December 2, 2007 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Gar are a carnivorous fish found in North and Central America and some parts of the Caribbean. The fish is closely related to its Jurassic ancestors, can live for twenty years, grow to be as big as ten feet or more, and live practically anywhere, breathing through their gills or assisted by their air bladders. Gar are considered a "trash" fish, but people have been catching (or not), cooking, and eating gar for centuries (use the whole fish!). Despite, or perhaps because of, their rows scary teeth, they make great pets.
posted by Pants! (17 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Somehow using a bow and arrow to catch those big fish seems like cheating to me. I was impressed that they had landed such a huge fish until I saw how they did it.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:28 PM on December 2, 2007

Being as the status of one of those links has the fish as 'threatened', why on earth are they allowed to be hunted and kept as pets?
posted by Brockles at 2:33 PM on December 2, 2007

Threatened? I grew up in East Texas, and gar are everywhere. They're beautiful fish, and they taste okay.. but there's really not much meat on them.
posted by bradth27 at 2:39 PM on December 2, 2007

I remember seeing gar all over the place in the Everglades when I was growing up. They didn't seem threatened then (20 years ago), but I'm not sure what their current status is.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:51 PM on December 2, 2007

I grew up in East Texas, and gar are everywhere. They're beautiful fish, and they taste okay.

I used to see them in Lake Livingston, myself. "Beautiful" is absolutely not the word I'd use to describe them. Shudder.
posted by pineapple at 3:09 PM on December 2, 2007

I have always been fascinated with fish and other aquatic life and live far from gar country. I really want to see one of those big buggers some day.
posted by Iron Rat at 3:28 PM on December 2, 2007

Growing up in Arkansas and frequenting the rivers in the southeast part of the state, the gar was the nightmare you heard about but never wanted to encounter. I did see them a fewt times but never caught one.
posted by zardoz at 3:42 PM on December 2, 2007

Tom Nook will buy them off you for 6000 bells, too.
posted by Guy Smiley at 4:04 PM on December 2, 2007 [3 favorites]

-bage would be the appropriate suffix here.
posted by DenOfSizer at 4:05 PM on December 2, 2007

there are several species. the largest, alligator gar, Atractosteus spatula is in decline in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana. (and what apex predator isn't?) I'm not clear on when we have to declare them "endangered" rather than "threatened." But there are a lot of smaller ones in the urban lagoons of New Orleans and City Park, and the Bayous northshore.

It's a long-lived, slower-breeding species, (Generation time 5 to 40 years, as you can see from its life history table); so its populations don't bounce back as quickly to heavy predation.

My favorite alligator gar was killed and gutted this year. We would see him (?) floating in the water near a public beach where kids would play during our regular seine samples of the beach.

Later this year, we found the carcass (just skin and head) on the boat launch; that's when I learned the way to skin the animal is to cut down the length of its dorsal and peel the armor off. The head was about a foot and a half long. Gar often serve as the unnamed "stuffing" in flounder, crab, and other seafood dishes.

but this FPP wouldn't be complete without a link to gar scale jewelry.
posted by eustatic at 4:06 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Gar are awesome. When I was a kid, I used to go fishing in the lagoon in New Orleans' City Park. I hooked a gar once. It bolted, swam circles around a snag, then yanked, leaving me fishless and slack-jawed.
posted by brundlefly at 4:13 PM on December 2, 2007

there was a scaaaaaaaaaary aquarium (where they keep the fish, not sell them) on the lake of the ozarks when i was a kid that had an impressive collection of gar heads (with those hideous teeth). supposedly, every one of them had been caught in the lake -- which i grew up swimming in every summer.

*shudder*, indeed.
posted by CitizenD at 5:15 PM on December 2, 2007

My wife is afraid to go in the water now. Thanks.
posted by Sukiari at 6:08 PM on December 2, 2007

Now this is a post with teeth!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:54 PM on December 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

I've always liked gar, though I'm not sure why.

I can point to a great experience at an aquarium, where I was looking in the small tanks at a young examples of the fish; probably in the 6" to 8" variety, then I turned around and in one of the big tanks, was the same fish, just 6 feet long.

And looking at me.

It was neat.
posted by quin at 8:47 AM on December 3, 2007

As a kid growing up literally in the creeks of the Black Belt of Lower Alabama (proud to call my home South Central LA), I am quite familiar with the alligator gar.

Once, while out in Valley Creek near Selma, I was barefoot, mostly naked and sort of wading/swimming/fishing with a tiny rod and reel with possibly 8 lb. max line, when all of a sudden the usual blue gill nibbles became a fight of Hemingway proportions. Here I was, a scrawny middle schooler up to my waist in dirty creek water with something jerking my pitiful little fiberglass stick every which way.

Finally, I managed to get the beast close enough to me to see. Suddenly it was a battle between the two of us to see who could get rid of the other faster. I did not want to reel him in any more than he wanted me to. I made it to the bank and just could not shake the monster on my line. I had caught it and there was no getting away from that fact. What the hell did I do with it then? I certainly did not want it and I sure as hell did not want to try to get my hand close enough to its mouth to free it.

In the end, I bravely (or more acurately, while wetting myself) used my ubiquitous for an Alabama dirt child pocket knife to cut the line somewhere near the mouth area and the prehistoric creature slipped slowly back down into the turbid depths, seemingly undisturbed by the incident. I on the other hand walked home on dry land hoping never to find one of those things under a log again.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:11 AM on December 3, 2007 [2 favorites]

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