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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Overhead River Habitat (River Scout)

Range / Habitat

  • Longnose gar occurs in the Mississippi River system northwest to Montana, through the Great Lakes except Lake Superior, to the St. Lawrence watershed to Quebec and south to northern Mexico. 
  • Most abundant and widely distributed member of the ancient gar family. 
  • Found in sluggish pools, backwaters and oxbows of medium to large rivers and lakes. 
  • Prefers areas of vegetation and occasionally may be found in brackish waters.

Physical Characteristics

  • Longnose gar has a very long, slender snout with a length of 18 to 20 times its width.
  • Long cylindrical body is covered with large, overlapping diamond-shaped scales, which distinguish it from all its freshwater relatives. These scales interlock to produce a virtual suit of armor leaving the gars with few natural predators.
  • Dorsal fin is located far back on the body, almost over the anal fin. The caudal fin is broad, as is the caudal peduncle.
  • Typically grayish to olive-green dorsally and on the sides; white or yellowish below.
  • Longnose gar can grow to 73 inches (200 cm.) in length and weigh up to 50.7 lbs. (23 kg). 
  • Female is larger than the male.

Diet / Feeding

  • An ambush feeder that attacks prey from the side and then adjusts its grip to swallow the prey head first.
  • Adult longnose gar feeds almost exclusively on fishes, most heavily on shad, herring and bullheads, with minor predation on minnows and sunfishes. 
  • Juvenile feeds voraciously on small crustaceans and insect larvae. It grows very rapidly. 

Reproduction / Growth

  • Adult makes long migrations to spawning sites in streams that have clear water and a relatively steep gradient.
  • Spawning is believed to occur between April and June, when the longnose gar will spawn on gravel shoal areas and among rocks or occasionally in the weedy shallows of lakes and rivers.
  • Female longnose gar sheds her eggs in repeated batches and the male fertilizes them as they are released. Instead of close vent-to-vent association between males and females, the males cloud the water with milt.
  • Female will produce about 30,000 plus eggs per year.
  • Frequently, longnose gar eggs and larvae have been found in smallmouth bass nests, where the male bass guards the nest protecting the young gar in addition to its own young.

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Its swim bladder is highly vascularized and is connected to its throat. This allows the longnose gar to gulp air when it is in waters with very low concentrations of oxygen.
  • It is the most widespread of the gar in the southern U.S., although it is extinct in some of its northern habitats. 
  • Longnose gar is reported to live 20 to 30 years.
  • Gars are a primitive group of bony fish that still retain a spiral valve intestine, which is an ancient feature of the digestive system commonly associated with sharks and rays.

Sources

www.fishbase.org
www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/gallery/descript/longnosegar/longnosegar.html
Fishes of Alabama. Boschung, H. T.  and Mayden, R.L.,  pgs. 118 -119
McClane’s Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America. McClane, A.J., p. 180
Peterson Field Guides - Freshwater Fishes. Page, L.M. and Burr, B.M., pg. 30
The Fishes of Tennessee. Etnier, D.A. and Starnes, W.C., pgs. 112 -113