The humble snub-nosed garfish may not sound like the most exciting fish to target but don’t be fooled, catching these mini beasts can be a lot of fun and will teach you about the predators that prey on them.
Snub-nosed garfish (Arrhamphus sclerolepis) are an often neglected inhabitant of our inland waterways. Garfish only grow to around 30cm, but what they lack in size they more than make up for with sheer numbers. There are thousands of them swimming around in some impoundments and they form a very important part of the aquatic food chain.
Naturally, where they occur in good numbers, garfish make good baits. If you really want to see how big the bass grow in your local lake put out a live gar and hang on, it won’t last long. Barra are pretty fond of them too, and if that’s what takes your fancy, then it’s well worth putting one out under a float, especially if you fish Lake Monduran. Even if it’s only while you take a lunch break or you’re sheltering from the midday sun, a live gar sitting under a float gives you the chance of hooking that monster fish.
Of course, you don’t only have to use them where you catch them. Bigger snubbies reach 30cm and make good troll baits for mackerel and other species. I often catch a few, then carefully wrap each one in Gladwrap and freeze them, so they are nice and straight. That way you have top quality troll baits on hand for when you need them. It is always worth keeping a few in the freezer as you can use them as cut baits as well.
If you think about just how big a 30cm snubbie is for a minute, it certainly puts lure choice into perspective. I used to think a B52 was a pretty big barra lure, but it is less than half the size of the bigger gars we catch. Even a big B52 or a 150mm Scorpion looks tiny beside one. It’s not until you start comparing them to lures like the 190mm Laser Pro that you get anywhere close to matching them. Maybe the way the barra in places like Awoonga are growing, adventurous anglers could be forgiven for trying some really oversize lures to imitate them. Who knows, maybe one day in the future, Rapala CD 24s will be the gun impoundment barra lure?
If you really want to get onto good numbers of gars, it’s pretty hard to beat float fishing for them. I use neat little floats from Australian Advanced Angling Technologies (aaat.com.au) and they’re hard to beat. While it isn’t necessary to use such top class gear, it certainly doesn’t hurt. The main advantage of this sort of float is that it can be precisely weighted so that only the tip of the float sticks up above the water’s surface. That way, the little fish won’t feel too much resistance as it takes the bait and pulls the float under.
I normally rig the floats so that the bait is suspended around 30-50cm under the surface. To cock the float and make it sit upright, I put a couple of larger splitshot on the line, directly on the float. Then I put another tiny split shot on the line directly above the hook. Rigging it like this makes the float stand up quickly, but still lets the bait sink nice and slowly. As far as hooks go, I prefer very small chemically sharpened types that coarse fishers use, normally around size 10.
Obviously, with such small fish, there is no need to go overboard when choosing an outfit to chase them on. I fish with a 7’ light spinning rod, matched to a tiny spinning reel with 1-2kg mono. My favourite gar outfit is an old Mitchell Zero Gravity combo and the needle thin tip really lets the fish show what sporting potential they have. Believe it or not, some of the biggest gar actually pulled line off this set up, however even on such ultra light gear, the outcome is never seriously in doubt.
As for bait, gars are not fussy. We have caught them on bread, small earthworms and bits of peeled prawns. However, for ease of use, it’s hard to beat a small pinch of dough. All you need to do is mix a little bit of flour with some water and knead it into a ball. For added attraction, you can tip in a squirt of Ultrabite as it really seems to get them going.
Of course, a bit of berley around the boat is a good idea. Just mix up bag of breadcrumbs with a little bit of tuna oil and enough water so that you can mould it into little balls for throwing and it should do the job. Just remember to keep it dry enough so that some of the bread crumbs float on the surface to keep the gar feeding up on top around the float.
Believe it or not, snub nosed gar are absolute suckers for a well presented fly. Flies can be so effective that they easily outfish bait. However, there are a couple of requirements. The first is that you should use a bit of berley to attract several gar close enough to cast at and make them compete for the fly. The second is that you need to know how to work the fly to get them interested.
Gar are very curious little fish and anything landing on the water will draw their attention. However, if you just let the fly sink, they will often loose interest and swim off. The trick is to watch your fly carefully and give the fly a short strip to pull it away from the fish. When a gar sees it’s potential meal getting away, it will race after the fly and grab it. It works just about every time.
Fly patterns are not that critical and any small trout sized nymph or wet fly on a size 10-14 hook is about right. The most effective fly I have tried is a little green Woolly Worm. They really seem to love this fly’s little red butt and the palmered hackle brings the fly to life. However, I think the size of the fly and the way it is fished are much more important than the actual fly pattern used when it comes to catching these mini beasts.
I think a lot of anglers get so caught up in the heavy tackle stuff that they are missing out on the other things that make fishing such a great pastime. Sure, the stop ‘em or pop ‘em approach has its place but fishing for snubbies is a totally different ball game. Catching these mini beasts is more about getting out there and enjoying our magnificent outdoors, having a bit of fun, or teaching the kids the basics. It can even just be an easy and convenient way to unwind after a day at the office. The fact that they make great bait and are not bad eating just adds to the appeal.
Mini beast they may be but a session chasing gars can lead to a whole lot of maxi fun!Reads: 4097