PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

May 29, 2013

Chester Moore column

Ever See Gar in a surf?


The Port Arthur News

ORANGE — Surf fishing guru and founder of Christian Surf Fishing Adventures Marcus Heflin has caught many monster sharks, bull redfish and stingrays from local beaches.

    A few weeks ago however he caught a beast of a different kind.

    “We had been catching bull redfish and then I caught a five-foot alligator garfish. I was shocked,” Heflin said.

    Heflin had caught garfish just a couple of miles north of the Sabine Jetties but has never seen one in the surf.

    “I caught a 10-inch whitey and cut it in half. I used the head part and waded out about a hundred yards. It wasn't 15 minutes and he hit. I was using a 14/0 master circle hook and as always with gar it comes out through the soft skin of the lower jaw. I had to cut the leader from the hook to release it,” Heflin said.

    News of the catch brought to mind something from my youth.

    Out of the hundreds of outdoors magazines I bought at the thrift store in Orange as a kid by cashing in spare change every few months, only two I remember had mentions of gar. One was one of those classic, thick-covered fishing annuals that had a feature on catching gar in Florida on artificial lures.

    The other was a Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine from the late 1970s that had a map of the best fishing spots at Sea Rim State Park. It mentioned good spots to fish in the marsh as well as in the surf and I vividly remember being surprised to see a couple of spots in the surf marked as garfish hotspots.

    That always struck me as strange.

    According to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) officials, little is known about alligator gar movement and habitat use.

    In a 2008 TPWD assessment of the species, TPWD biologists noted some interesting things about gar in relation to coastal ecosystems but there have been some interesting findings.

    “Sakaris et al. (2003) conducted the first published telemetry study of alligator gar in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Alabama, and found the home ranges of alligator gar were 2.7-12.3 km. However, they observed individuals moving as much as 2.1 km in 1.25 hours, suggesting substantial movements can occur. It is likely that many coastal river populations of alligator gar use both freshwater and saltwater habitats (Goodyear 1967). In Texas, alligator gar are routinely captured in estuarine habitats…”

    That is actually quite the understatement as several coastal ecosystems contain strong gar populations, particular Sabine Lake and Trinity Bay.

    Alligator gar are mysterious creatures and as you can see you never know where they’re going to pop up. What’s next? A gar at the short rigs?

    If you have ever caught a gar in the surf, at the jetties or offshore shoot me an email. I’d like to do a follow-up on strange gar catches.

    (To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmooreoutdoors@gmail.com. You can hear him on “Moore Outdoors” Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.)