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Longnose Gar

Lepisosteus osseus

The longnose gar is a primitive-looking fish with a long, spotted body and a slender, beak-like snout. (guppiecat/Flickr)
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The longnose gar is a primitive-looking fish with a long, spotted body and a slender, beak-like snout. (guppiecat/Flickr)

The longnose gar is a primitive-looking fish with a long, spotted body and a slender, beak-like snout. It lives in quiet, fresh- and brackish-water tributaries throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Long, cylindrical body
  • Varies in color from brown to dark olive
  • Dark spots on the back, fins and sides
  • Pale, silvery or whitish belly
  • Long, slender, beak-like snout
  • Sharp teeth
  • Hard, diamond-shaped scales all over the body
  • Grows 5-6 feet long and can weigh as much as 50 pounds
  • Females are generally larger than males

Habitat:

  • Most often found in weedy, quiet fresh waters, including lakes, streams, backwaters and large creeks
  • Also common around shallow mud flats

Range:

  • Lives in fresh and brackish tributaries throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed

Feeding:

  • Voracious feeders
  • Eats a variety of small crustaceans and fish, including perch, sunfish and menhaden
  • Hunts for its prey by lying motionless in the water until a fish passes by. The gar then uses its long jaws to snap onto prey and swallow it headfirst.

Predators:

  • No major predators due to its heavy armor of hard, thick scales
  • May be preyed upon by fish-eating birds such as ospreys

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Spawns in May-June in shallow, weedy fresh waters
  • Several males often approach one female, who eventually settles on a spawning area
  • The female lays large, sticky, green eggs that are extremely poisonous to humans, animals and birds. Females can lay 30,000 eggs per year.
  • After laying eggs, both parents leave the nursery area. They do not care for their eggs. If the female lays her eggs in another fish’s nest, that fish may care for the gar eggs in addition to its own.
  • Males mature at 3-4 years old, while females mature at 6 years old
  • Can live up to 20 years

Other Facts:

  • Most anglers consider gars to be a nuisance because they damage fishing gear and eat more important fish species
  • Gars have existed since dinosaurs roamed the earth, before most of the fish we know today had evolved
  • Part of its scientific name, Lepisosteus, means "hard-scaled"
  • Longnose gars are able to breathe air from the atmosphere. In summer, when dissolved oxygen levels are low, gars will often lie motionless near the surface of the water and take in air from the atmosphere.

Sources and Additional Information:




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