Sunday, June 22, 2014

Longnose gar from Gar Lake, they're Gar-r-reat!

Summer is heating up in Illinois, and that means gar are on my mind!  My encounters with gar have all occurred in the past two years.  In 2012 I met up with Bill "Garman" and Olaf at a spot called Garvana where I caught my lifer shortnose gar.  Then, in the spring of 2013, I traveled down to the southern tip of Illinois and caught huge examples of spotted gar and shortnose gar.  Catching such large fish was a matter of chance rather than skill, and I feel very fortunate for those experiences.  That summer I researched spots where alligator gar have been reintroduced in central Illinois, and I was privileged to watch Olaf, Bill, and my childhood friend J.D. each catch one of the fabled fish.  Hopefully mine will come soon!  At the end of 2013 I caught my lifer Florida gar in the Everglades.  There are 5 species of gar in the U.S., which means longnose gar and alligator gar have become my top priorities.  What can I say?  Gar are just really cool fish!

I was free yesterday, so I loaded up the kayak and headed north to check out Gar Lake, a spot Bill and Olaf have recommended.  This was my inaugural kayak fishing trip, so I was excited to get on the water with rods in the rod holders.  I actually launched at an adjacent lake called Carp Lake and worked my way toward Gar Lake.  After seeing a few splashes on the surface ahead of me, I tied on the rope lure that Olaf gave me last year, hoping to catch my first gar with the hookless lure that is used to catch gar and only gar.  I put in about 100 casts with the rope lure, but gave up after not getting any hits.  I wanted to stretch my legs and fish from shore, so I pulled my kayak out of the water at a nice secluded spot.

Gar Lake

Once on shore, I set up one rod with a locally sourced shiner on a #6 circle hook under a weighted float, and put in a few more casts with the rope lure with the other.  My float disappeared under the water, but by the motion of it I assumed it wasn't a gar.  It turned out to be a very ambitious white crappie.

White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis)

You can see from their mouth shape why people catch them so easily with jigs.

At this point a thunderstorm rolled in.  Thunder and lightning, torrential rain, and gusts of wind, the whole bit.  I flipped my kayak upside down and put my tackle box under it to stay dry.  At first I enjoyed the rain... then I felt like a tough guy for enduring it... but finally I just felt miserable.  It was a relief when it ended.  I baited up both my rods with shiners on circle hooks and played the waiting game.  A big fish took one of them on a run, but after a few seconds it came off, taking the shiner with it.  A little later, I had another take, and this time the fish was securely on!  I kept the drag loose and played the fish as carefully as possible.  My lifer longnose gar, and a big one at that!

Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus) - new hook & line species #239

The gar measured 48 inches exactly, and was moderately cooperative as I made my first attempt to photograph myself holding a fish using the 10 second delay on my camera.  The photo above was actually the first one I took, and I'm surprised that it tuned out the best.  I'm glad I have this picture rather than one of it lying on the ground.

There have been several occasions where I catch a new lifer and then promptly pack up my gear and head home.  This was one of those occasions.  I packed up the kayak and paddled back to my car with a smile on my face.  Alligator gar, I have my sights on you!


  1. Congratulations on the lifer Longnose Gar, what a fine example of the species too! Dandy sized fish!

  2. Thanks Adam! I'm always looking forward to your Ohio reports.