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Season of the Gar

Adventures in Pursuit of America’s Most Misunderstood Fish

Mark Spitzer

Publication Year: 2010

Season of the Gar is a fang-infested, monster-headed, armor-plated romp through the prehistoric swamps and murky rivers of America’s most feared and demonized fish. Follow Mark Spitzer on his lengthy and often frustrating quest from Texas and Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas to catch his own gar. Read about his sometimes bizarre angling adventures in search of this air-breathing freshwater giant (up to ten feet in length and well over three hundred pounds) as he separates fact from fiction. Spitzer draws on folklore, science, history, his own pet gar, and even gar recipes to tell this unique and exciting literary eco-tale about a fish that has inspired imaginations for centuries, a fish many have hated, a fish many have thrown on the shore to die.

Published by: University of Arkansas Press

Gar Images

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pp. ix-

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Preface

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pp. xi-xiii

Back when I was a gar-virgin, I could hardly do anything other than research and write about gar, fish for gar, and dream about gar—so as to become gar-experienced. It was a long time coming, but it finally happened, and in the process, I lost my gar-innocence, which allowed my monomania (“Gar Fever”) to finally release its hold on ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xv-

Work in this book has appeared in Ecotone, Black Warrior Review, Yale Anglers Journal, Clackamas Literary Review, Big Muddy, The Chariton Review, Rougarou, and the books Tight Lines (Yale University Press, 2007) and Riding the Unit (Six Gallery Press, 2006). Thanks to Rustin Gooden, Steve Ryan, James Cianciola, Don Jones, and the American Museum of Natural History for...

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1. Getting a Garfish

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pp. 1-16

Growing up in Minnesota, though, there weren’t too many gar around. Living in the Colorado Rockies and France in my twenties also didn’t help. But in my early thirties, I went back to graduate school, this time in Louisiana, where people still fish for gar. And bowhunt them. And eat them. That is, if they’re not despised for belonging to that ichthyological ...

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2. In Search of Massive Missouri Gar

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pp. 17-25

Shooting south on I-55, the sky growing gray with overcast, I kept the pedal to the metal and watched the rocky landscape dwindle. After the Ozarks, the land became flat and crisscrossed by canals from the Little River Drainage System. Between 1914 and 1928, more cubic yards of earth had been moved here than in the construction of the Panama Canal. This ...

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3. Gar and Loathing in Texahoma

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pp. 27-35

Hippy got it up to sixty-six, which was still too slow for me. I had Gar Fever to the max! For the last five years, I’d been studying gar, researching gar, writing gar, dreaming gar, and trying to catch them to no avail. I had Gar OCD! I had Gar Megalomania! And so did Hippy! We were going Gonzo for Gar! Sweating gar, seeing gar, totally focused on some distant gar-point ...

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4. Gator vs. Gar

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pp. 37-42

So I dove into my steadily growing garchives, looking for some answers, especially in regard to the classic question of who would whoop who: an alligator or an alligator gar? Which, for some reason, keeps getting addressed in the body of literature existing on gar. This age-old scenario, of course, has roots in the juvenile question of whether a lion can lick a tiger, and it’s ...

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5. The Existential Fish-Life Crisis

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pp. 43-52

May 17: Since I still hadn’t caught a gar of my own, and since Hippy had caught one the day before, I vowed to return to the Chariton every day until I got one. Especially on the east side, where below the bridge to Youngstown, on the muddy edge of a long-gone railroad trestle twisted in a jagged tangle, where a rusty web of ’40s cars was trussing back ...

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6. When Gars Attack

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pp. 53-57

But whatever the case may be, this article did little to advance anyone’s knowledge of gar. In fact, it did the exact opposite by sensationalizing the entire species through subheads reading “Many Authentic Instances of Human Beings Being Attacked Especially While Standing in Water” and “Only One Case of Man Being Attacked by Shark.” The result was a plethora ...

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7. Some Messy Nessie Gar Myths & Other Distortions

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pp. 59-64

It seemed logical to start with Lake Champlain, a 109-mile-long body of water located between New York and Vermont and reaching into Quebec. There’s a legend there of a plesiosaurus-type Loch Ness monster lurking beneath the surface. The primary sighting was credited to the French explorer Samuel de Champlain, the first European discoverer of the ...

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8. Mutant Gar Is Missing Link

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pp. 65-68

In May of 2006 the JPEGs began pouring in. Since family and friends knew that I had a bad case of Gar Fever, and since it was obvious that the recently discovered fossil remains of Tiktaalik roseae in the Arctic looked like a freaky gar, the newspaper clippings soon followed. And as all this information came in, I did some research of my own, and even ...

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9. How I Finally Bagged the Big One

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pp. 69-76

I was expecting controversy. Scott Perry, who directed the 1997 Troma film Teenage Catgirls in Heat, had e-mailed me about some guides who were taking trophy bowhunters into the spawning grounds of the last endangered Texas alligator gars. These clowns would start the day with a prayer to the Lord, asking for luck in smearing big gar that could very well be a ...

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10. Frankengar

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pp. 77-83

Back in 2003, I used to get on eBay and do searches with the word “garfish.” My hope was to find some beaten up old seven-footer that’d been mounted on a fifty-five-gallon drum of toxic waste someone was trying to get rid of. I figured I’d bid twenty bucks, win the thing, then drive across the country to get it. But that’s not what I ...

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11. Gar in the Balance

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pp. 85-103

Behind me in tow was the Lümpabout, a really lümpen 1959 runabout motorboat. It was a fifteen-footer with Batmobile fins, and had been sunk in a lake for ten years, but I had hauled it out, constructed a transom, reinforced the deck with two-by-fours, re-fiberglassed the whole thing, and given it a stripy green-and-yellow paint job. With that V-shaped ...

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12. Arkansas Gar Wrangling

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pp. 105-115

This figure is based on some sort of mark-recapture formula. By tagging individual gar, then releasing them and catching them later, biologists use the ratio of re-caught gar to never-tagged gar to come up with statistics. I’m not sure how it works, but that’s what we’re doing on this bone-numbing January morning. Our group is: Dr. Reid Adams of the ...

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13. A Psychological History of the Arkansas Alligator Gar with Recommendations for Its Future

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pp. 117-142

And for the next 300 million years, this practically non-evolving species continued to endure. As Jay Drott put it in an article titled “Timeless Prowler,” gator gar survived “millions of years of geological and evolutionary chaos.”¹ In fact, gar survived three or four ice ages, dinosaurs, the Quapaw and Caddo and Osage nations, the settling of North America, and ...

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14. Long Live the Gar!

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pp. 143-156

There was definitely a tension in the air. It was the second meeting Game & Fish had called with local bow fishermen, who were now being asked to provide input and vote on options for protecting alligator gar. The first option was a complete moratorium on the harvest of all gator gar in the state for five years—which wasn’t very likely. The second was a ...

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Gar Recipes

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pp. 157-167

This is just a sampling of recipes for gar, which have a dense meat that often cooks up thick like chicken. Garfish recipes from Europe, Australia,and New Zealand depend on an entirely different species. North and South American gar meat, however, can be used in almost any recipe that requires a firm, non-oily fish. Gar meat is best served ...


E-ISBN-13: 9781610753661
E-ISBN-10: 1610753666
Print-ISBN-13: 9781557289292
Print-ISBN-10: 1557289298

Page Count: 200
Illustrations: 17 photographs
Publication Year: 2010

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Subject Headings

  • Alligator gar -- Gulf States Region.
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