Skull Bound TV: Bowfishing Gator Gar

Today’s blog post comes from Jim Kinsey, Executive Producer of Skull Bound TV.  You can tune in to Skull Bound TV Wednesdays at 8:30 PM ET and 11:30PM ET and Thursdays at 12:30 PM ET.

The water exploded not far from the bow of our flat bottom boat. Jana turned her body, drew her bow and fired a carbon fiber arrow into the remaining swirl hoping to connect with the beast beneath. “Ahhh I missed him!”, Jana sighed as we continued to scan the milky green water that stretched as far as the eye could see. Above Texas’s sun dished out temperatures that exceeded 100 degrees sucking the life out of our weary bodies. We’d traveled far for a chance to connect on the second largest fresh water fish in North America, the alligator gar and with a world-renowned captain at the helm we were ready for high adventure on the water in the lone Star state.


Jana and Jim with the biggest longnose gar of the trip

Jana was introduced to bow fishing just four years ago on Castle Rock Lake near her home in Wisconsin. After an invite from Cindy Braun, owner of AMS Bow Fishing Jana stuck several 40-pound buffalo carp in the lake’s shallows as they began their annual spawn. Ever since that outing both Jana and I have taken many species of fish and two nice alligators with our AMS bows! Big Game hunting has long been associated with pursuing prey on land but what about what lies below the surface of the water? Hunting alligator gar is very similar to the spot and stalk method typically used to hunt big game.

Jeff and Cindy Braun, owners of AMS, invited us to meet up with them in the great state of Texas last June to hunt big gator gar with their friend Jack Thatcher. With the weather forecast in Southern Texas looking good we loaded our gear and headed to San Antonio to begin a four-day quest for a true river monster. Captain Jack Thatcher would be teaming up with his partner Cody Soele owner of Extreme Bow Fishing. Jack has taken more giant alligator gar than any man alive and even turned down guiding Jeremy Wade from the hit series “River Monsters” several years ago after learning how he and his team planned to portray bow fishing for alligator gar as a “barbaric” method of harvesting this big fish.

Jeff and Jana double up on a big longnose gar

Jeff and Jana double up on a big longnose gar

We spent the first night out on the water tuning up our bows. Jana and Cindy had several shots on some small needle nose gar, big buffalo carp and a tilapia. That night on the water was just the beginning of the fastest paced action we’ve witnessed in the bow-fishing world. Jana scanned the water’s surface for a creature known to stretch nearly 10 feet and weigh in excess of 300 pounds. Although we never laid eyes on a big gator gar that night we knew it was only a matter of time before our arrows made contact.  We set out on day two with the sun high in the sky to one of Jack’s favorite backwater sloughs. “Watch for these gar to come up for a breath of air” Jack said while pointing out towards the front of the boat. An interesting anatomical feature of this fish is its buoyancy bladder is directly connected to its throat, giving it the ability to draw in air from above the water. For this reason, alligator gar are often found near the surface of a body of water. “You’ve got to be fast on the string as they don’t give you a second chance!” Jack reiterated while working the electric trolling motor on the front o the boat. “It’s a one shot deal!”

Jim with one of the gar he shot on the trip.

Jim with one of the gar he shot on the trip.

Smaller needle gar broke the surface around us and provided some fast paced action. Needle nose gar was a main forage fish for the early settlers of our country. “ Left…Left…” Jack shouted as Jeff Braun released a carbon fiber shaft into the murky depths. Jeff’s shot was true as he tied into the first large gar of the trip, however this was a big needle nose and not its larger cousin. “Back me up Jana”, Jeff shouted as he worked the fish closer. Jana hammered the big needle nose with a second arrow and soon they had the big fish under control. Measuring nearly five feet long this was an incredible representation of a needle nose. “They don’t get much bigger than that “, Jack said while Jeff and Jana posed for a picture with the prehistoric looking creature. We saw more alligators in this area then alligator gar so Jack decided to change locations to another one of his hot spots and we all agreed to check out that area the following day!

Jana holding her alligator gar

Jana holding her alligator gar

Day three gave way to a heat index of 110 and with plenty of fluids packed in the cooler we hit the water in search of the elusive gator gar. That wait wouldn’t be long as the water’s surface was disrupted on Jana’s side of the boat. “ “Shoot!” Jack yelled as Jana simultaneously released an arrow into the swirl nearly 20 yards away. “ Fish on…Whoooo” Jack screamed with excitement! Jana had just tied into her first gator gar! “ Yeah baby” Jana shouted back as Jeff readied his bow for a follow up shot. Fifteen minutes into the battle Jana brought the gator gar up a alongside the boat and Jeff made a perfect second shot. “First gator gar in the boat”, Jana said smiling as she loaded the fish into the cooler. Gator gars are great eating and we hoped to bring back a bunch of their filets to Montana if our luck continued.

This was just the beginning of an epic day on the water that consisted of encounters with multiple gator gar, giant needle nose and a story of a Bigfoot sighting on these very waters, but we’ll save that for tonight’s episode.



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