If you live in the warm-water areas of the midwest and the southeastern United States, you probably have encountered a gar fish while fishing.
These toothy, prehistoric creatures are a nuisance to some anglers and reveled by others…but have you ever thought about eating one? I mean, can you actually eat garfish?
The truth may surprise you!
Can you Eat Gar fish?
Although they are not generally accepted as high-quality table fare, all 7 species of gar fish native to North America are edible and safe to eat. However, this only applies to the meat; Do not eat the eggs as they contain an ichthyotoxin that can be harmful if ingested.
What Does Gar Fish Taste Like?
The meat from a gar is typically firm in texture and some say it has a flavor similar to chicken. It’s also been compared to Tilapia.
The fillets are long and dense, with dark meat near the bloodline and while meat near the outer muscle.
Some folks describe the meat as tasting ‘gamey‘, ‘muddy‘ and the consistency can be ‘stringy‘ (especially if overcooked).
But, like all wild game and fish, the taste is often a byproduct of preparation and subjective to the user. For example, some people LOVE swordfish- and I despise it!
In general, when properly cleaned and filleted, and cooked to the desired flavor or recipe, gar is a perfectly acceptable and tasty fish to eat.
Does Gar Taste Like Lobster?
Advocates of eating gar have claimed its ‘poor mans lobster’ or ‘freshwater lobster’. And this is because the long white meat fillets resemble that of a lobster tail.
I reckon if you season them with butter, a bit of salt or old bay, and lightly poach or pan-fry they might just taste like lobster!
Can You Eat Gar Fish Eggs
The eggs of all 7 species of garfish contain an ichthyotoxin, which means they can be harmful if ingested by humans or animals. Although deaths are rare from eating gar eggs, it is still not advised.
If I were you, I’d staw away from eating the eggs but certainly give the fillets a try!
Can You Eat Alligator Gar?
Alligator Gar is not only a popular sportfish, but it is also considered by many to be very good to eat.
The Alligator Gar is the largest of all the North American gar fish, capable of reaching 8 feet long and nearly 300 pounds!
In states like Texas and Louisiana, Alligator Gar has a robust commercial and recreational fishery.
Always check with your state’s local fishing regulations. In some states and on certain bodies of water Alligator Gar are protected, and must be released immediately.
In other areas, they may not be safe to eat due to human consumption advisories.
Why Don’t More People Eat Gar?
I suspect the main reason more people don’t eat gar is due to the angler rumors that it’s poisonous. This is partially true- but it only applies to the eggs or roe which I mentioned above.
Otherwise, garfish are notoriously difficult to clean and fillet. They are rough fish, meaning they are usually less desirable from a sport fishing standpoint and have rough scales and exterior skin.
Gar are really like armored torpedos. If you’ve ever caught one, you will agree their heads are solid bone and their slender bodies are firm, almost like a sheath of plate armor surrounding a fleshy interior.
And I suspect the last reason more people don’t eat gar, is simply due to the fact they are not a high-quality fish, in terms of western standards.
How To Clean and Fillet A Gar Fish
There are a number of different ways to clean and fillet a garfish, and they all usually involve a few tools. Here is what you’ll need:
- A hose
- A small scrub brush
- Heavy duty scissors or shears
- 7″ Boning Fillet Knife
Gar Balls Recipe
If you’ve ever thought about eat gar for the first time, you should consider trying gar fishballs! These are a great way to introduce the taste and flavor of a gar.
- 2 garfish fillets, chopped and diced.
- 1 lb gold potatoes
- 1 large red onion
- Parsley to taste
- Garlic powder to taste
- 1 cup broad crumbs
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Peanut oil
After cleaning your gar, chop and dice fillets into small chunks. The consistency should be similar to cottage cheese.
Boil potatoes until soft. Remove skin (option) and mash in a large bowl. Mix in chopped onion,, garlic powder, eggs, bread crumbs into bowl.
Mix all ingredients thoroughly and add in your gar. Mix well hands until all ingredients mend to form a dough-like consistency.
Use a large serving spoon and scoop out mixture, forming a ball in the palm of hands. (Very similar to making and cooking hush-puppies).
Heat cast iron skillet (or deep fryer) with peanut oil until medium hot; add in gar balls and cook until golden brown.
Garnish with salt, pepper and parsley.
I hope this article helped answer your question and perhaps opened your mind up about eating a gar fish.
It may not be at the top of your list, but don’t overlook these unique fish. They are usually plentiful and fun to catch on light tackle or bowfishing.
Give it a try, you may just like it!
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