Fishing in Winona County is a multi-speices angler’s paradise. We have the Mississippi River acting as our eastern border and hills full of spring creeks to the west. This last week found me targeting Gar on the Mississippi with hookless lures.
A Gar is a “rough” or underutilized species to most sport anglers however their light bites and acrobatic fights make them sporting to thousands of anglers nationally. In Minnesota there are two types of Gar; the smaller Shortnose Gar and the larger Longnose Gar. Both of which are typically finicky eaters much less nearly impossible to catch with a traditional hook and line method as their beaks are predominately impenetrable bone leaving even the sharpest hooks with room for improvement.
I have adopted the ways of the southern Gar anglers and now choose the rope lure to increase my successes in bringing Gar to hand. A rope lure is a four to six inch piece of unfurled 3/8-inch nylon rope attached to a jig head. The lure is fished with a jigging motion which is just enough for attention from Longnose. The toothy fish’s teeth get tangled in the rope lure enough to fight them to bring them to hand where untangling the rope is a timely task.
Gar can be found breaking in backwater sloughs. Breaking is when the prehistoric fish comes to the surface of the water to gulp for air. The warmer the day the more actively Gar will break.
Gar can be handled by pinching them, without squeezing too hard, near their gill covers. If you grab them in the right spot they typicaly relax and let you have your way with them.
Gar are not the tastiest fish in the river and are best sought for sport and not dinner. The careful release of all Gar benefits the biodiversity that the bend in the river provides in Winona County.