Gar of the 50s:

An Exerpt from "You're Wrong About Gar", by Jack Harper, Outdoor Life, August 1950

Got GASS?
They knew how to write 'em back then . . .

. . "Say, we must be in a regular nest of gar. maybe we won't have to go home skunked after all."

I gave the man a look of shocked disbelief. Me fish for gar? Me, a dyed-in-the-wool sports angler who even took a dark-brown view of catfishing, going after a lowly, spat-upon gar. I couldn't have been more horrified if he had suggested I buy a tin cup and a fiddle and take up panhandling.

"Arthur," I said with a great deal of pained dignity, "I may not be the best fisherman in the world, but I have not yet reached the stage where I must resort to catching garfish."

"Nuts," replied Art. "That's the whole trouble with fishermen. They are too narrow-minded. All in a rut---trailing one after the other like sheep. They read in a book where the bass is a gamefish and the gar is not, and they believe it. My friend, that is so much junk. A gamefish is any fish that'll fight, and if you don't think a gar will fight maybe you can tell me what the one you just hooked was doing!"

Art was so emphatic---and so logical---I began to get slightly interested in spite of myself. . . .

. . . I was about to give out with a crushing bit of sarcasm, but that was as far as I got. I felt a tug on my line as if it had caught under a log, then a slow, steady pull. I held it for a second, then slammed him with all I had. Brother, that was it!

His name is Lepisosteus osseus and they call him gar. His mother is a hurricane and his father is a ring-tailed tornado, and when he's mad he's a one-fish wave of destruction. This baby I had was plenty mad! I used all the fishing savvy I'd ever learned to keep the hook from pulling loose from his brittle mouth, or maybe I was trying to save my tackle. I don't know. But I do know he was a down-on-the-floor barroom fighter, slugging below the belt like the tough one he is supposed to be. Back and forth across the river he ripped, ranting and charging like a mad bull in a stall full of red flags.

There was no finesse about him. It was all brute force. I was afraid to turn him and afraid to let him run. Once he headed for the dead tree, and with fine disregard for my tackle I put on the pressure. They'll tell you a gar won't jump, buy don't you believe it. When I leaned back on my rod, this baby skidded to a halt; then suddenly he broke water with all the savageness of a muskie. He stood there and fought for a split second, waving his snout through the air like a vicious club and glaring like a prehistoric demon, then he plunged back and hit bottom again.

All this time Art was yelling what probably were very sensible instructions. I didn't have time to listen, I was too busy fighting it out with the garfish.

Exactly twenty-nine minutes after I hooked him it was all over. Art hauled him out of the water and held him up. He was long, ugly, and still chock-full of meanness. The scales said he weighed 5-1/2 pounds but I've never believed it. No 5-1/2 pound fish ever gave me that much trouble.

We didn't catch any more that day, but one was enough. I had learned something. Maybe 50 million Frenchmen can't be wrong but 25 million American sportsmen can be---and definitely are where gar fishing is concerned. Pound for pound this prehistoric hang-over, universally ignored by the average sports fisherman, is the brawlingest, fightingest critter ever booked for malicious assault on high-priced fishing gear. For plain bull ferocity and frontier slugging, nothing can equal a thoroughly mad garfish on the end of a light rig---or a heavy one for that matter. In my book the northern muskie is the only thing that can hold a candle to him.


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