Spotted Gar

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Spotted Gar

Lepisosteus oculatus

Last updated: February 18, 2021
Verified by: IMP
Image Credit volkova natalia/Shutterstock.com

They are commonly mistaken as logs in the water due to their cylindrical body.

Spotted Gar Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Actinopterygii
Order
Lepisosteiformes
Family
Lepisosteidae
Genus
Lepisosteus
Scientific Name
Lepisosteus oculatus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Spotted Gar Conservation Status

Spotted Gar Locations

Spotted Gar Locations


Spotted Gar Facts

Main Prey
Minnows, mosquito larvae, blue crabs, larger fish
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
They are commonly mistaken as logs in the water due to their cylindrical body.
Estimated Population Size
Unknown
Biggest Threat
Water pollution
Most Distinctive Feature
Long, cylindrical body
Other Name(s)
Gar
Gestation Period
10-14 days
Optimum pH Level
6.0-8.0
Habitat
6.0-8.0
Predators
Other types of gars
Diet
Carnivore
Type
Lepisosteidae
Common Name
Spotted gar
Number Of Species
1

Spotted Gar Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Black
  • Dull Olive
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
216 months
Weight
10lbs
Length
39in – 59in

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The spotted gar can be found in calm pools located in freshwater rivers, ponds, and creeks.

It is one of 7 species of gar. They eat the minnows, small blue crabs, and other types of animals used as bait by fishermen. Consequently, many fishermen consider spotted gar pests because they compete with other fish for the bait.

3 Incredible Spotted Gar Facts!

  • An important role in the ecosystem: Along with other small fish and crustaceans, they eat mosquito larvae. This helps to keep the mosquito population under control.
  • Oxygen gulpers: Spotted gar has a large swim bladder they fill with oxygen by swimming to the surface to gulp air. This swim bladder allows these creatures to live in water that is low in oxygen.
  • Body camouflage: With its long, cylinder-shaped body, a spotted gar can easily be mistaken for a log in the water. Not surprisingly, the watery habitat of this fish usually includes fallen branches, submerged logs, and clumps of brush. This makes it easy to hide from predators.

Spotted Gar Classification and Scientific Name

The scientific name of the spotted gar is Lepisosteus oculatus. It belongs to the Lepisosteidae family and the class Actinopterygii. Lepisosteus is a Greek word meaning scale (lepis) and bone (osteon). The word oculatus means eyed.

Spotted Gar Appearance

The most notable quality about a spotted gar is its shape. It’s a long, thin fish paired with a long snout filled with tiny, sharp teeth. Its scales are olive or brown with large dark spots across its body. They are usually 2 to 3 feet long but can be as long as 59 inches (just under 5 feet). They usually weigh from 4 to 6 pounds, but the maximum is 9.7lbs.

Of course, there are always exceptions! The record for the largest spotted gar is 43 inches long weighing 15 pounds.

One of the ways they protect themselves from predators is by staying hidden in submerged vegetation. Their color also helps them to blend into their habitat.



spotted gar, a dart shaped fish with a needle nose, tropical fish from the mississippi river basin of America

Spotted Gar vs. Florida Gar

While there are many similarities between these two species, there’s one notable difference.

Both of these fish live in bodies of water in the Florida area. They are about the same length and have spots on their head, body, and fins. However, when looking closely at these two fish, there is more distance between the eye and the gill cover on the spotted gar than there is on the Florida gar.

Spotted Gar Distribution, Population and Habitat

Spotted gar lives in temperate freshwater rivers, streams, ponds, swamps, and lakes. Their habitat includes brush, fallen branches, and other debris where they can hide in the calm water. Generally, these fish occupy depths of between 10 to 16 feet.

They are found in North America including southern Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, the Mississippi River, Florida’s Apalachicola River, the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Nueces River in Texas.

Though the exact population of spotted gar is unknown, scientists estimate the population at greater than 100,000 adults.

The population of these fish in the Michigan area is threatened by habitat destruction. They are listed as a species of special concern there.

The conservation status of this fish is Least Concern with a stable population.

Spotted Gar Predators and Prey

These fish are carnivores eating crayfish along with a variety of other fish. They are known for ambushing their prey. These fish hide behind underwater vegetation as they wait for the approach of prey. When a crayfish approaches, the fish darts from undercover and grabs it with its tiny, sharp teeth.

What eats spotted gar?

Adult spotted gars have few predators with the exception of larger gar species such as the alligator gar.

The eggs and young of these fish are vulnerable to larger fish.

To some people, these fish are delicious food. Oftentimes, they are caught while recreational fishermen are trying to catch other types of fish. Spotted gar is attracted to the bait used to catch catfish or trout.

Though adult fish can be food to people, its eggs contain toxins and shouldn’t be eaten.

What does the spotted gar eat?

When it comes to food, these fish eats a lot of crayfish! They eat other crustaceans and fish such as bass, crappies, catfish, and sunfish among others.

Spotted Gar Reproduction and Lifespan

These fish spawn between the months of February and June. Males and females gather in shallow water and the males compete for the largest females. Once the eggs are fertilized, they’re laid in October. A female lays from 1000 to 14,000 eggs on aquatic plants. The eggs hatch in about 10 to 14 days. Females lay eggs just once per year. After laying the eggs, the parents provide no care. These fish reach sexual maturity at 1 year old.

Spotted Gar in Fishing and Cooking

Some species of gar like the alligator gar are sold commercially as food. However, the spotted gar is usually caught by recreational fishermen when they are in pursuit of another type of catch. Instead of throwing them back, many fishermen eat them.

These fish are usually caught at dusk when they’re searching for prey. They’re especially active on hot days in the summertime.

These fish are consumed as food in the United States, especially in the south. It’s said the fish tastes like alligator. Of course, a person would have to eat alligator to understand the comparison!

There are a variety of recipes including stew, fish cakes, or stir fry just to name a few. Many people eat them with vegetables.

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About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and — of course — pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Spotted Gar FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Where are spotted gar found?

These fish are found in lakes, streams, and rivers around North America.

How do you catch a spotted gar?

Spotted gar is attracted to minnows, sunfish, and blue crabs as bait. They are active in the evening.

What do spotted gar eat?

They eat crayfish and other crustaceans along with catfish, sunfish, and crappies.

Are spotted gar dangerous?

These fish are not dangerous. In fact, they spend most of their time hiding in underwater vegetation and fallen branches. They use their teeth to eat crayfish and other prey.

How big does a spotted gar get?

The size of a spotted gar can measure as long as 59 inches.

Can you eat a spotted gar?

Yes, the adults can be eaten, but stay away from their eggs!

Sources
  1. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spotted_gar
  2. Texas Parks & Wildlife, Available here: https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/wild/species/spottedgar/

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