The longnose gar is the most common and widely distributed member of the gar family, Lepisosteidae, one of the few remaining ancient groups of predaceous ﬁsh once in abundance. Its long endurance is due to a specialized air bladder that enables the gar to take in air at the surface, allowing it to survive in the poorest waters.
IdentificationThe body of the longnose gar is long and slender. It has an extended narrow beak (18 to 20 times as long as it is wide at its narrowest point). The skeleton is part cartilage and part bone. Both upper and lower jaws are lined with strong, sharp teeth. The nostrils are located in a small, bulbous, ﬂeshy growth at the very tip of the beak.
The body is covered with bony, ganoid (diamond shaped) scales. The dorsal and the anal ﬁns are set far back. Its coloring is olive brown or deep green along the back and the upper sides, with a silver white belly. There are numerous black spots on the body, although not on the head or the jaws. The longnose gar can be distinguished from other gar by its elongated snout.
SizeThe average ﬁsh is 2 to 3 feet in length but occasionally reaches 5 feet. The all-tackle record is 50 pounds, 5 ounces.
Life history/BehaviorGroups of adult gar often lie motionless at the surface, strongly resembling floating sticks. In the summer, they will roll over and break the surface to gulp air (usually in extremely murky water) and release gases from their air bladders. Males mature when they are 3 or 4 years old, females at 6 years old. The spawning season is in the spring in shallow water.
Food and feeding habitsLongnose gar feed on shiners, sunﬁsh, gizzard shad, catﬁsh, and bullhead. They sometimes slowly stalk their prey but are generally known to lie in wait for it to come close.
Other NamesFrench: garpique longnez; Spanish: gaspar picudo.
DistributionThe longnose gar is the most common and widely distributed of all gar. It is primarily found throughout the eastern half of North America, within the Mississippi River system and other drainages.
Its range generally encompasses an area from Minnesota and the Great Lakes to Quebec, southward to southern Florida and the Gulf states, and westward to the Rio Grande bordering Texas and Mexico. It may reach as far as Montana in the north and the Pecos River in New Mexico to the south. Large concentrations exist along the Atlantic coast.