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Georgia Gar & Pickerel Fishing


If you have never targeted chain pickerel or gar on a fishing trip you may be missing out, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division (WRD). Chain pickerel and gar are exceptional fighters when hooked and are tremendous challenges for anglers.

Anglers whatever your fishing experience is will find challenges when they pursue either pickerel or gar, says WRD Fisheries Management Chief Chuck Coomer. Neither one of these fish are usually found on a menu, but they are worth a trip to a favorite lake or river for a great day of fishing and enjoying Georgia’s fantastic natural resources.

Longnose Gar

Gars are a relic from a large group of primitive fish. They are long, slender with toothy mouths and hard, diamond shaped scales. They are most common in warm, sluggish rivers and lakes and feed primarily on other fish. Georgia is home to the longnose gar and one of the best spots in Georgia to fish for them is on Lake Lanier. Gar in Lanier average three pounds, but some individuals can reach up to 20 pounds.

The best summer fishing spots for gar are the back of coves around natural cover, such as downed trees or brush. Major fishing holes are Flat Creek, Wahoo Creek, Little River and upstream from Clarks Bridge to the head of the lake on the Chattahoochee arm. A favorite summer fishing technique is to hook a live 3-4 inch bream on a 6/0 hook on medium to heavy spinning tackle with 10-15 pound test line and fish under a float. Anglers also can purchase jumbo minnows at local bait and tackle stores and at times, gar will even strike at minnow-like artificial lures. A prime time to fish is early and late in the day. These fish, once hooked, will give any angler a fight that includes intense jumping action.

Chain Pickerel

Chain pickerel are an attractive olive green on the back and a creamy yellow color on the belly. They have distinct chain-like or interwoven marking on their sides and an elongated body shape. They can reach weights of nearly 10 pounds, but 1-3 pounds is average. In Georgia, chain pickerel can be found in many lakes and stream, including several Northeast Georgia lakes (Burton, Seed and Rabun) and in south Georgia in the Okefenokee Swamp (Billy’s Lake, located in the Okefenokee Park, is a famous pickerel destination) and Banks Lake (near Lakeland). Medium action spinning and spincasting equipment spooled with 8-10 pound test line is ideal for pickerel fishing. Recommended lures are King Jack Spinners and other in-line spinners as well as 1/16 and 1/8 oz. beetlespins in white or yellow. As pickerel move to deeper water in mid-summer, trolling with spoons and crankbaits can be effective. Additional tips include casting out and reeling in quickly the flash of the lure entices the strike.

Anglers attempting to reel in a pickerel using live bait (such as large minnows or sunfish) should allow sufficient time for the pickerel to swallow the bait. Pickerel often grab live bait and run with it, then pause as they turn it to swallow it headfirst, which is the time to set the hook. Pickerel do have an excellent flavor and texture, but are very bony. The bones can be removed with a little practice and they do make a fine meal. One of the highlights of catching a pickerel is to see the acrobatics this fish can perform they have a savage strike and tend to jump and thrash at the surface once hooked.

Take Me Fishing A recent national survey indicated that 87 percent of Americans believe fishing and boating have a positive effect on family relationships. So take your family fishing and you will always have something in common.

For more information on pickerel or gar fishing in Georgia, visit


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