Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus platostomus)


The shortnose gar is the smallest member of an ancient family, Lepisosteidae, of predaceous fish. It is the most tolerant of all the gar, as it is capable of withstanding murky and brackish water with the help of its specialized air bladder. The bladder allows the gar to gulp in supplementary air and to release gases.

Because large numbers of coarse fish and panfish exist in many waters inhabited by gar, the shortnose gar (as well as other gar) can be useful in controlling these populations. In some areas, however, it is considered a nuisance by anglers and sometimes even a problem because of its abundance.

The shortnose gar has good sporting virtues but is not widely pursued. It is often caught incidentally by anglers pursuing other fish. It is not considered a good food fish, and its roe is toxic.

Identification

The body is long and cylindrical, covered with ganoid (diamond-shaped) scales. There is a single row of teeth in the upper jaw, compared with the alligator gar’s two rows. It has a short, broad snout. Unlike its relatives the Florida gar and the spotted gar, it has no spots on its head, but it does have spots on its dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. Size. The shortnose gar rarely exceeds 2.5 feet in length. The all-tackle world record is a 5-pound, 12-ounce fish caught in 1995 in Illinois.

Spawning behavior

Spawning occurs in the spring in shallow bays and sloughs. The eggs attach to weeds or other objects.

Food

The diet of the shortnose gar is similar to that of other gar; forage and rough fish comprise the bulk of its food.

Distribution

The shortnose gar occurs from the Great Lakes south to the Gulf of Mexico but is essentially limited to the low-gradient portions of the Mississippi River basin. In the United States, it is found from northern Alabama to Oklahoma and down through Louisiana to the Gulf of Mexico. In the north, it has a broad range in the river systems that feed the Mississippi, from southern Ohio to Montana.

Habitat

This species is common in quiet water, including the pools and backwater areas of creeks and small to large rivers, and in swamps, lakes, and oxbows, often near vegetation. The shortnose gar is even more tolerant of muddy water than are other gar, and it prefers warm water.
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