allow for a few scales to fit. Our best buckle came from a medium to smaller gar.
Anyways, cut the head off, then cut the fish long ways along the bottom and pull all of the meat and entrails out, while keeping the pelt (scales and skin holding scales together) intact. Be sure to get the inside of the pelt as clean as possible (no meat or bones) by scraping with a knife or something like that. About the slime coat on the outside of the scales. We took a scrub brush and used some elbow grease to really scrub to get rid of all slime. A lot of the darker color of the gar will go away with this scrubbing, including spots, however, without getting this off, the final product will not look good because the slime cracks and is nearly impossible to get off after you have dried the pelt. However, there is a nice contrast in color long the lateral line of the fish.
Once the pelt is clean you will need to get something to press it in (like for drying leaves or flowers) so that it no longer has its curl when it dries. Do not use newspaper in the press because the print will go into the skin of the pelt and discolor it. We used regular computer paper and felt to line the pelt and used wooden press boards with cinder blocks or anything slightly heavy on top. Leave the pelt to dry. We have an industrial drier that blows warm dry air, and that dries them in a day, but leaving them in a warm dry place will dry the thin piece of skin attached to the scales out pretty quickly.
Once it is good and dry, attach the belt buckle (do not scuff the face of the buckle up, as we found this to deter its adhering ability) to the bottom side of the pelt with hot glue. Be sure to hold it nice and tight until the glue dries preventing the slight natural curl of the gar from letting it lift off of the buckle and glue. Once the glue is dry, we used a Dremel tool (fast rotating hand held tool) to cut away the excess pelt and to sand the pelt down to the edge of the buckle (quite simple to tell you the truth).
This is the big trick. Hot glue does not hold the pelt on for more than a couple of uses on a belt since hot glue is not very strong, however, it is nice and quick to use in the initial steps since it sets fast, and is soft on the attachments of the Dremel tool. Therefore, after sanding the pelt down to the buckles edge and buffing it, the pelt pulls off from the hot glue and buckle quite easily with your hands even after the glue has set for days or weeks. We then bought two ton epoxy (about two dollars for a tube at Wal Mart) and reattached the pelt to the buckle for a final product. One final tip is to add a very small bead of the epoxy around the edge (it dries clear) of the pelt and buckle to prevent the buckle from having sharp edges.
As you can see, it ends up being a couple day project between buying the buckle, catching the fish, cleaning the fish, drying the fish, gluing the fish down, cutting and sanding it down with the dremel tool, pulling it off, and then reattaching it, but for the real enthusiast, it is really easy to do, it makes a great item to wear around every day, and an even better conversation piece.

This 18" Longnose Gar took Third Place in the Open (Other freshwater)category at the Canadian Fish Carving Championships April 16--18 in Parksville, BC as part of the Brant Wildlife Festival. To our knowledge, this is the first time any GAR has ever been entered in a fish carving competition. GASS sends its Official Congratulations to Master Garver, James EdGAR Robertsof Winnipeg, Manitoba,

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