Float Fishing for Garfish

A Garfish taken on a float rig

Float fishing for garfish is quite straightforward but there are some differences to look for when a fish takes the bait. A regular summer and sometimes winter visitor to our shores the gar tends to hunt for its food close to the surface. Most caught weigh less than a pound but if your luck is in you might connect with one of 2 pounds or more. A sliding float above a trace set between 2 and 6 feet below the surface with a strip of mackerel or garfish to a hook sized slightly less than those used to take mackerel. Too small and the gar is prone to swallowing it with the bait.

If your prime target is the gar then set the hook no more than 4 feet below the surface. Setting it a little deeper in clear water enhances the chances of a mackerel as well as the bait presentation is exactly the same.

Cut a strip of mackerel or gar about one and a half inches long with it tapering off at the end. Use a pair of scissors to trim off most of the flesh so it is able to “flutter” in the water giving the impression of a bait fish. Double loop the hook at the broad end of the strip and if using a bait holder hook set the top piece of the strip to the shank leaving the tapered tail to work. Gar could be close to the harbour wall or at varying distances off. Vary the casts to explore for the best location.

Unlike most fish the garfish often takes the bait and then swims to the surface. This takes the weight off the float causing it to tip on its side. Its important to remember this or you are likely to miss the bite. As soon as the float begins to fall over, take in all the slack line and wait until the float moves off in one direction or the other before applying pressure. Rather than a hard strike just reel in a few turns while lifting the rod tip to set the hook.

The float begins to cock sideways as a garfish takes the bait
The float falls on its side as the garfish brings the bait to the surface

Garfish are not considered for the table as they have an off-putting green flesh close to the bone but they are a very good bait source. Apart from the fun of catching them they are ideal to freeze down to be used as winter bait for whiting, dogfish, pollack and even bass. Their flesh is less mushy than that of a frozen mackerel, stays on the hook and keeps its shape longer. Garfish strips for mackerel or other garfish means that any caught mackerel can be kept for the table.

One of the joys of hooking a garfish is watching it dance on its tail as it attempts to throw the hook. They are also a favourite alternative when nothing else is showing.