Trinity River alligator gar trip 2022

MSA

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Since I saw pictures of alligator gar in books in my elementary school library 35 years ago I've wanted to see them in real life. We attempted to take this trip in 2020, but had to cancel due to covid.
After 3 years of research and following the local fishing forums and Facebook pages I rented a VRBO lake house for a week on lake Livingston right by the Livingston dam on the Trinity.
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After getting settled in on Saturday, we headed to the dam area to scope things out, round up some bait, and at least wet some lines. The shores were covered in trash, and trashy people, poaching in broad daylight, illegal size gar carcasses just left on shore and the boat ramps, my brother said Iraq was cleaner and had more decent people. Now I cringe every time I see a Texas license plate up here. Garbage aside, I cast netted some large shad, and we caught a variety of species on hook n line. The water in that area was too shallow (1-3') to hold gar that evening so we didn't try.
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Texas longear sunfish
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Smalmouth buffalo
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Blue crab and mullet make their way all the way up from the gulf over 100 miles away, and bull sharks have been caught in the area.
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Some gar carcasses left on the boat ramp
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The Texas state seashell, very common along any shoreline
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My kid caught all kinds of stuff wandering around with a jig n a worm, crappie, drum, bass, sunfish, blue cats, channel cats

The next morning we caught some drum, cut them in half or into three pieces and got some lines in further down the river where the water was deeper.
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Within a minute of getting our third line in we had a run, and then another, and then all three lines were peeling off. We let em run for about a minute to give them time to get the bait down into the gullet for good hook sets. We landed 2 of the three, a couple in the 4 foot range.
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And then run after run and muddy chaos ensued...the bait was harder to catch than the gar. Everything we tried worked, mullet, drum, buffalo, carp, bowfin, shad, sunfish, bluegill, etc... The biggest gar on day one was about 5 1/2 feet.
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The following days we began missing alot more fish, our hook up ratio fell to maybe 10-20%. We had lost all of the 6/0 wide gap heavy duty treble hooks I brought to snags, and big gar cutting thru our braid with their sharp bony scales. It also seemed alot of longnose gar had moved in the next day, I could see them surfacing for air along with the gator gar. Longnose will take the bait, but since they have such a small but equally hard beak and an even smaller mouth, they're nearly impossible to hook. I did manage to land one that got the leader wrapped around his nose.
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By mid week we had experimented with several different hooks and found some that worked well, mustad 8/0 (paddlefish hooks for those of you who don't know hook sizes like myself) bronzed trebles that I sharpened and sanded a bit to speed up the rust process for the few gar that got the hook to deep for us to remove. And some gar just smashed em flat before spitting it out.

And I just got the nodak angler message that I can only upload 15 files per post, so I'll keep going via replies.
 


MSA

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Our goal we set for ourselves was to each land a gar over 6 feet and 100+ lbs, which I finally did on Wednesday after losing gar well over 6-7 feet daily. My buddy was a bit shy about getting in the water and wrapping a rope around a fish that size with big jaws and bigger teeth, and the hook kept coming loose and working it's way out of the mouth so I finally had to hand off the rod and get a rope around her. 73" long gar on the sand, and the hook literally fell off her beak when the line went slack.IMG_20220601_165541084.jpg
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The next day my buddy landed his big one
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And Nick's biggest
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And several more gar photos.....idk how many we caught, I lost count, it was a very successful trip
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MSA

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Some of the other species caught
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Longnose gar
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Orange spotted sunfish
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Spotted gar
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Spotted bass
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Bowfin
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Yellow bass

Our tackle was a basic paddlefish set up. 80-100lb braid, large slip bobber, no weight, 300lb hollow core braid leader and 6/0 or 8/0 mustad bronzed treble hook. Best bait was any legal cut bait fish that was recently caught. Yesterday's bait from the cooler barely worked. Oh, and spend 1/2 to 1 hour cleaning the shoreline so our pics didn't look like we were fishing a landfill. The biggest gar we saw were easily 7.5-8 feet long and as big around as a 55 gal drum. They looked like manatees when they hit the surface for air, and it looked like a stick of dynamite went off in the water when the big ones would bust into a school of carp.
 
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SDMF

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Cool to read a good story when someone “checks a box”.
 

CatDaddy

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Congrats MSA! Sounds like a lifelong dream fulfilled!!!! And a DIY to boot!

This is the best NDA post in quite awhile. Thank you for sharing!
 


JayKay

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Awesome! That sounds like an absolute blast. I bet you had sand EVERYWHERE.

Looks like the entire party had a lot of fun, and that's truly what fishing is about. The cabin you rented looked pretty nice too. I bet at the end of the day, you guys just crashed.

How was the weather/temps? I would guess it felt pretty good to get in the water.

Oh, one other question, about the lassoing of them. Was there ever a point where a guy jumped out of the way? They're toothy critters.
 

WormWiggler

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Congratulations on the awesome trip and thanks for sharing with us. I occasionally think of your brother having read the book. Still hope to find the movie. Have a great day.
 

MSA

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Awesome! That sounds like an absolute blast. I bet you had sand EVERYWHERE.

Looks like the entire party had a lot of fun, and that's truly what fishing is about. The cabin you rented looked pretty nice too. I bet at the end of the day, you guys just crashed.

How was the weather/temps? I would guess it felt pretty good to get in the water.

Oh, one other question, about the lassoing of them. Was there ever a point where a guy jumped out of the way? They're toothy critters.

Weather was nice, upper 80s low 90s, we spent 11-12 hours a day on the water. Lines in by 6am, break at noon to beat the heat and veg out at the house, then back on the water around 3-4 until dark at 9.

We only lassoed 4, but yes, lots of thrashing and swinging. I took a 4 footers beak to my leg and it looked like a row of bloody nail holes. The big ones aren't nearly as crazy once they're landed, but definitely dangerous when they're still in the water, especially after they take a breath.
 

Allen

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Pretty sweet trip. My cousin and I were talking about doing a gar trip down south. Sure looks like you nailed it in timing and location.

How long was the average fight for a 4+ ft gar? 10-15 minutes?
 

Wall-eyes

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Crazy how does any fish live with them. Looks like a blast. Did it in Florida many years ago with guide
 


MSA

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Pretty sweet trip. My cousin and I were talking about doing a gar trip down south. Sure looks like you nailed it in timing and location.

How long was the average fight for a 4+ ft gar? 10-15 minutes?

They're everywhere down there, literally as thick as bullheads. My brother was nailing them in the drainage ditch behind his hotel in Dallas. Timing is when it's hot, between may and October. They're waaaay easier to find than I expected.


Yeah, if you include the wrestle mania time trying to get the hook out. Usually 3-5 minutes to get em to the bank, big ones 10-20, really big ones, idk if it's possible from shore. I hooked some over 7 feet and there was zero control of those fish, I don't think they even knew I was on the other end.
 
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svnmag

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Great post! Back in the 90's I caught a number of Florida gar on a 7in firetiger Bang-O-Lure. Always thought it would be cool to attempt hooking a 'gator on a muskie sized jerkbait. Your post has dispelled many TV shows. The "quest" is always "grueling" and success "elusive". Good read.
 

MSA

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Great post! Back in the 90's I caught a number of Florida gar on a 7in firetiger Bang-O-Lure. Always thought it would be cool to attempt hooking a 'gator on a muskie sized jerkbait. Your post has dispelled many TV shows. The "quest" is always "grueling" and success "elusive". Good read.

Yeah, way easier to find alligator gar than I could've imagined. Every spot we fished, and every spot my brother fished had gar, and we were fishing the most public of places, parks and boat ramps, we did zero back road, off road, or hiking. The longest we went without a run was maybe 20 minutes. Keep in mind, I'd guess half our runs were longnose gar, small gator gar, and turtles.
 

scrotcaster

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Very cool post, thanks for sharing..
couple questions;
1. can you eat them? if so, did you, and are they decent tasting ?
2. educate me on the gar biology, they have to come above the surface to breathe/take a breath? No gills?
 

MSA

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Very cool post, thanks for sharing..
couple questions;
1. can you eat them? if so, did you, and are they decent tasting ?
2. educate me on the gar biology, they have to come above the surface to breathe/take a breath? No gills?

Yes, very tasty from what I'm told. I almost never keep and eat fish on fishing trips, mainly because I don't wanna spend valuable time filleting, cooking, and cleaning, that could be spent fishing.

They have gills and a vascular swim bladder "lung". They can gulp air from the surface and extract oxygen from the water with their gills. They can also live in brackish and salt water.
 


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