Fishing Gar Gigging
As Spring comes into full effect and the sun shines a little longer and hotter, I get the daily itch to be at the river. Few things bring me as much consistent joy as the tug of a pole or trotline when you have something under the surface dancing at the other end. Over the last year or so I’ve fallen head over heels in love with a different kind of fishing not many people know of or participate in gigging gar.
History of Gigging
Gigging is defined in Wikipedia as “hunting fish or small game with a multi-pronged spear”. It should not be confused with modern spearfishing. Spearfishing uses a gun or other means of tension to launch a projectile. Gigging requires the fisherman to hold and retain control of the spear. Though not always called gigging, mankind’s history of catching fish with a spear goes back as long as we have been consuming them. There are ties to gigging mentioned in Greek mythology, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and even the Bible (Job 41:7).
When I was a kid I spent a great deal of time reading and learning about the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, who were and still are very proficient at gigging. The Cherokee Nation has participated in an annual gigging tournament at Lake Eucha in Oklahoma for nearly 50 years. Many members of the Shoshone Nation currently participate in gigging the waterways of Idaho.
FISHING GAR GIGGING EQUIPMENT
Around age 12 I took the time to whittle up a gig using some sturdy tree branches and twine. I didn’t have much luck, save for some tadpoles and one unlucky sunfish. It was fun, but I had a lot to learn!
All that is required for gigging is a long durable pole and a pronged spearhead. This can be purchased any place you would find sporting goods. When I resumed the sport last year, my first spearhead was a five pronged fish gig. It was purchased on Amazon for under $10. I used it 4 times before all of the tines broke off from striking against rocks at the bottom of the riverbed. I realized I would need something much more durable. A friend and I fashioned a homemade gig using an 8ft conduit pipe for the pole. For the head, we welded four 12-inch nails to a piece of pipe. It fit perfectly over the end of the pole. Attache some sort of lanyard to the handle, so you can easily retrieve your gig in instances where you have to throw or it gets dropped.
FISHING GAR GIGGING TECHNIQUE
From mid-Spring to early Fall it’s not uncommon to see Gar and/or Carp surfacing in many places throughout the country. Though you can eat both, my family and I prefer the white, boneless back loins of a mature Gar. Gar is a predator fish, and mostly patrols the top of the water column. In addition to their gills, they are also equipped with a separate breathing system. This allows them to surface and breathe when oxygen levels plummet in the summer. Whether feeding or taking a breath, they are extremely vulnerable when surfacing, and this is the prime time to strike.
While gigging can be done from a boat, I prefer walking in the shallows to find them. They are incredibly powerful and will do anything to get off your gig once speared. I have found it to be most effective to hold them down firmly against the bottom. Wait until they stop thrashing to bring them out of the water.
Age old Traditions Can Awaken a New Part of You!
I have found the sport of gigging to in fact be much more like hunting than fishing. Tiptoeing through the water scanning the surface for a greenback or the flash of a tail feels much more like a spot and stalk on a deer. For me, I feel it awakens a primal part of me that I eagerly look forward to year-round. If gigging sounds fun to you, take a stab at it!
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