Magnolia Fly Fishers Gar Rodeo

Steve mentioned the “gar rodeo” in his last email and I think the river is predictable enough now to provide the August 7 date so it’s time to come forward with some details.  “Gar Rodeo” is the term I use when I go to the river targeting striped fish but then only catch gar.  The MS river is so unpredictable on striped fish that I’ve gotten into the habit of calling my trips to the river “Gar rodeos.  Actually stripers and white bass can sometimes be caught but I have in fact picked up an addiction to hooking up with big gar.  They are basically the poor man’s tarpon.  Often they just pull but plenty of times they jump, tailwalk and put on a show a tarpon would be proud of.  The gar are the most predictable so I figure we’ll have a gar rodeo and maybe we’ll catch some other fish too.  There are alligator gar, long nose gar, short nose gar and spotted gar.  You can also catch flathead catfish and Gaspergou and hopefully stripers and white bass. I have seen some pretty darn big stripers caught although I haven’t ever caught one.

Magnolia Fly Fishers, 

I’ve heard that “nobody fishes in August”.  Well for me that is not true as the tides change in the marsh and the river level becomes fishable on the Mississippi.  August is kind of a miserable time for fishing because of the heat, but the Mississippi river always has a breeze and it is generally ten degrees cooler out on the river than the surrounding areas making it less miserable than other places.  Staying on the jetty can get pretty hot as the rocks heat up but hanging out near the white water roils can keep it cooler.  Gar have air bladders and can breathe and they roll and show themselves as well as they like to nose in against the rocks in the cool rushing water.  So, for me, I guess maybe it’s an acquired taste, but I get it honest because Tommy turned me onto it years ago.  The river is probably not what it used to be, but is still fun.

Watching the river forecast the Vicksburg gauge should be in the 22- 21 range on August 7.  That’s when the jetties come out of the water and the backchannels are pretty tame. This doesn’t last long as it will drop below or rise again so we have to go when the river hits the “goldilocks” numbers.

I will be going to the river Saturday Aug. 7.  Everyone knows where my office is, I will be here in the parking lot to wait on anybody at 6:00 AM.  You can follow me to the river. The drive to the Shipland Wildlife Management Area, takes a little over an hour.  Shipland is West of Onward.  I take my kayak. It is a combat launch,  it requires a drag through a strip of sandy woods and down a sandy bank. I will have my rope winch which can help to haul out if I have someone to tend the rope.  You can drag it out yourself but does require some exertion and it will be pretty hot by mid-day which is when we’ll quit.  Kayaking the back channel is safe and fun and you can kayak to the island walk across and fish the main channel and some of the blue holes over there.

There is an oxbow lake on the wma and it is absolutely full of gar.  In August I wouldn’t think you would catch any other species but I am sure the gar would be more than happy to accommodate you with a fight.  The oxbow too is a combat launch but you can get a vehicle very close or almost right to the water.  You can fish the jetty in the river without a kayak, but you can’t get past the notch so you would have to fish approximately 200 yards of rock dike or wade some of the shallow beaches.  Either side, downriver or upriver can hold gar.

This would be photo and measure only.  A carpenter’s tape would be a good idea or just cut off a piece of string, anything really.  I don’t expect many fly fishers will participate but all are welcome, its a big place. I think Chris will go with me and there are other veterans of the area that I hope will go, Bickham, Albert Read.  Plenty of room for everybody and it is something to do in the hot old month of August.  No crowds and the views around the river are spectacular, in my opinion.  If you hook a big gar, it will be fun for sure. If you need flies, I have been tying up gar flies which you are welcome to pick from.  Basically they are clouser styles, hooked but with synthetic fibers that will get hung up in the teeth of the gar.  I also have some rope flies and some hookless rope flies.  Clousers will work its just that you tend to lose a good many as the hook will rattle out of their hard jaw. 

Anyone fishing should have a towel or some gloves to handle the gar and some pliers or hemostats.  Some small scissors might be a good idea in case you have to cut some fibers to free a fly from a gar. I have hooked gar in the 15 lb range but I think ten lbs is the largest I have landed.  Wear wading shoes, there are sandbars you can wade plus if you are on the jetties you might need protection from the rocks that sandals might not provide.

I do have some prizes, two nice popping bug fly boxes from breambugs, a mug, gar scales and I may have some more by the date.  

So, I will be going to the river on Aug 7, rodeo or no rodeo, you are welcome to come along.  Please do let me know if you think you are interested.

The following link is a post I wrote about a “jetty hopping” on the river,

It will be hot and I admit it is more strenuous than standing in a trout stream i.e. dragging kayaks and walking jetties.  Bring some water/gatorade etc.  There’s no restaurants until you get back to Vicksburg so bringing a sandwich would be good idea.  We’ll knock off mid-day in respect of the heat, maybe stop in Vicksburg on the way back for a bite if y’all prefer.  The Beechwood doesn’t open until 4 if y’all want to brave the heat and fish a little more we could go there or  we could just stop and get a pizza at Fox’s. 

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