Gar fish are a great little fish to catch. They are delicious eating as well as being very good bait for larger fish. They are available from early spring right through the summer months and into autumn. I really enjoy catching garfish it is a lot of fun. Not only are they good fish bait but they are lovely & sweet to eat. In the Hawkesbury & Pittwater there are 2 species of Gar fish the sea garfish & the river garfish.
Gar fish are generally available over the top of weed beds. Some good areas to find them are the flats at Palm Beach & at any of the small bays in Cowan Creek like Jerusalem Bay , Stingray Bay etc. There are generally few garfish at the bait grounds around Barrenjoey as well. But as a rule anywhere where you find shallow flats with weed on them will be an area where the garfish will be at high tide.
I think a very light thread line outfit is hard to beat for catching garfish. I prefer a rod about two and a half meters in length. The tackle does not need to be anything special or expensive but like all fishing needs to be reliable. For line I generally use line with the breaking strain of about two kilos but even one kilo line is okay. Due to the light weight of the floats that are used anything much heavier than 2 kilos is not practicable. I use quill floats generally but some prefer to use plastic bubble floats that can be filled with water to give extra weight for casting. I think you catch more fish using the quill floats than the bubbles as they seem to take the bait better as there is less resistance. The best way I feel is to try both & use whichever type suits you. For hooks I use No 10 long shank hooks. For floats there are several types of plastic quill floats on the market & they all are Ok for this type of fishing. I take a piece of coarse hessian also for scaling the fish & a rag for gripping them helps a lot too.
Gar fish will take a few types of bait and some people like to use little sections of squirt worm and some even prefer maggots. I do not know how you feel at the thought of using a maggot for bait does not appeal to me at all. I only ever used 3 types of bait for garfish and they are prawns cut up into sections or fresh bread or dough. Berley is very important when fishing for garfish and if you can get it a mixture of Bran and Pollard is great. Most of the time I use bread that has been thoroughly soaked so it breaks apart into minute pieces in the water. Do not berley with pieces chunks of bread or the garfish will simply feed on them & ignore your baits. Berley must be very fine particles.
I prefer to fish a rising tide and top of the tide for garfish. I like to anchor up over the area by intend to fish when the tide is rising and then fish the last of the run-up tide and the top of the tide. As soon as my boat is anchored at the spot I start berleying and then get my tackle ready. The rig I use is extremely simple. I do not use any weight at all and simply have the float fixed to the line about 60 mm above the hook. When this rig is in the water the float lays on its side and when a fish takes the bait it stands up to indicate a bite. Once I have commenced berleying I generally wait until I can see the fish in the berley before I start fishing. It is a very simple method of fishing just place a small section of prawn or little ball of dough on the hook and float its back down the berley. When a garfish takes the boat simply winding fast to get some tension of line is enough to hook the fish. For their size garfish fight fairly well and jump around a bit when hooked. When you get them to the boat if you intend to eat them I prefer to give them a little knock on the head to stop them jumping around and bruising themselves. I like to put them straight on the ice. Cleaning them is very simple and I find a piece of course hessian about the easiest thing to scale them with. Just use it like a normal scaler and you will find it is very effective on garfish. A normal scaler works OK as well. If I am catching large sea garfish I prefer to fillet them after scaling. Some prefer to take the head off the fish and then roll them with a bottle to remove the backbone. Either method works okay. To cook my garfish I like to just flower and fry them in a bit of butter. They are very sweet to eat. No matter what you decide to do with your garfish whether you eat them or use them for bait you will not be disappointed they are great for both things.
A nice catch of sea gar from Pittwater