Thursday, February 11, 2010

On Alligator Gar Fishing

I have decided to put together a fishing trip for the spring, but this is not going to be a boring fishing trip like usual. I am not planning on fishing for the normal Catfish or Bass or Sun Perch. Oh no. I am after the monster fish swimming in Lake Clinton called the Alligator Gar.

The Alligator Gar normally grows to one hundred pounds and is about six feet long. That is just the normal size. Some have been taken out of the water weighing three hundred pounds and measure up at about ten feet in length. These are monstrous fish. In addition to being extremely large, the Alligator Gar also has a head that looks just like an Alligator. Sharp rows of teeth line their strong mouths, and these teeth look like sharpened pencils. Getting them on your line is not the most difficult part of catching them. Since they eat everything they can get close to; this is not hard. The difficult thing to do is getting them off your hook and line. When you pull them out of the water and up on land or into a boat the Alligator Gar swings its head and tries to bite your arms off. Or they try to bite your face off, or really anything off. Once they are in your possession, they are so violent that you have to either shoot it in its prehistoric head of hit it with a hammer to kill it because the fish will live for about two hours above the water if it needs to. They are terrible. This is what I am up against, and I cannot wait.

I have always loved fishing; I used to go for hours every day during the summer with my friends when I was in high school. We would have contests to see who could catch the most fish, and drink whiskey and smoke cigars while we waited for a bite. I had a friend that lived in a very rich neighborhood on the east side of Wichita which stocked their ponds with only the biggest Bass and Catfish. The great part about these ponds was that all of the rich kids, except for my friend, were too afraid to fish. I guess they would rather watch television or something else that they would not get dirty while doing, or they just did not realize that these fish were ripe for the picking. I don’t know. But we did have the ponds all to ourselves, and each day I would pull out about five giant Catfish and numerous smaller species, normally wining the competition. Many times I would stay up all night long on the weekends in order to get there in the early morning when the fishing was just right. This would usually end with me falling asleep on the sidewalk and awaking when the fancy wives of the neighborhood walked their tiny dogs over my tired body. Then I would get back to my fishing.

I had this casting net that I fished with sometimes, which is illegal I know, but is too much fun not to use. It is just too easy. The casting net is just a big mesh net in the form of a circle, with little weights lining the outer ring. You throw it with one hand connected to a string, which is connected to the net, and as it falls into the water it traps every living thing underneath it. Then you pull the string on your hand up and the net scoops the fish out of the water. One time I pulled the net up and it had twenty Bass, a good sized Catfish, and a Snapping Turtle all nestled together. It was almost a miracle, or a Christmas present to myself from the water, which is why I call this going “Jesus Style.” I think that is also because Jesus’ fishing friends in the Bible used this method. The casting net, however, will not work very well for my Alligator Gar fishing trip.

I have been thinking about using a rod and reel I have that my uncle gave to me to bring in the beasts, but I am not sure if it will hold up to the pressure of having a fish of this magnitude attached to it. He is my favorite uncle, and is a damned good fisherman, but it might not be strong enough if I catch a three hundred pounder. This is not likely, but could happen. I have been thinking that I might use a bow and arrow, because I have seen people use them on the internet and the results are more than favorable. The fisherman stands with his weapon loaded, and when the Alligator Gar comes to the surface for air, which they do because they have prehistoric lungs or something scary, he shoots them. This does not kill the dinosaur fish, the fisherman still has to do that with the methods discussed earlier, but it does piss the Alligator Gar off a great deal. I do own a bow, and a couple of arrows, but I think that I would rather handle my first fight with a confused and slightly mad fish rather than a really pissed off fish. Plus, I would have to tie strings to my arrows and my bow skills are really not what they used to be.

One time I went fishing with my grandpa at Grand Lake, and we did not catch a thing. That was all right because sometimes no fish want to eat, and so none are caught. So it goes. He did tell me a story about fishing trips he took when he was a boy. He grew up during the great depression in the thirties and his family did not have that much food hanging around, so fishing was a good way for him to help feed everyone or get a snack. He did not use a rod and a reel because his family could not afford one, he told me, so instead he used a potato sack; a large burlap potato sack. He said that he would wait for when the pond by his house flooded over and into the fields, and then the fish would get stuck in the ditches around the highways. Not small fish but giant Carp, which are kind of like Goldfish only they are bigger and they eat rotten bodies at the bottom of the water instead of flakes from jars. Being a young man, he needed a few people to help jump onto the back of these monsters and pick them up with the potato sacks. The only way to catch them was if my grandpa had a few friends with him, and these friends had to really want the fish as well.

This is why I need a crew also, and my crew has to be totally on point to catch the Alligator Gar. The way I see it, I will need someone to videotape the fishing trip for documentation purposes. This is essential because I would like to have evidence of the catch; fishing stories always get out of hand. I will have to have a cook lined up, because after I catch one I want to make a sandwich out of it. I heard in New Orleans that they can be fried and then put on a bun like Catfish, and I think that sounds delicious. Both of these positions have not been filled as of yet, but there is still time before spring. The one person I do have confirmed for the adventure is my friend Austin. He is going to be the killing squad; the Alligator Gar hangman. He is responsible for taking out the fish after it is caught, so it does not try to kill us for the two hours that it is alive on land. This was not decided because he likes to kill animals or anything weird like that, I think, but because he has a pistol. And if the pistol does not work well, then he also has a pair of samurai swords, but these are just for an extreme emergency.

The method of killing the Alligator Gar is strange to me; one can either shoot it, or hit it on the head with a hammer. It seems to me that this is just what happened the first time that someone caught one of these beasts and did not know what to do with the terrifying monstrosity of nature they had just encountered. I can’t imagine not knowing what an Alligator Gar is, and then all of a sudden having one on my line. I think that I would be so terrified that I would just shoot it or bash in its head. I am glad that I have seen a picture of one so I can realize what I am dealing with when I have one in front of me. It reminds me of what I read about the Aborigines and what they did when the English first came to Australia. They did not see the English when they were out in the water in huge boats because they had never seen anything like that before. They just looked out and over the boats; like they were not even out there floating. It took the English actually coming over and talking to them for the Aborigines to notice that they were real. I wonder if that is what happened when the first Alligator Gar was found. Because the first Alligator Gar caught had never been seen before, and it scared the fisherman so much, he shot it or hit it with a rock. If you have never seen an Alligator before, and then all of a sudden this fish is biting at you with huge jaws, then I think that you would attack it also. The Aborigines eventually did attack the English after they finally realized what they were, with bows and arrows and spears, but they did not succeed. This is no option for me.

The Alligator Gar sandwich is going to be tricky to put together; at least to make it edible, and taste well. There are many bones in their bodies that are tiny, but sharp like their teeth. Once the fish has died, the first thing that has to happen is to rid it of its entrails by cutting its scaly belly open and pulling them out with your fingers. This sounds bad, but not as much as the next step which is cutting off the fish’s giant reptilian head. This is another reason why I may need to bring the samurai sword instead of a gun. That would take at least one swoop to decapitate it, instead of many bullets. Once cleaned out, then the next step is to flatten the body with a rolling pin, or beer bottle, which I will have many empty ones. This will dislodge the bones connected to the spine. This is important because I do not want to bite down on one of those little pieces of shrapnel.

I remember once when I was little, eating Catfish with my cousin and like any little kid, I was eating it very fast when I bit down on the sharpest little bone in the fish. It went right through the gum-like part of the top of my mouth and just barely came out my nose. That was terrible, and I think that I blocked it out of my mind because I still cannot remember if it hurt or not. I am guessing that it did. The bones on the Alligator Gar would hurt worse though I am sure, because they are normally one hundred pounds and have a large bone structure.

When I think back to all of the fishing trips in my life, they are remembered with a sort of peaceful way about them; hanging around the lakes or ponds, telling stories about fish and girls, most not completely true, and drinking while bringing in the catch. Every one of them was enjoyable, as will my next trip be in the spring. Bringing down my Alligator Gar is not going to be as tranquil as the other fish in my past, but I think that it will be the most memorable. In fact, I know it will be the most memorable.

I am after the monster fish swimming in Lake Clinton called the Alligator Gar, and I will catch him, and then I will eat him.

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