Native to the Mississippi River, Shortnose gar can be found from the Gulf Coast to Montana in the north and east to the Ohio River. Large rivers and their backwaters are home to this primitive fish. It has the highest tolerance to turbid water of all the four gars. These smallish fish, by gar standards, have a strong preference for warmer waters in the upper 80 degree Fahrenheit range.
Like their larger cousins, Shortnose Gars have torpedo-shaped bodies and are covered by thick bony diamond shaped scales. Shortnose gar are distinguished from other gar species in that they lack the upper jaw of the alligator gar, the long snout of the longnose gar, and the markings of the spotted gar. Coloring is typically brown or greenish along the back, changing to a yellowish tint on the side and fading to a white underside. Shortnose usually don’t get much over 3 ft long and a few pounds.
Gars spawn over vegetation in shallow water once water temperatures exceed 70 degrees F. Bright green eggs (poisonous to humans) sticky eggs attached to vegetation and are laid in small masses. Eggs start hatching in a little over a week, and then after the egg sacs are absorbed in a couple of weeks, young gars feed on micro-invertebrates. Rapid growth occurs in year one, growth to 16 inches is possible. Sexual maturity occurs in the third year. Adult gars are primarily piscivores. However, crayfish and insects are also on the menu.
Shortnose Gar in Texas
Lepisosteus is Greek, meaning "bony scale", and platostomus is also Greek, meaning "broad mouth." Shortnose gar may be distinguished from other Texas species in that they lack the double row of teeth in the upper jaw of the alligator gar, the long snout of the longnose gar, and the spots of the spotted gar.
Shortnose gar spawning activity may occur from May into July. Females are often accompanied by more than one male. Yellow eggs are scattered in vegetation and other submerged structures, usually hatching within eight days of spawning. The fry remain in the yolk-sac phase for another week, at which time they begin to feed on insect larvae and small crustaceans. At little over an inch in length, fish appear in the diet. Sexual maturity is usually achieved when fish reach about 15 inches in length. Shortnose gar are more tolerant of high turbidity than other gar species.
They inhabit large rivers and their backwaters, as well as oxbow lakes and large pools.
In Texas, shortnose gar may be found in the Red River basin below Lake Texoma.
As with alligator gar, shortnose gar may be captured by entangling the teeth in nylon threads or by bowfishing. Shortnose gar up to five pounds have been brought in by anglers. The Texas state record, captured with a bow and arrow in Lake Lavon, weighed in at 11.15 pounds and measured in excess of 37 inches.
Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife