Are Gar Fish Deadly River Monsters?

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One of the top new women outdoor profesionals making her way up the ranks in the industry is Beka Garris, (aka wildernessbabe on instagram).  Beka is all about bow hunting and since deer season is still a long way off and Turkey season is behind us, bow fishing is at the top of her agenda.  Judging by her social media posts, she is tearing the gar and drum up with her bow.

In a one of her recent posts to her Facebook page, she was cleaning gar to eat.  In the comments she mentioned that gar can be poisonous.  I’ve never in by life heard that.  I had to do a little research.

Now, I’ve got to be honest here.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten gar.  Not because I thought they were poisonous, but to a lot of people, gar as well as jack fish and grenal, are just “trash” fish.   I know to some, Gar balls are a delicacy.  I’ve just never made them and after reading this AP News story I’m going to be extra careful if I do decide to make some.


Longnose gar

Longnose gar at the New England Aquarium.

HEBER SPRINGS, Ark. — Take it from Darwin Aaron and his family in Cleburne County: gar eggs are poisonous. Tiffany Aaron said her husband, Darwin, and brother-in-law, Russell Aaron, took a long-nosed gar while spearfishing at Greers Ferry Lake on April 5. Gar meat is edible, so they figured they’d try the roe. They prepared the eggs that evening, with Darwin and Russell Aaron eating some, along with Darwin and Tiffany’s 10-year-old son, Carson. Carson was the first to start vomiting at about 1:30 a.m. Russell and Darwin soon were sick, too. Tiffany Aaron looked online and read that gar eggs are poisonous. All three family members recovered after a few days. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said eggs from all gar species are highly toxic.



After doing a little more research, I found that in fact, the gar meat is not poisonous, but the eggs contain a protein based toxin.  This is a defense mechanism for that the gar fish uses to keep other fish from eating its eggs.  Although there is relatively little information about the toxicity of the eggs, it is generally recommended that when cleaning gar you be careful.  Do not handle or eat the eggs.  Also, don’t allow the roe to contaminate the meat while cleaning. If you do come in contact with the eggs, wash your hands in soap and water.  If you do ingest the eggs, seek medical attention.

Now that we know how to handle gar, get your bow fishing gear loaded up.  It may be time to make some gar balls after all.  Here is a recipe that I found at Southeastern

Gar Ball Recipe


3 pounds garfish meat
8 medium baking potatoes
2 onions
1 egg
1 cup mixed onion tops & parsley (chopped fine)
2 cups all-purpose flour
Cajun seasoning to taste

Skin and clean garfish. Scrap meat off the bone.

Put onions and meat into a meat grinder. Mix with boiled mashed potatoes, onion tops and parsley, egg and season to taste. Roll into 2-inch balls.

Dip balls into flour and deep fry at 375° until brown and floating.