During another successful day of fly fishing for redfish, Captain Justin and angler Terrel Maguire happened upon an actual fish of a lifetime. Justin will tell you that seeing gator gar in the Texas coastal marsh is “very common,” even big ones. So it was no surprise to see another one waiting for a meal near the surface on this day.
Terrel and Justin had been having good luck catching reds on a Spork (crab fly made by Captain Collin) with an 8-weight fly rod.
Because this fly has caught nearly every other game species in the marsh, they decided to see if this gator gar would be interested, despite knowing it wasn’t intended for gar.
Terrel made an excellent cast from the front of the boat that immediately caught the attention of the gar and triggered a bite.
As the roughly 5-foot-long fish began to fight, they both realized they had a scarce fish on the line.
Alligator gar are typically olive-green or dark green colored, but they saw that this one was solid black as it thrashed and lept out of the water.
Melanistic (black) gar are incredibly rare, so to see one is a treat, but to land one and take pictures is a once-in-a-lifetime moment that most anglers will never experience.
These prehistoric fish might look terrifying with their sharp teeth, but they pose no threat to humans despite growing up to 8-foot-long and 300+ pounds.
So Justin and Terrel managed to land the gator gar, snap a few unique pictures, and release this fish to continue growing into a giant.
Justin posted the pictures on social media, which went viral along with the unique story.
He said he made local and national news, along with several outdoor publications, reaching out to him so they could run their version of the story.
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We recently spoke with Justin to dig into this story and learn about his background as an angler and guide. A few of his answers surprised us, but his tips were on point.
What was your start in fishing?
“I grew up in Clearlake, TX, conventional fishing the Galveston Bay System with friends and family. However, flyfishing is my primary passion now.”
How did you begin guiding?
“I was doing a lot of fly fishing and began posting pictures on social media that had a lot of people asking for me to take them fishing.”
“So within this last year, I decided to try guiding. I got my captain's license and began taking select out-of-town clients on a couple of trips a month.”
Where do you fish?
“I fish all along the gulf coast. My favorite places are Louisiana and Galveston because it’s where I grew up fishing.”
What’s your favorite species to target?
“Big redfish because they offer the most opportunities for intimate eats.”
What are the essential skills one needs to be a successful guide and angler?
“The three skills I believe are most important are learning how to read the fish, boat movement, and a good work ethic.”
“There are certain ways a fish positions itself that tell you if it’s willing to eat or if it’s scared. Knowing these fish behaviors is critical.”
“Knowing how to position the boat, so it doesn’t spook the fish but remains close enough for clients to see and cast to them is another important skill.”
“Lastly, you must be willing to work hard if you want to succeed. This includes fishing.”
Fishing is a game of failure; how do you deal with failure?
“I manage my expectations. I know every day isn’t going to be the greatest day ever, but I try to make the best of the situation.”
“I make it clear to my clients that they need to be prepared skills-wise and be honest with themselves about their flyfishing skill level to give them the best chance of having a successful day.”
Updated on February 23, 2023
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