The gar is a favorite species of bowfishermen all over, and with good cause. Gar are a slim target that will challenge a bowfisherman, and when they are rolling on the surface can be outright frustrating. And they are also one of the best tasting fish we harvest. But cleaning them can be hard…..unless you know, “How To”….
First, proper tools are needed. A fillet knife just wont work on the hard shell like scales of a gar. Gar are truely a prehistoric fish that have no bones, but do have extremely heavy scales.
A heavy , short bladed knife works best, and a pair of snips are also needed. The snips pictured here can be found at the Home Depot and are made by Fiscars. Where some people use the heavy bladed sheet metal snips, I have found these snips with their slim blade works much better. After you have the tools you are ready to go. A word about safety first. Gar teeth and scales are extremely sharp and can cut you badly. Be sure to wear a glove when handling them. Also, some gars eggs are highly toxic, so be sure to keep them off the meat.
Now, get a good table to work on and hose down the fish to remove all the slime.
Now, cut the gar thru in two spots, behind the head and in front of the rear fin from top to bottom as seen in this picture…..
Then snip the scales from the rear cut to the front along the back bone ……
Next, cut the scales/skin down the sides of the fish from the top cut as seen here. I like to make a cut every 4 inches as the skin is very stiff, and smaller sections will fold down easier……
After cutting down, using the knife cut between the scales and the meat top to bottom and fold the scales down.
The hard parts done! Now, remove the fillets by cutting down from the backbone and angling the knife outward toward the bottom of the fillet. This gives you the meaty back straps, and also gives you alot more side section meat.
As you see you now have completely boneless gar fillets. A couple more things before you eat or freeze the meat. Always remove any of the pink fat found on the skin side of the fillet. As with all fish this fat holds very strong flavors. Also, never soak the gar in anything. Gar flesh tends to absorb water and it gets very soft if soaked too long. I hose it after cleaning and quickly dry on paper towels. Now bread and fry them up, or try any of the recipes found in the recipe section. Thats all there is to cleaning a gar.