The Alligator Gar – What truly happened!

The question most frequently asked, “So, how was the fight?”

As much as I would love to give a breakdown similar to that of a River Monster adventure, I find myself holding back from giving the honest answer. To that question, my reply is usually, “it’s not bad, you should attempt the Alligator Gar one day, I highly recommend it!”

Do I really? This post feels like a juicy tabloid tell-all on the experience of fishing the prehistoric fish in the NEFFP. Knowing of its presence beneath the murky waters of the game fishing pond, I did a bit of research to gain understanding about this species. One of the few that has said to survive the evolution of time- we are not talking 30 or 50 years here, we’re talking a hundred million years; landing such a precious insight to history makes the attempt for this species even more exciting. However, I had a quick change of mind upon reading of the dangers associated with the Alligator Gar- it’s vicious fight, it’s unforgiving bite and it’s relentless struggle to break free. Who am I kidding? I’m probably a twig in comparison to the Gar’s mighty strength, why would I even think of trying this out? Forget it.

It was not a regular day fishing the NEFFP, the scorching sun drained our energy merely from casting. With the water temperature heating up, bite rate was at it’s lowest. Easily, one of the worst days in NEFFP. We had three hours and putting them to good use would make the experience worth it even if we did not end up with anything (highly impossible to blank at the NEFFP though). The weather made me feel like a cookie in an oven. I sat staring into space when a slight twitch of my rod tip brought my attention to it. Nothing else was happening around us, my stare was intense, my hope was high and all I saw was my line being pulled gradually, it then stopped with an evident tension that was not easing. Looking at my reel, I anticipated a scream… nothing. I waited longer… nothing.

Must be the tiny fishes playing games with my heart. I stood up wanting to adjust my line with a quick reel-in, hoping to free it from the tension that was giving me false hope, however, I was not able to. Gently lifting my rod out of the holder, I allowed my line to slack then began reeling it in. I felt a weight at the end of my line, it could be a stump OR it could be a fish. A risk was something I was not prepared to take in the trying weather, I adjusted my drag setting accordingly and with one swift move, I set my hook! My reel went insane, it was heavy, it was pulling my rod down. My husband and our friend Jasbir began recording, within a few seconds, an Alligator Gar emerged. I panicked.

The ghillie was nowhere to be seen, Naweshad had to grab onto a scorching hot net to try and net the Gar however it’s length was not about to fit in just one. The netting attempts felt endless! Our friend Dave took another net and when their net powers combined, we finally managed to bring the Alligator Gar up. The feeling of landing such a beautiful species cannot be put into words, however my worst fears about the fish was only beginning to materialise.

True to the description scattered online, the Gar looked fierce and fought hard to escape on land. In time, it tired out enough for us to take a photo, also enough for me to have developed skepticism towards even considering to lift it. The ghillie himself was not confident and his fears was apparent. Very quickly, the Gar was released and it took awhile for the adrenaline to wear off within me. In fact, it took days, leaving me with one regret… That I did not lift it in my hands for a photo; I did not know when would I be able to ever catch another Alligator Gar. This was unplanned, a coincidence, a pleasant one.

25 lbs of fierce adrenaline, my first Alligator Gar
25 lbs of fierce adrenaline, my first Alligator Gar

Keeping a safe & unneccesary distance
Keeping a safe & unneccesary distance
I need not worry for too long. The next few weeks had us in NEFFP for a night fishing session with our usual friends. The sun setting has always been positive when in NEFFP, in fact, the later you go there, the higher your chance of catching more. We were having a lovely time fishing when I noticed the very same twitch on my rod tip and tension on my line, without line being peeled off. I went towards my rod, once again, attempting to adjust my line by reeling it in a little. Almost as though prehistoric history was repeating itself, I felt a weight, and without taking any chances decided to strike on instinct. With line finally being peeled out, I resumed by fighting the fish as I normally would, initially thinking that it was an Asian Redtail at the end of my line.

That is mostly what it felt like. If you have hooked on to an Asian Redtail, in my personal opinion, there was a feel that was similar to fighting the Gar. EXCEPT- at one point when I knew, instantly, confidently, that it was indeed a Gar at the end of my line. How did I know?

If you are an angler, and know what it’s like when you’re fighting a fish however your hook was not set properly, running a risk of loosing that fish- it’s that same feeling added with a vibration that would follow every once in awhile. I am no expert and am just putting into words what I felt, having seen the Gar up close, I concluded that it could be its vicious attempts of trying to break fee by twisting its head to bite onto the line every now and then. After which, it runs, stripping line out and the same process continues until it tires. The vibrations become lesser, it now feels like your hook has been set well and reeling it back seems a breeze- it surfaces for air and that is my signal to gently guide it into the net.

I was mildly impressed by myself, I must admit. There was a satisfaction in knowing what I was doing and what was at the end of my line. It could have been derived from my initial fear and shock from the first time that required me to be vigilant and prepared, just in case the next time came along (which it did!). Similar to first situation, the Gar struggled to escape when on land. This time, the ghillie was confident, and encouraged us to lift the gar for a photo. Wetting my gloves in water, I was sure that this time, I had to.

I present to you…

My second Alligator Gar
My second Alligator Gar

Some love before releasing it back.
Some love before releasing it back.
Generally, the achievement and experience is definitely something worth a try. Unfortunately, the Gar came from a pond and it must recognise the environment that it is in, therefore, the experience one has catching an Alligator Gar in the wild would be unmatched, I imagine. On both occasions, it was a quick fight. I highly recommend it, with a lot less of a Jeremy Wade expectation, instead, with appreciation for the species itself.

How did I do it? I have no idea, in all honestly. The first was with Chicken Liver bait, left to float and the second with a slice of Catfish, left to sink, both bait purchased from the pond itself. The first under scorching sun and the second within the cool and calm of the night. If you would like more information about the gear used and the Gars caught, the video of the action below has all the details.

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