Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus)

Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus)

The Florida gar is a member of the Lepisosteidae family, an ancient group of predaceous fish once in abundance and widely distributed. Its specialized air bladder enables the gar to take in air at the surface, allowing it to survive in the poorest waters. Although edible, Florida gar are unpopular as food. They are caught by anglers, although not extensively pursued. The roe is highly toxic to humans, animals, and birds.


The body of the Florida gar is cigar-shaped, and it has a broad, tooth-filled snout. The single dorsal fin is located directly above the anal fin. Its tough scales form a bricklike pattern. Like the spotted gar, it has spots on top of the head, as well as over the entire body and on all the fins. These spots sometimes run together to form stripes.

The Florida and the spotted gar can be distinguished from each other mainly by the distance from the front of the eye to the back of the gill cover. In the Florida gar, it is less than two-thirds the length of the snout; in the spotted gar, it is more than two-thirds the length of the snout. The Florida gar can be distinguished from the longnose gar—the only other gar occurring in the Florida’s range—by the absence of spots on its head and by the elongated beak of the longnose.


The average size rarely exceeds 2 feet. The all-tackle record is 10 pounds.

Spawning behavior

The spawning season is from May through July in backwaters and sloughs. A female can lay up to 6,000 eggs at once. Florida gar often travel in groups of 2 to 10 or more.


Forage and coarse fish make up much of the adult gar’s diet, although it also consumes shrimp, insects, crayfish, and scuds.


The Florida gar ranges throughout peninsular Florida and into the Panhandle as far as the Apalachicola River drainage, where there is evidence that it hybridizes with the spotted gar. The Florida gar also occurs throughout part of southern Georgia to the Savannah River drainage.


The Florida gar is common in medium to large lowland streams and lakes with mud or sand bottoms and an abundance of underwater vegetation. It is also abundant in canals. Gar can be found resting both on the bottom or at the surface. They live in freshwater but can survive in stagnant water that is intolerable to most other fish.