The longnose gar is a primitive fish found in rivers and lakes throughout the eastern half of the United States, as far north as southern Quebec and extreme southern Ontario in the Great Lakes and as far south as northern Mexico, They are also known as needlenose gar. A needle-like nose, suit-of-armor scales, and a long body produce a look unlike any other species outside the gar family. Gars are well known for their sharp teeth and aggressive nature. These fast growing fish can obtain lengths up to six feet, weights 20-30 pounds and can live upwards of 20 years.
Longnose gar have streamlined, torpedo-shaped bodies covered with bony diamond-shaped scales. Their long, narrow razor-sharp tooth filled snout is 13 times longer than the narrowest width. Colors vary from brownish to dark olive shades along the back, transitioning to a white underside. Large, round spots generally cover the fins and to some extent the body, although as the fish ages the body spots can fade. Fins are frequently orange-tinted. In addition gills, gar can obtain oxygen by gulping air into their swim bladders, allowing them to survive in lowly oxygenated water.
Gars prefer shallow, slow-moving sections of large bodies of water; often near weeds or floating logs. They are tolerant of wide range of oxygen, salinity, and pollution levels. Preferring warm waters Longnose Gar often bask in the sun near the surface lying very still and often resemble a floating log or stick.
Longnose gars spawn around April/May in shallow water associated with sloughs and streams.
One female can be accompanied by several males as she lays big, bright green eggs (poisonous). These adhesive eggs attach to cobble or rubble substrate and hatch within a week. The parents provide no care to the eggs or hatchlings and leave shortly after spawning.
Fish up to a third of their body length are the primary prey for Longnose Gar. Occasionally they will take crustaceans and other creatures. Gar hunt by slowly stalking or more often simply floating motionless until a hapless fish swims by. They attack from the side catching the prey across their jaws and then they thrash about to lock the prey in their teeth. After they have the fish under control, it is worked around and swallowed head first. Feeding often occurs after dark.
Longnose Gar in Texas
Lepisosteus is Greek, meaning "bony scale", and osseus is Latin, meaning "of bone." Longnose gar are distinguished from other gar species found in Texas by the long snout whose length is at least 10 times the minimum width.
Spawning activity occurs as early as April, in shallow riffle areas. Females, typically the larger sex, may be accompanied by one or many males. Although nests are not prepared, gravel is swept somewhat by the spawning action itself. Each female may deposit a portion of her eggs at several different locations. The adhesive eggs are mixed in the gravel, hatching in six to eight days. Yolk-sac fry have an adhesive disc on their snouts by which they attach themselves to submerged objects until the yolk sac is absorbed. Fry feed primarily on insect larvae and small crustaceans such as water fleas. Fish appear in the diet very early.
Longnose gar are typically associated with backwaters, low inflow pools and moderately clear streams. They often do very well in man-made impoundments.
Longnose gar appear in most Texas rivers.
Longnose gar may be captured by entangling the teeth in nylon threads, or by bowfishing. In Texas, specimens in excess of 80 pounds have been landed using a bow and arrow.