If you’ve ever caught an alligator gar, you know how huge they can grow and just how monstrous they look with their long snout and razor-sharp teeth! Alligator gar are one of just two species of freshwater fish that routinely grow to over 100 pounds!
However, just because they look mean doesn’t mean they are dangerous once they’re out of the water, and if you’ve caught one, you may want to know can you eat alligator gar?
Do People Eat Alligator Gar?
The short answer is that yes, you can definitely eat alligator gar, but they must be prepared carefully to ensure they are cleaned properly. This is because the scales on the alligator gar are extremely tough, and you might have to use wire cutters, tin snips, and a hatchet to cut through the fish’s armor. Once you get through the scales, be sure to discard meat that was close to the stomach, stomach contents, or any eggs.
Most alligator gar, when properly cleaned, can provide thick, boneless fillets that are excellent to eat using a variety of preparations. The reason many people do not eat alligator gar is that it is very labor-intensive to remove the scales. If you can handle the difficulty in cleaning the fish, you’ll certainly enjoy the tasty rewards that the meat will provide. You’ll find alligator gar on many menus in both Louisiana and Texas.
What Does Gar Taste Like?
The dark meat of the alligator gar has a very gamey taste, but the light meat is mild in flavor, somewhat like lobster, and has a texture that resembles chicken. You don’t want to remove all the dark meat, though, because it does provide some flavor to the light meat. If you do not care for fish that have a strong flavor, you can marinate the flesh in saltwater overnight, which will pull out much of the gamey taste.
Anglers prepare the alligator gar for cooking in a variety of ways. Some fry up the flesh as fillets, while others grind the flesh and make alligator gar patties. Still others barbecue or roast the filets, especially if they’ve caught an extremely large alligator gar that has long flanks that will produce a lot of cooked meat. You can even cut up the filets into chunks and freeze them in water to be thawed and used in a stir fry later.
One of the most popular ways to prepare alligator gar is to mince the meat, shape it into small, bite-sized balls, then bread them in cornmeal and fry them. These are called Alligator Gar Balls and resemble hushpuppies. Restaurants all over the South serve this dish as an appetizer or as a side to complement other seafood entrees.
Raw Alligator Gar
Alligator gar is not a fish that is eaten raw, in part because of its strong flavor. It is important to note that the eggs of the alligator gar are extremely toxic to humans and they should never be consumed. This is because they contain a protein toxin called ichthyotoxin, which can cause illness symptoms such as vomiting, headaches, diarrhea, dizziness, and low blood pressure. While these symptoms are distressing, the consumption of alligator gar eggs is not typically fatal.
Is Gar Safe to Eat?
When you’re cleaning an alligator gar, be sure to wrap its snout in a towel to avoid being cut by its sharp teeth. Additionally, take great care when descaling the fish because the scales are sharp as well. In fact, Native Americans once used the alligator gar scales as arrowheads! Moreover, because this fish has internal air bladders, it can live for a time outside of water, so be sure to kill yours quickly and place it immediately on ice.
Due to their size, the alligator gar is one of the most prized game fish you can catch, and if you land a big one, you will be able to pose with your catch with pride.