Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus)


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.

Identification

The 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.


Size

The 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/Behavior

Groups 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 habits

Longnose 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 Names

French: garpique longnez; Spanish: gaspar picudo.

Distribution

The 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.

Habitat

Longnose gar inhabit warm, quiet water, frequenting shallow weedy areas and the sluggish pools, backwaters, and oxbows of large and medium rivers and lakes. They occasionally enter brackish water and can tolerate murky and stagnant environments.
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