Gar Fever – Sponsored by AMS Bowfishing
By Jack Thatcher
Mar 28, 2006 – 6:41:00 AM
A large lateral glow began to take shape at
the edge of my lights. As the boat approached quietly, I broke the silence,
“Get ready boys!” My body tensed as I began to point out the fish
to my clients.
“It can’t be? That’s a tree, It’s gotta
be a tree! You’re just tired Jack! There’s no way! It’s too big to be a
fish!” All three clients dismissed the apparition now only fifty feet
away! But as I slowly closed the distance, mouths began to drop! Hunters now
whispered! Hearts began to beat in slow motion inside their throats! Three
hunters came to full draw almost simultaneously at the sight of an eight foot
alligator gar! “Wait”, I barked, “Not yet.” I began to
turn the boat slightly for a better position and closer shot. “If she
starts to go before I call for the shot, take her!!” All nodded in
unison. Twenty feet, fifteen, now less than ten feet! “One……two……three!!!!!
What happened next took an e t e r n i t y to transpire.
All three shots entered the water simultaneously with a splash! With one
sudden thrust, the fish bolted straight under the boat. “Who’s got
her?” I pleaded, as I turned the boat 180 degrees to chase the fish. No
answer. Not a word. Everyone looked at each other in disbelief! “Did you
all miss that fish?” Again, no answer.
Silence overtook the boat once again. One of
the hunters sat down quietly on the security rail that borders my deck. He
slowly pulled a cigarette from his jacket, lit it, and sat quietly without
saying much for the next fifteen minutes. His brother-in-law knelt on the deck
and peered endlessly at the water as if in prayer. The other hunter took up
stargazing while all of them contemplated what they had just witnessed! Soon
the silence broke with the question, “How did we miss a fish with the
girth of a 32 gallon trash can?” “Easy!” I said, “Gar Fever
my friends, Gar Fever!!!!”
I wish I could tell you that this was an
isolated incident, but I would be lying! The truth is that a lot of the people
miss the first time they see a monster fish! Most customers have never seen
fish as big as the one I have described, especially not in fresh water! Very
often, the fish are mistaken for trees in the water, only to be realized as
trophy gar when they are all too close! The result, quick forced shots! Some
times they hit and sometimes they don?t.
So what happens when we hit a big fish? What
do we do? What can we expect? I get these questions a lot! Imagine if you will,
trying to stop a locomotive with a thirty yard lasso! That should give you a
fair idea of what its like to fight a big alligator
gar. Although their runs are fairly short, you can count on them to be very
powerful. These fish have huge tails and a body that is streamlined, built for
propulsion. They can fight for long periods of time, especially in open or warm
water. Last year, I had a fish pull my twenty foot boat around for 30 minutes
before finally being subdued and landed.
Although bouts with these huge fish can vary,
the technique employed by Extreme Bowfishing
does not. Once a fish is arrowed, a split second decision must be made on how
to proceed that is based on shot placement, arrow
penetration, and water conditions. Here are some simple guidelines to improve
your odds of landing a monster gar.
Poor shot placement or lack of arrow
penetration make for long, drawn out battles. You will need to match the fish
in direction and speed. Take your time so that the arrow doesn?t pull out. I
have seen many fish that were rushed in only to be lost at the boat.
If your shot placement is good (about
twelve inches behind the head on seven foot fish), match his speed and let
him pull the boat around until he tires. This may take some time so don’t get
in too big of a hurry. A tired fish is easier to land!
Get ready with a second and possibly third
arrow. I have seen fish about to be boated shake their head and snap off two
or three arrows like twigs. Don’t take a chance on losing a trophy of a
lifetime because you don’t want to mess up arrows.
Make sure to match your equipment with your
quarry. Alligator gar are extremely tough fish and
require specialized equipment equal to the task. Talk to a qualified guide or
contact AMS Bowfishing or Muzzy to get properly
outfitted. I recommend line
weights of 350lbs or better. We use only AMS
Retriever Reels mounted on recurves and
compounds no heavier than 50 lbs. Last, but most important, we only use the Muzzy Garpoint
#925G on our arrows.
Only use a float in open water situations or
if you’re concerned about being pulled overboard. Use of floats in timber or
near weed beds will lead to lost gear and more importantly lost fish!
I prefer to gaff large fish. This allows me
to control the business end of the fish at all times. Nooses are great on smaller fish, but fail to control the
movement of large fish entirely.
Be sure to fully subdue a big fish before
trying to boat it. I have seen fish that were thought to be “done”
come back to life and levy fines on people in the boat!
Use gloved hands to control tension and
line rate. Try to maintain enough line in the reel for extended fish runs.
Above all, always be aware of how much line you have left. I have seen grown
men pulled out of a boat when the end of the line was hit.
If using a guide, be sure to follow his
commands. A good guide will always tilt the odds in your favor. Stay close to
the guide where he can see both you and the fish! This makes it easier for
him to follow the fish and direct the action!
I always enjoy the look on a customer’s
face the first time they see a monster gar in fresh water. I have had clients
freeze, never draw the bow back, and look at me in disbelief. It’s difficult
to keep your wits about you when the moment of truth comes. Last year, I
guided three separate groups of hunters to a fish that was eight feet long
with a girth equal in size to a 32 gallon trash can! That fish never got a
scratch! Not one! I have two of the hunts on video to add to the insult!
That is what makes bowfishing
monster gar special! That kind of rush can only come from hunting something
bigger and meaner than you are! Gar Fever!
Stay in the boat!
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