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Gar fish and the common, or German, carp are two of the most frequently taken bowfished species in North America. When bowfished from clean waters (always check with state advisories for mercury and other potential contaminants) these are excellent eating fish. They were originally brought from Asia by the Romans into Europe as a food fish and from England and Germany into the U.S.
Once the carp were here they were held under guard in Washington D.C., and doled out to favored congressman to stock in their home districts. The German carp have been here every since. They have been joined more recently by the silver, grass, bighead, white Amur and black carp. These carps occupy different habitats and compete with native fish for food.
Carp are the most commonly consumed source or protein on earth. They make an excellent baked fish (particularly those about 3-feet long) and the larger ones may also be cut to smaller pieces and fried. Carp do have “Y” bones, and in the larger the fish these are easier to remove. Bigger carp, like the silver or grass carp, are preferred for frying.
The largest gar is the alligator gar found in the Gulf Coast States. These once reached sizes of 600 pounds (in the 1840s) and 300-pounders are still taken. The longnose is the next largest and weighs up to 50 pounds. The spotted and shortnose gars are smaller. Gar eggs are toxic, and any contaminated meat needs to be cut away. The eatable meat is from the “backstraps.” This meat is white, boneless and very mild tasting – like white perch.
Much more information on bowfishing is available in my book, Practical Bowfishing. This book is out of print, but is available from me for a little over $20.00 at my website, www.hoveysmith.com. Activate the PayPal button below the book’s description and it will take you to an order page. This book is now selling for over $50.00 at Amazon.com and elsewhere.
The following video takes you through the cleaning process for both gar and carp. If it is difficult to view here, it is also available at YouTube by activating the following link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DalC4P3tvI.