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How To Clean Gar Fish (Step-by-Step)

gar cleaning instructions step by step

How To Clean Gar: A Very Unique Kind Of Fish

Gar isn’t just a complicated species to capture. It’s a complicated fish to clean. With most fish, you just have to cut the meat away, and you might have to remove the scales.

Gar are completely different. You’ll need a power drill just to get through their shells most of the time. Their eggs are also highly poisonous.

However, if you can get through all of the challenges that gar fish present in trying to catch them you can have a very unique meat to offer at your next fish fry.

After you properly clean the gar, you’ll want to cook it up! So don’t forget to check out my post, Can You Eat Gar? (Plus 3 Tasty Gar Fish Recipes!)

What You’ll Need

You’ll need a lot more than just a filet knife to clean gar. They have a rock-hard shell that’s a pain to get through, and once you’re inside of them, they have a pretty unique defense that I’ll talk about later on.

Here’s what you’ll need for the entire process:

  • Leather gloves: These are to protect you while you’re drilling
  • Latex gloves: These are to protect your hands if you accidentally touch the eggs.
  • Power drill: This is for drilling into the shell.
  • Kitchen shears: These can cut the softer varieties, and they can help with splitting the shell.
  • A sharp knife: This is for removing the meat.

Gar Cleaning Safety Tips

Here are a few safety tips that will keep you from injuring yourself or potentially dying.

  • Do not touch or break the eggs. Gar eggs are highly poisonous, and they can get you sick if you touch them. If they taint the meat, you’ll have to throw out the entire fish. It’s really not worth taking a chance if you mess up. They’ll be located along the belly cavity of female gar, and they’ll look like catfish eggs.
  • Wear work gloves when you’re using the drill or kitchen shears. Gar shells can be slippery, and you don’t want to hurt yourself.
  • When you’re drilling, keep your hands away from the area you’re drilling. If the drill slips, you don’t want to push it through your hand.

How To Clean Gar Fish (Step-by-Step)

Step 1: Dispatch The Fish

The most humane and respectful thing you can do as a responsible angler is to dispatch, or kill, the animal you’re about to cut into. So that’s going to be the first thing we do in the cleaning process.

You can do this by clubbing it over the head with a rock or a hammer, or you can drill through its skull really quickly.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t pierce the body. And in doing this, you want to try to make it quick and as painless as possible. After you do this, remove its fins with a sharp knife. It’ll make the next step easier.

Step 2: Drilling The Holes

Once you have a dead gar, it’s time to start removing its shell. On larger species, you’ll need a power drill. If you’re cleaning a smaller variant, you can skip the drilling step and immediately start cutting it.

First, get a solid grip on the gar, and make sure you’re wearing gloves. Then, drill small holes along its spine with about half of a centimeter worth of room between each hole. You don’t have to go too deep. You just need to break through that outer layer.

Now, take your kitchen shears, and cut along the dotted line you created. If you’re cleaning a smaller gar, their shell won’t be as hard to remove. You can simply use your shears to cut along the spine without drilling any holes.

Step 3: Prying Off The Shell

Now, it’s time to actually remove the skin. Grab your fishing pliers, and get a firm grip on one side of the cut you made. Then, grab the other side with your hand. All you have to do is pull the shell off. This step is fairly difficult with large alligator gar, but it’s easier with smaller varieties of gar.

Step 4: Removing The Meat

Finally, it’s time to take the meat out. You can just use your knife to carefully filet the meat off of the fish. Just don’t touch the eggs or other internal organs. A single egg can potentially kill you. You don’t want it to touch your skin or the meat.

Don’t bother scraping off bits that you left behind. You don’t want to poke around in a pregnant gar too much. Get what you can from both sides, and then leave it alone.

You should get two decent fillets from each gar that you clean. If you clean a giant alligator gar, you can feed your family very easily, and you’ll still have meat left over.

Step 5: Discarding The Carcass

The eggs are poisonous to humans, and they’re also poisonous to most animals. You can’t just chuck a gar carcass in your trashcan. You technically can, but you might have a few dead cats laying around your neighborhood.

You don’t have to do anything fancy, though. Simply putting the gar carcass or at least the eggs in a safe container will keep your neighborhood animals safe. You can even chuck the carcasses on a bonfire if you happen to have one started when you’re cleaning your fish.

Just don’t lay it around haphazardly. Kids can start playing with it, animals can try to eat it, and any other number of things can happen. If you clean your gar at a fishing spot that has cleaning stations, they should have appropriate disposal containers at every cleaning station.

If none of the above options are available, you can dig a deep hole in your garden or flower bed and dispose of the gar fish carcass in that way. 

Final Thoughts

Now you know exactly how to clean gar without hurting yourself or poisoning your family. If you want to find some tasty recipes to use your gar meat in, check out my other post, Can You Eat Gar Meat? (And 3 Tasty Gar Recipes)

How To Clean Gar (VIDEO)

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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