Gar: The Forgotten Fish

Note: This post pertains only to the Florida/Spotted and Longnose Gar. The Alligator Gar requires a scientific permit to take in Florida and is illegal to sell in Florida.

Gar is a prehistoric predator fish. Its skin is ganoid, like armor, that can be difficult to remove from the meat inside. It is a predatory fish, meaning it hunts for it’s food. The gar ambush their prey.

Many call it a “trash fish” and mistakenly suggest it tastes “aweful” or “muddy”. Despite these claims, which largely come from individuals who never tasted gar, the fish does not taste “muddy” or “aweful”. It also shouldn’t be seen as a “trash fish”. The suggestion of a “muddy” taste is false primarily due to the fact gar is a predator; therefore, a good, clean fish. 

The gar meat looks similar to that of chicken but tastes more like gator. Some say it tastes similar to swordfish more so than gator.

Before fish were able to be transported miles away from their origin to be sold in supermarkets, gar was a popular fish. It’s primarily due to the advancement in transport of other species of fish that gar lost its favor and eventually became known as a “trash fish” as people were interested in the fish arriving from other regions.

Not only was gar popular amongst us prior to the ability to transport fish from other regions, it is believed to have been not only a food source for Native American tribes, but the armor-like skin of the fish was also used to produce arrow heads and other tools.

Gar may be prepared in a variety of ways. It’s popularly used in cajun cooking. We love it pan fried in bacon fat.

Due to a lack of understanding of this fish, you won’t find it offered in any supermarkets. It may also be hard locating even a local fish market that offers gar of any variety. We’re hoping to change that. As of this writing, we are the only market we know of that offers fresh gar.

If you’ve never heard of gar before, it’s likely because most markets don’t offer it. Because most markets don’t offer gar, it would be up to you to catch your own if you were to be in the mood for gar. Due to this, and the large misperception of gar, only a small percentage of people are aware of how tasty the fish actually is, and catch their own on fishing trips to bring home for dinner. We would like to see more people aware of this forgotten and misunderstood fish, and are providing a way you can get some gar without the need to find time to catch your own and learn how to clean it. Gar should be available for everyone to enjoy, not just the minority of weekend anglers that already do enjoy the fish. 

Aside from the few anglers who are aware of the great taste of gar and catch their own for dinner, gar is largely targeted today as nothing more than a “game fish” where sport fishermen go out and hunt gar with bow and arrow or spear guns; seldom taking the dead fish home to eat. More often than not, this fish is left in the water to rot, or the dead fish thrown back after the sport fisherman get’s a few photographs with his “trophy” fish. This behavior is not only disgraceful, it’s illegal. If you want to kill a fish, you should take it home and eat it.

Anglers who catch a gar, it is relatively easy to clean. You cut the head off and then cut through the armor along the spine – a pair of shears or snips make this easier. After splitting the armor, you peel the armor away from the meat – easier with a fillet knife. There is a vein above the spine you remove from the rest of the meat. Then simply fillet down the sides same way you would fillet any other fish. Remove the fillets and dispose of the carcase.

For those who have never tried gar, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you don’t particularly enjoy “fishy” tasting fish, then you’ll love gar. Gar is a very mild fish that takes on the flavor of the brine, marinade, or seasonings you soak or coat it with. It’s a very versatile fish that may be used in any number of recipes. You can try using gar in recipes which normally call for chicken or gator, or simply add it to the recipe for additional flavor.

If anyone tries telling you gar doesn’t taste good, ask them these two questions:

  1. Have you ever tried it?
  2. How was it prepared?

Chances are, you’ll hear they never tried gar and heard it tasted bad from someone else; who, likewise, never had gar. If they have had gar, it could be they just didn’t like the taste of it due to how it was prepared. It should always be prepared using a recipe you have a taste for. In other words, don’t prepare it with hot spices if you don’t like hot foods.

If you’re interested in trying gar, or you’ve had gar before and can’t find anywhere to buy some, you can place an order for some gar here. If you have a favorite home recipe for gar, submit it to RedsFreshFish@gmail.com with the following information:

  • Your Full Name
  • City, State
  • Title Of The Recipe
  • Full Recipe

All submitted recipes will be shared on this blog. Only your first name and last initial will be used in stating you as the author/creator of the recipe.

Further Reading:

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