Bluegill - Big Bluegill

Do you love big bluegill?

When we talk about BIG, we sometimes need a lesson in perspective. I went fishing today and got just such a lesson.

Lately, I've been planning the purchase of a float tube and sold my 10 foot Hobie kayak to fund the venture. But, the purchase was stalled and for now I'm still shore bound. Nevertheless, I got a chance to rethink my "floating" priorities on this morning's junket.

At 56k acres, Lake Murray, SC is where I call home. I live 8 miles from "Carolina's Fresh Water Coast" and it's 650+ miles of shore line. As you might guess, I go there as often as I can manage. It is one helluva resource to have at your back door. But even though I THINK of it as familiar territory, from time to time I am reminded that even its furthest backwaters are daunting, super-sized and mysterious....

Back bay off Lake Murray, SC.

Standing in the rain with my faithful dog, Katie, I was casting my little Beetle Spin from the bank and generally loving the angling life. Then I spotted something swimming in the murky water. Like most of the East, we've had nothing but rain for weeks and the water is like chocolate milk.... visibility is one inch or less. No kidding.

I rear back to cast and IT broke the surface. To be honest, I don't know what I saw. It was 30 yards out and both rain and the muddy water made it impossible to tell. It was big enough to make me question my sanity, though. Visions of me floating tranquilly in a float tube vanished in a flash.

The creature had fins; I could tell that much. At four feet, give or take, it was prowling along minding its own affairs. My guess, if I'm to make one, is for a large catfish. 75+ pounders are routinely taken from the main lake.... ten miles away. However, weeks of swollen creeks dumping into the lake could very well have brought one of the beasts into this back water.

It may have also been a *medium* sized long-nosed gar, which is worse in my opinion. I caught one last year from my kayak that had me pretty shook up. Again, I was flinging a Beetle Spin into some shallow structure - you can see the same shore at mid-center distance of the picture above. 

I cast and started my retrieve when thought I'd hung on a snag... until my "snag" swam off with me in tow. When I had reeled myself up to it - not the other way round - I saw what I had to contend with. What I had hooked was a log with razor sharp scales, hundreds of needle like teeth and a seriously bad attitude. Lets just say I was relieved when it spit my battered spinner back into my lap and sauntered off.

No kidding; it actually sauntered. I felt like nothing more than a bothersome pimple on its @ss at that point. I was in a ten foot kayak and it was half as long as the boat.
 
If you've seen one of these leviathan gar, you'll know that having one at float tube level cannot be a good thing.

If you've NEVER seen one, think barracuda  - a BIG prehistoric, pissed off barracuda with a much longer mouth.

I recently sold a ten foot kayak so I could try float tubing. Right now, I'm checking Craigslist for a bigger kayak...

Hope you got out and thanks for reading. Tight lines and Fair winds!

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Comment by Leo Nguyen on July 17, 2013 at 7:37am

Dick, UL gears + toothy heavy fighting gar = lots and lots of fun, until you break your UL or get bitten.

David, gar will be on my bucket list now. That 200lbs+ gar sounds might tempting.

Then the smoked gar..mmmmm..sounds good. Wrap in bacons..even better.

Comment by dick tabbert on July 17, 2013 at 6:56am

David we have Gars in Ohio but not blessed with numbers. I have seen a few in some of our river systems I fish and really glad we don't have the numbers as I have no interest in catching any. Not to say some don't enjoy that but I'm not one. In our area we consider them trash fish but that's not the issue since 99 percent of my fishing is catch and release just that all my fishing is with UL equipment and that just doesn't sound like a good mix to me.

Comment by David, aka, "McScruff" on July 17, 2013 at 3:51am
I've made gar lures, Lloyd, although I've never had to use it.
It seems like the gar are happy enough to bite on "regular"
lures just fine!
Leo, you'll have to come South and East to get a gar. As far as I know,
their range doesn't extend west beyond Texas, nor above the middle party of the country.
They've also been a favorite fish to cure in smoke. This was actually
featured in an episode of, "Swamp People" a few seasons back.
Comment by Lord of the Fly , Rods on July 16, 2013 at 10:40pm

I believe the record alligator gar was caught in the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma, we have a stuffed one in the museum here in town that weighed 230 lbs. and years ago people use to come to the town next to us, Lake City, Ar. from all over the world to fish for these big gar in the St. Francis River, first they would hook them next they would break out the old archery tackle and shoot them, but those days are over with now. I know we still have some big ones in the rivers but they are semi protected now. They catch them now on a short piece of fraid nylon rope , their teeth get stuck in the nylon.    LOFR

Comment by Leo Nguyen on July 16, 2013 at 9:07pm

Poor man's lobster? 300lbs record?! 6' long?! COME ON!! Where the heck are they in California?! If they are here, I would have been chasing them to Oregon's, New Mexico's, Utah's, and even Arizona's borders.

Comment by David, aka, "McScruff" on July 16, 2013 at 7:25pm

Ive heard the same poaching technique applied to the misleadingly titled 'eelpout' (Burbot)*, as well.

Same erroneous culinary name applied, as well.

Ive never wrestled with a gar IN the kayak. I cut the line at that point.

* Scientifc name: lota lota

Comment by Allen Morgan on July 16, 2013 at 7:18pm

Sorry, but "Poor Man's Lobster" in the Culinary world is a fish called Monkfish, a.k.a. "Lotte"........

One of the other kayakers around here, a couple years ago, posted a pic of himself after he had actually BOATED a 3-foot Long-nosed Gar.  He had the thing in the cockpit, inches from his legs and other sensitive anatomy!

Now, I have yet to tangle with a Gar from my yak, but when/if I do, I'll probably just cut my line and let it go.  Hopefully it doesn't have an expensive lure in it's mouth.......

Comment by David, aka, "McScruff" on July 16, 2013 at 7:06pm

Thanks Allen. I missed that part of RM - but the point is well illustrated. Anything that MIGHT attack people is enough to make one wary.

Try poaching gar in milk and serving with drawn garlic butter. Poor mans lobster... alright, REALLY poor mans LOBSTER.

Ive had them give me a run for my money in a kayak. Now imagine all that savagery, those teeth, the razor sharp gill plate and scales and think: do you really want a five footer trashing around your inflatable float tube?

Great comments, Allen.

Comment by Allen Morgan on July 16, 2013 at 6:42pm

Some people do eat Gar.  You need heavy-duty equipment to get through the hide (tin snips work).  Once you do, there are two loins of pinkish-white flesh.  Most folks grind it up and make fish balls out of it.  You can just cut it into sections and make mock scallops out of it.

One thing to remember about eating Gar, is that you have to eat it once it's cooked.  If you allow it to cool, and try to reheat it, it get really tough!

David, didn't you pay attention to that eppy of "River Monsters"?????  At the end, Mr. Wade postulated that the attacks were most likely the attack of an actual alligator, not an alligator gar.  All the gar he saw wanted nothing to do with him; he was snorkeling with them, and they all moved away from him.

I've caught a bunch of gar, fishing the tailrace of Keystone Dam for cats.  Actually, they are a nice fighting fish; they run, rocket out of the water, and pull like no tomorrow.  I've tangled with several 5' Long-nosed Gar, and one that probably went 6'!

If you truly want to get frightened, look at the pics of various State-record Alligator Gar.  The OK State record fish was like 197 lbs!  A couple years ago, someone caught the new World Record gator gar, and it was over 300 lbs!  I think it was out in Cali.....maybe Leo can corroborate that?

I do agree with you, thought.  There's snakes, snapping turtles, alligator snapping turtles, etc.  I don't really want various body parts dangling in the water acting as fish bait.......

Comment by Leo Nguyen on July 16, 2013 at 5:42pm

Gar is trash fish?! Don't know about that. That's what they said about anchovies and mackerel. Well, trash fish species for one ethnicity, delicious meals for others. As long as I don't die from eating the fish, any fish that's edible is a valued fish to have in the water to create a natural balance, especially when it's native.

Now..as for the toothy vs bare skin and thin plastic layers kind..ready for it? Muahahahahahaha..

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