Gar in the Pan Recipes

News & Tips: Gar in the Pan Recipes

There's a great organization that few outdoorsmen know about. It's called G.A.S.S. — the Gar Angler's Sporting Society. The gentleman who started it is, like me, a gar -fishing aficionado. He's been surprised by all of the interest in his group. Apparently there are lots of gar anglers out there, looking for new gar fishing tips, hoping their fishing buddies don't find out they're afflicted with the gar fishing disease.

Along the backbone of gars are long, while fillets. Remove them as you would the tenderloins from a deer.

I can hear the talk around the office now.

"You hear about Bobby Joe? His wife caught him looking at some gar fishing site on the Internet. Can you imagine that? Gar? The poor guy's sick."

Now imagine the same guy trying to feed his buddies some gar at a weekend fish fry.

"C'mon, Bobby Joe. People don't eat gars. What were you thinking? Are you trying to poison us all?"

Actually, gars are rather tasty, a fact that becomes obvious when you learn of the hundreds of thousands of pounds of gar meat being sold each year at Mom-and-Pop fish markets throughout the country. On a recent visit to a south Arkansas fish market, I watched as the proprietor sold hundreds of pounds of gar meat in three hours, at $3 a pound. Catfish fillets, selling for $2.50 per pound, were hardly touched by the customers.

"I can't get enough gars to meet the demand," the proprietor told me. "Once folks try it and find out how good it really is, they come back wanting more. The fish are difficult to dress, but the meat cooks up white and flaky, and tastes as good as any fish you ever put in your mouth.

To prove his point, he cooked me a steak freshly cut from the side of a 190-pound alligator gar. I figured the flesh of a fish this big and this old couldn't be very tasty. But I was wrong. The boneless gar steak, rolled in seasoned corn meal and fried golden-brown, was as flaky and delicious as any crappie I've ever eaten. I was duly impressed and have been dressing out the gar I catch ever since. (Yes, folks. I truly am afflicted with the gar fishing disease.)

I found this neat little poem about gar, and it's stuck in my mind ever since:

My pan at home it has been greased
For gar he is a tasty beast

I shall invite the local priest
To join me in this garish feast

Like any other flavorful white-meated fish, gar can be baked, fried, grilled or broiled.

The author, no doubt, had the courage at some point in his life to sample this armored fish, and discovered, as I have, that gar deserve more respect for their table quality than they'll ever get.

The few articles I've turned up on gar fishing have all had the same theme: "Hey, these critters sure are fun to catch, but they're not be worth a darn on the dinner table." Which indicates that the authors omitted one pertinent piece of research: they should have cleaned and eaten one. If they had done so, they would have been hugely surprised, for the gar is not only edible, but is, in fact, more tasty than most other freshwater species.

Next time you catch one, cut off its head and tail with a hatchet, use some tin snips to split the bony hide along the fish's length, then, wearing gloves to protect your hands, peel the meat from the armored hull and fillet the meat from along the length of the backbone as you might cut the tenderloin off a deer. Cut the loins into smaller eating-size pieces, and give them a try in the recipes that follow.

Gar is a delicacy. And why shouldn't it be? Gars feed mostly on small live fish as do black bass and crappie. And gars prefer clean, running water over still, muddy habitat. They're not scavengers, as many folks think.

The bottom line is, the myth of gar being inedible doesn't have a logical leg to stand on. Here are a few of my favorite Gar recipes, hope you enjoy them!

Click on Gar Stew Recipe for a larger view of the instructions.

Click on Gar Fish Cakes Recipe for a larger view of the instructions.

Click on Stir-Fried Gar Recipe for a larger view of the instructions.

Click on Gar Boulettes Recipe for a larger view of the instructions.

Click on Gar Fish Mississippi Recipe for a larger view of the instructions.

Gar Stew

1 1/2 pounds gar fillets

3/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups hot water

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon thyme

6 small potatoes, diced

6 small onions, diced

6 small carrots, sliced

Dredge fillets in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat; add olive oil, and heat. Add gar fillets and brown quickly, about 1 minute on each side.

Pour hot water into a soup pot. Add cayenne, black pepper, salt and thyme. Add potatoes and onions and cook five minutes. Add carrots and cook 10 minutes more, or until vegetables are tender but not overcooked. Drain; save water in which vegetables were cooked.

Place browned gar fillets in a large casserole. Add vegetables, and pour vegetable water over all. Cover and bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Serve piping hot from casserole.

Gar Fish Cakes

4 pounds gar meat, chopped

5 potatoes, boiled, peeled, mashed

6 green onions, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup flour

1/4 cup cooking oil

Mix ingredients well and pat into cakes about three inches wide and half an inch thick. Dip the cakes into flour, and fry until brown in hot oil. Serves 8 to 12.
Stir-Fried Gar

6 pounds meat from small gars, cut across in 3-inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

1 tablespoon catsup

1 tablespoon Louisiana Hot Sauce

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 cup cooking oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in an iron pot and add fish pieces. Stir lightly until brown. Add onion, and stir until light brown. Add the other ingredients and stir lightly, then mix in 3 cups water. Cover and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Serve over rice.

Gar Boulettes

3 pounds gar meat

2 large onions, chopped fine

1 cup bread crumbs

1 cup mixed parsley and green onions, chopped fine

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Black pepper and salt to taste

2 eggs, beaten


1/2 cup cooking oil

Grind the meat in a meat grinder or food processor. (It's easier to grind if it's partially frozen.) Add one of the large chopped onions, the bread crumbs, parsley/green onion mixture, cayenne, black pepper, salt and eggs. Mix well and shape into balls. Roll in flour. Heat the cooking oil in an iron pot and brown the balls (boulettes), stirring lightly. Add the other chopped onion to the pot, add 3 cups water and stir. Cook slowly for about 30 to 45 minutes and serve over rice.
Garfish Mississippi

1 slab of gar meat (6 inches wide, 8-10 inches long, 3-4 inches thick)

1 15-ounce bottle ketchup

1/4 cup Louisiana hot sauce

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 onion, chopped

4 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons black pepper

2 cups water

1 lemon

Mix all ingredients except the meat and lemon in a large, shallow glass baking dish. Add the meat, cover and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, stir it up and place in a 400-degree oven for about 1 hour. Check twice during cooking and rake the juice over the meat. Squeeze lemon juice on the fish before serving.