Small Garfish In Hand


I am a bit of a stickler when it comes to fishing. You can forget your fancy lures, realistic flies and soft plastics. I love my fishing to be organic from beginning to end. I catch garfish to use as bait for Snapper and other species. For me, this makes the whole experience feel even more complete and authentic. I take a Snapper with a sense of pride that not only did I have the wits to catch it and haul it in, I caught the bait and was in charge of every step of the process.

Fishing for Garfish doesn’t just have to be an exercise in catching baitfish. They are such an abundant species that it is a great way to get young anglers involved with the sport. All my grandchildren got their introduction to fishing and honed their skills taking Garfish with me.

They are also a tasty meal in their own right. You can crush the bones of the smaller ones with a rolling pin before you cook them, or fillet the bigger ones. I am no stranger to some Garfish for breakfast and would heartily recommend it to anyone who is yet to try it.


Garfish can be found pretty much anywhere where the water is warm and shallow with some foliage or rocks for cover. You can even lure them to wherever you are with enough berley. They hunt using their sense of smell, so will sniff it out from quite a way off and come to you. This is part of what makes them so easy to take.


You can catch Gar on the simplest tackle equipment in your box. A 1-3kg rod with a 1000-2500 reel is plenty. Spool it with a 4-10lb line of either braid or mono with a 4-10lb leader. In freshwater, don’t worry about a sinker but fishing from a pier, you might want a tiny split shot to get a bit more distance and to get it down a little further. Any kind of float works, from wine corks to bobby floats or a pencil float. When fishing for Gar, my motto is always “whatever is at hand”.


I have used everything from bread, to squirt worm, maggots, chicken skin, pieces of Flathead or even other Garfish. For berley I use pellets soaked in Tuna oil, which can just stay in a mesh bag, giving off the scent. If there is none of this to hand, scattering some bread crumbs also does the trick. Just make sure they are finely crushed, so the tide doesn’t take them, and the Garfish, away. It could also attract birds overhead that will scare the Gars away.


Berley up and once they are feeding, use a size 12 or 10 long shank hook with a little bit of bait over the barb and throw it into the berley trail. You don’t need to do much more than that. Let it bob about naturally. Once they take it, setting the hook is simple. Pulling the line tight should do the trick, then pull them in. I usually give them a bash on the head and throw them straight on ice.

There you have it. Once you get into the swing of things, you can take 150 Garfish in a session. I will eat the biggest out of my catch, then use the rest for bait. But I will only take what I need. There is no sense in wasting them.


Do you have any tips for taking Garfish? Let us know in the comments section below.

Robert M Davies
Robert M Davies

Robert passed the "Obsessed With Fishing Test" with flying colours. Instead of talking, Robert has turned his hand to writing about his experience in fishing all around Australia.