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Float Fishing for Australian Garfish to Eat or for Bait

Float Fishing for Australian Garfish to Eat or for Bait

Garfish are a tasty fish and can be found in almost any area except sand flats without cover. Reef, rocks, weeds, piers, rock walls, and other similar cover will find garfish about. They can be caught from a lot of land based areas with a minimum of tackle. Float fishing is one of the best ways to catch them though. Look closely at a garfish’s mouth and you can see it has a long bill on the bottom and a short lip on top. 

Gar feed on suspended matter that tends to be near the middle to top of the water column. Feeding on vegetation and bits of crustacean and fish they roam around in schools looking for a meal.

A 10 to 12 size long shank hook is the best all around hook size for gar. They have smaller mouths so you can go with a smaller hook but bigger hooks will reduce the rate of hook ups. Smaller or shorter hooks will get deeper hooks and will result in lost time getting the hook out. Carry a set of forceps for difficult to remove hooks and to reduce damage to gar’s mouths especially if you are catch and release fishing.

Floats are a great way to fish for gar since they feed in the middle to upper part of the water column.

Gar can be a bit hook shy so using enough splitshot on your float can be important. Remember to use the bigger weights on the mainline. The float on the mainline should be weighted to float upright. Add only a small amount of weight to the leader or end of the leader to allow the bait to drift and bob about naturally. Putting all the weight near the hook will cause the bait to appear unnatural and put off hungry fish. Natural drift is always better. One small splitshot 8 or 10 cm from the hook and progressing larger as the weights get nearest the float.

Use mainline or leaders no less than about 6lb test. Gar will flop around and fight in a way that gets them tangled in the leader. It is easier to get them untangled with a little thicker line. Braid or mono mainline is fine, just use a leader about a meter and a half below the float.

Gar are not especially picky eaters. They roam about opportunistically taking a feed of what just happens to be floating about. Dough bait made from wet balled up bread is quick and easy. Pippies, pilchard, silverfish, squid,  and bits of other baitfish also work well. They seem to be attracted to bits of white. 

Berley with stale bread soaked in water or use pellets and fishy bits to keep a trail going that will attract them in. Tuna oil with bread or pellets is a common method to berley garfish, and with good reason, it works. Many of the scales can be removed by shaking garfish in a bucket of water. Tipping the scales into the berley trail can help catch more garfish.

Garfish don’t get especially large but they do make good eating. They are large enough to make fillets with a good filet knife. They can also be eaten whole like whitebait, fried crispy and eaten like one would a big potato chip. Take the entrails out and give them a good cleaning. Batter and deep fry them. Filets can be eaten several ways but the old pan fried is a favorite of a lot of anglers.

Almost any predatory fish will eat gar. For that reason, they make good snapper bait too rigged with a good size hook or two. Mulloway and kingfish will also grab one fished on a paternoster or bottom sliding rig.

Garfish meat is quite soft. It doesn’t take much to scale gar and is done like any other fish. Gar can be filleted or left whole to be fried. To leave whole, gut the garfish and remove all the entrails (leave the head on or cut it off) and dark stomach lining. Trim off the fins. Rinse well and prepare to either freeze them or cook them. 

To filet the gar start from the head and down to the tail cutting gently with a sharp knife.Trim off any leftover bones on the filet carefully as well as the anal fin if its still atached to the filet. Remove any black stomach lining with your filet knife after patting dry and inspecting. Rinse and get them ready for the freezer or for frying. Save the carcase for bait or berley.

Heat a pan with sunflower or similar frying oil. Fill a freezer bag with 2 cups of plain flour along with a teaspoon of oregano, a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper. Mix together by shaking in the bag. Add in the garfish and shake around to fully coat the fish. Pick up by the tail and shake off excess flour and seasoning. Lay in the hot oil until they are crispy and golden. Turn and do the same to the other side. Place on a paper towel while cooking the rest of the garfish. To serve, squeeze lemon over the fish and eat like chips.

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