Longnose Gar

Longnose Gar
Lepisosteus osseus


Key Distinguishing Markings:

  • Longnose gar are large, cylindrical fish with a long beak-like nose and rounded tail.
  • Their hard, diamond-shaped (rhombic) scales create a very effective armor against most predators.
  • The coloration of longnose gar varies. Typically, the upper side is gray to olive while the lower side is white or silvery.
  • Gar often have large black spots on their sides and fins with a wide dusky brown midlateral stripe running from nose to tail.

Size:

  • Although the world record for an adult longnose gar is 6 ft. (Texas), fish 3-4 ft. in length are more common.

Distribution:

  • Tidal tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay.

Habitat:

  • Inshore waters and estuaries.

Food Preference:

  • Longnose gar are aggressive predators.
  • Fish are the preferred food, but gar will also eat crustaceans and insects.

Spawning:

  • Gar spawn in shallow water, May-June.
  • Gar eggs are green, adhesive and toxic to other animals.

Fishing Tips:

  • Although few people eat gar meat, traditional fishing methods for capturing these tough fish is by sight-fishing with a bow or spear.
  • Other methods include suspending bait just below the surface of the water in shallow areas or using frayed nylon cord as a lure.
  • In March 1999, Maryland DNR banned the commercial catch and sale of black drum in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Fun Fact:

  • Gar can survive in water with very little oxygen. Their specialized swim bladder allows them to utilize air that they gulp at the surface of water to supplement oxygen that is taken in through the gills.
  • The skin of gar is very tough. Reportedly, early settlers and native Americans used their hide as abrasives and shield covers. The scientific name for gar (Lepisosteus osseus) translates into "boney scale"

Family: Lepisosteidae (Gars)

Order: Lepisosteiformes

Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)

For information concerning longnose gar and their management, please contact Mary Groves.

Illustration: Courtesy of Duane Raver/USFWS


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