A sprawling bed of arrowhead rises from a backwater on the far side of the river, and we decide to motor 50 yards across to anchor the boat in the slack water of an eddy within casting distance of our quarry.
On the way, a gar snatches a breath of air near the boat—providing my first glimpse of Lepisosteus osseus. Both of Minnesota’s gar species share this genus name, derived from two Greek terms: lepid, meaning scale, and osteon, meaning bone. Technically the gars’ diamond-shaped scales are comprised of an enamel-like organic protein called ganoin. Purportedly, this coat of bone-hard armor can flatten a bullet.
The longnose gar’s beak is more than twice as long as its head and just as impenetrable as its scales, so hooking one requires an understanding of what’s going on underwater. Gar ambush prey, such as minnows, gizzard shad, and carp, with a slash of their beak. Then they impale it with rows of sharp, slender teeth before clumsily manipulating the fish so it can be swallowed head first. The conventional fishing method calls for a bobber, sinker, small hook, minnow, and the patience to wait until the gar has swallowed the bait far enough to hook the soft skin at the back of its mouth.
But there is a more clever way to catch this fish. Compared with shortnose gar, the needlelike teeth of longnose gar are crowded along elongate mandibles like bristles on a fine-toothed comb. So instead of hooks, we’re using hookless flies made of fine strands of snarled nylon rope, which sticks like Velcro inside the prickly maw of a longnose. A heavy fly rod is well suited for delivering the 6-inch hanks of unraveled rope, which we’ve embellished with feathers and tinsel for fish-attracting flash.
Read more Via: Minnesota Conservation Volunteer