The Florida Gar is found from the Savannah River and Ochlockonee River watersheds of Georgia and throughout peninsular Florida. They inhabit streams, canals and lakes with mud or sand bottoms near underwater vegetation. They're often found in medium to shallow waters. They use an air bladder to breathe air which helps them survive in poorly oxygenated water.
Gars are covered with hard, thick, diamond-shaped plates called ganoid scales, producing a “armored” covering. Florida gars lack bony scales on the throat. They round, black spots on the top of the head, body, and fins. Coloration is olive-brown along top half shading to a white-to-yellow belly. They are distinguishable from other gars by the distance from the front of the eye to the back of the gill cover, being less than two-thirds the length of the snout. It is longer in other gars. Adults are typically 12 to 34 inches long, rarely weighing much more than a few pounds.
Spawning occurs winter/early spring (April-May) when they gather in shallow weedy areas. The females discharge adhesive eggs which attach to vegetation and are fertilized by two or more males. The eggs are greenish-colored and toxic. Newly hatched fry remain attached to the vegetation via an adhesive organ on the end of their snout until they are ¾ of a inch long.
Young feed on zooplankton and insect larvae. As they grow the convert to a diet primarily of fish, shrimp and crayfish. Gars typically hunt by floating silently until a suitable prey is near. They then slowly position themselves to where they can take the prey with a sideways snap of the head.
Florida Gar in Florida
Courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Appearance: Prehistoric fish with ganoid (bony) scales that have peg-and-socket joints forming a hard armor. Irregular round, spots occur on top of the head, all over the body and fins.
Habitat: They are found in the Ochlockonee River and waters east and south in peninsular Florida where they inhabit streams, canals and lakes with mud or sand bottoms near underwater vegetation.
Behavior: They use an airbladder to breathe air in low-oxygen water. Spawning occurs in late winter and early spring when both sexes congregate in shallow weedy waters where the females discharge adhesive eggs. Newly hatched young possess an adhesive organ on the end of their snout and stay attached to vegetation until 3/4-inch long. Adults primarily feed on fish, shrimp and crayfish.
State Record: 9.44 lbs. Big Catch: 28 inches or 5 lbs.
Fishing Tips and Facts: Gar are sporty fighters and can be taken with minnows, artificial lures or frayed nylon cord that entangles the gar’s teeth. They are also taken with bow-and-arrow, gigs or snag hooks.