The poison fish

By Larry Dablemont, Contributing Columnist
Posted 6/19/24

A Question from a reader… Is a garfish good to eat? Some say they are.

Answer: There are four species of gar in the Midwest but only one is the scourge of Ozark streams. That is the …

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The poison fish


A Question from a reader… Is a garfish good to eat? Some say they are.

Answer: There are four species of gar in the Midwest but only one is the scourge of Ozark streams. That is the long-nose gar, which wasn’t seen in the clear clean Ozark rivers a hundred years ago. Now they are thick in some of our best rivers, something of a leftover from prehistoric times that just outgrew the slow muddy waters along the Mississippi. They eat small fish of all species.

Ozark streams are full of long-nosed gar, which often grow to five feet in length and up to 25 or 30 pounds. Some will tell you that anything you can cook is good to eat. But I wouldn’t go through the job of skinning a gar to eat one. I have tasted the meat and it is passable. But then I ate so much fish as a kid I am not a big fan of any meat from our fine finny fish friends. The best fish I have ever eaten came from the waters of the small mountain streams of Colorado where you catch 10 to 12-inch brook trout with either very light short rods or fly rods. Those little fish are so good to eat I could never get enough of them, when fried in a skillet right alongside the small creeks where they are found or anywheres else. Comparing gar meat to a fried brook trout is like comparing mud pies to chocolate cake.

Gar and paddlefish are good eating for many, but to me they are not anything worth bragging on…  just not all that good. Why would anyone eat a gar or paddlefish if they can get any of the other fish that are found in the same waters? Gar are so numerous they harm the spawning waters of other more desirable species. Bow fishermen and giggers who kill and dispose of gar and carp are doing fishermen a big favor although you can, if you work at it, make them edible. To me, eating a gar is like going into a bakery and passing up all the donuts and cake and pie and having them fix you a biscuit! Here’s more advice from my expert experiences eked from an environmental existence and ecological education… ANY fish meat you eat should have ALL red meat removed. That red meat really does give fish an undesirable taste. But I have been told that red meat is a source of good fish oil, which is desirable for humans. Yuck!!! My advice is, do not eat gar, throw them up on the bank for the coons or bury them in your garden to make good fertilizer.

While it might be something I ought not to write about, I guess that gar-eaters need to know that gar are spawning through June and the eggs of a gar are poisonous to mammals, of which humans are one of… mammals that is. If they are eaten, gar eggs will kill cats and dogs, raccoons and possums, and even people. My dad loved the fried fish eggs of bass and goggle-eye. I am glad mom never knew that gar eggs were poison! A little humor there. I can see a problem arising with that knowledge, as cats would easily eat those eggs. I doubt that dogs would, and while I don’t know this, I am sure a while a raccoon would eat most anything; they surely have been endowed with the knowledge that gar eggs are to be left alone.

Anyway, the local sheriffs in the Ozark should know to look for a gar carcass around any Ozark home where some old boy who is married has died a suspicious death.

Second reader question… Are you putting out new books this year?

Answer: Yes… We have one coming out in a month or so entitled “The Buck that Kilt the Widow Jones… Short Stories about the Outdoors and the Ozarks.” We will mail that book out about the beginning of August I think. The first 100 will be numbered and inscribed to the reader and autographed. To get on that list contact my office. Two other books, “The Life and Times of the Pool Hall Kid” and “The Justice of St. Clair County” will be ready in December, for Christmas Gifts. There are eleven now, all shown on

Third reader question… Would you write about the new tick diseases going around sometime?

Answer: I would, but my daughter Lori, a physician who doctors faculty and staff at Missouri State University, has written a very complete article for my summer magazine, which tells more than I know about tick diseases. If you get a copy of that magazine you will know as much as she does I suppose. New tick diseases, like ‘alpha-gal’ disease has been deadly at times and renders healthy people violently allergic to red meat. If you contact my office you can get that magazine for only postage costs. But they will be sold out by August.

If you need to talk with me, call my office at 417 777 5227 or email me at Send letters and questions to me at P.O. Box 22, Bolivar, 65613.