Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

TWRA's Region 4 - East Tennessee

Reservoir Fisheries Management Program

Longnose Gar - Lepisosteus osseus

(This page was last updated - 06/27/2007)

Scientific name: Lepisosteus osseus (Lepid "scale", osteus "bony", osseus "bony")

Common name: longnose gar

longnose gar

Species Overview

The longnose gar is one of the four species of gar found in Tennessee. They are common in large rivers and reservoirs throughout the state and much of the eastern and central United States.

The Tennessee state angling record taken from Barkley Reservoir in 2002 weighed a little over 38 pounds. A 30 pound longnose gar taken by archery from Kentucky Reservoir in 2003 holds the non-sportfishing record.

 

longnose gar
A large French Broad River longnose gar - photo by Jim Negus

Identification

All gars have torpedo-shaped bodies with the dorsal and anal fins located far back towards the tail. They are covered by thick ganoid scales that create a very hard protective covering.

The snout of a longnose gar is long and slender and unlike the other three gar species found in Tennessee.

 

longnose gar young
A young Norris Reservoir longnose gar - photo by Jim Negus

Habits

Gars have a duct that connects their throat to a highly vascularized swim bladder that acts like a lung. This allows them to withstand very low oxygen levels. They are commonly observed gulping air at the surface on calm days.

Young longnose gar feed on small crustaceans and insects, but quickly switch over to a diet of primarily fish. They are ambush predators and lie still in the water until an unsuspecting fish swims by. They lunge forward and lash their heads from side to side in order to capture prey. All four of Tennessee's gar spend much of the time lying still or swimming slowly near the surface.

Life Cycle

Spawning usually takes place in shallow water from April to June in Tennessee. Several males may attempt to spawn with a single female and often the backs of the fish break the surface during the act. Gar eggs are poisonous to humans.

Newly hatched gars have an adhesive disc on the underside of the snout which they use to attach to objects on the bottom until the yolk sac is absorbed. A dorsal caudal filament at the posterior end of their upturned vertebral column disappears when they mature.

 

longnose gar teeth
Longnose gar teeth - photo by Jim Negus

References

Etnier, D. and W. Starnes. 1993. The Fishes of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Press.

 

.
.