Florida Gar

Florida Gar

Lepisosteus platyrhincus

Florida Gar Lepisosteus Platyrhincus

The Florida gar fish (Lepisosteus platyrhincus) is one of the United States’ native gar species. Its scientific name is  Lepisosteus platyrhincus, English common name is Florida Gar. They are limited to Florida and southeastern Georgia in rivers such as Ochlockonee, Savannah, and Georgian watershed.

Florida Gar is found in freshwater streams, lakes, and canals with mud or sand bottoms and aquatic vegetation.

The main two gar species in Florida are the Florida gar and the longnose gar. These fish are often mistaken for the alligator gar, which mostly lives west of Florida from Alabama to Texas. The alligator gar is in the western Florida panhandle but in low quantities. The Spotted Gar replaces the Florida gar the further west you go. The Apalachicola drainage is the main overlapping point for these two fish.

Appearance

The Florida Gar Lepisosteus platyrhincus is olive-brown on its back and upper sides covered with irregular round black spots on its entire body, from the top of the head to its anal fin. They have a white to yellow belly coloring underneath. The distance between its eyes is less than two-thirds the length of its snout. The Florida Gar has a short, broad snout that consists of a single row of irregularly spaced sharp teeth on its upper and lower jaws. Florida Gar is the smaller fish in the gar family, averaging about 34 inches long on average but occasionally reaching up to 91 cm (3 ft) long.

Like all other gar species, the Florida gar possesses an air bladder that functions as auxiliary lungs. The air bladder helps it retain air at the water’s surface and function even in poorly oxygenated water.

Feeding Habits

Florida gars are highly skilled predators who primarily feed on fish, crustaceans, and insects. The young Florida gars feed on zooplankton, insect larvae, and other small fishes.

They hunt by floating on the water’s surface, disguised as a piece of wood, waiting to catch their prey. They are good predators as they stealthily move afloat while hunting. The gar’s long slender body enables them to hunt this way efficiently.

Spawning

The Florida gar spawns once a year from February to April. These are the periods when the males and females converge in weedy and shallow backwaters. Florida Gar do not build nests; instead, the females deposit over 6,000 adhesive eggs at a time on the aquatic plants. Their eggs are highly toxic to several animals, fishes, birds, and humans. The newly hatched Florida gar possesses an adhesive organ in a disc-shape at the end of their snouts. The snout disk helps them to stay attached to vegetation until they get up to 3 to 4 inches in length. This organ for fixation gets lost as they reach adulthood. There is some evidence that the Florida Gar may crossbreed with its closest relative, the spotted gar.

Fishing Tips For Florida Gar

Florida Gars inhabit medium to large lowland streams, canals, and lakes with mud or sand bottoms near underwater vegetation.

Anglers can fish for Florida Gar throughout the peninsula and as far as the Apalachicola River drainage in the panhandle. Anglers can also search southern Georgia to the Savannah River drainage for these fish. The Florida Gar is abundant in most of the canals throughout Florida. Hot spots include lock and dam tailwaters, stream bends, river channels, the mouths of inflowing tributaries, and backwater pools.

Gar fishing is best in the summer months, especially around dawn and dusk.

Techniques

Gar are not usually considered sport fish but are sporty fighters who produce a worthy fight especially on light tackle. The Florida Gar can be caught with both minnows or artificial lures. Live baits include minnows and cut bait, while the artificial lures are spinners and spoons. Anglers can use various methods to catch Florida Gars, including spin casting, trolling, drift fishing, bait casting, and fly fishing. Anglers can also catch gar with bows and arrows, trotlines, bush hooks and outlines, and cast nets.

Adults regularly eat small fish, shrimp, and crayfish, so using anything to mimic these will likely be productive. The most popular lures used are Jigs, Flies, Spinnerbaits, Spoons, Cut bait, and Minnows. Popular, effective live baits are live shad, sunfish, and shiners.

Gar Rig

A good set up for gar fishing is a live 4 to 6 inch-long shiner for bait on a 5/0 to 6/0 treble hook tied six inches below a bright orange, 4-inch-diameter bobber. A durable rig with a 15 to 25-pound test line will usually work well for average or smaller size gars. It’s essential to use the heavy tackle to land a giant gar around 20 pounds. Anglers targeting gar should use a 30 to 80-pound test line, a sturdy rod, and a sturdy reel with a good drag. Some anglers determined to land a gar will often use several steel leaders’ feet to withstand the gar’s sharp teeth and thrashing.

Gar Comparison

Alligator Gar

The alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula) is the largest member of the entire gar species and one of North America’s largest freshwater fishes. The alligator gar derives from their resemblance to the American alligators that possess long, sharp teeth and broad snouts. 

Typically, an alligator gar can grow and reach a length of over 3.0m (10 ft). Like the Florida gar, the alligator gar is slender, and its usual color is olive or brown. The alligator gar is also torpedo-shaped, and it has distinguishable ganoid scales from other fishes.  These ganoid scales are bone-like with serrated edges and covered with an enamel-like substance.

Unlike the Florida gar, the alligator gar’s upper jaw has two rows of sharp teeth to hold its prey. The Alligator Gar is as skilled in hunting as Florida gar, both stalk and ambush their prey. Alligator gar are also known to eat small mammals and waterfowl that they see floating on the water’s surface. 

Like the Florida gar, the alligator gar possesses a swim bladder lung that allows them to breathe in water with low oxygenation. They are voracious nocturnal predators and piscivores. They operate with the same mode of stealth as the Florida gar. They stay a little below the surface, waiting for unsuspecting prey to swim within its reach. Once they sight a prey and it reaches close range, they swoop in, impaling it with their dual row sharp teeth. 

Unlike Floridan gars, alligator gars inhabit reservoirs, lowland rivers, bayous, bays, estuaries with brackish waters, and the likes. Occasionally, the gars have been seen in the Gulf of Mexico, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua. They can also be seen and found in the Southern United States’ Gulf coast states and the lower Mississippi River Valley. 

Longnose Gar and Spotted Gar

The longnose gar has spots only on their rear fins and a very elongated narrow snout. The length of the snout and spots are the main distinguishing factors from the Florida Gar, which is covered in spots all over and has a shorter snout.

The snouts on spotted gar are also longer than Florida Gar with its nostrils at the tip. The Florida gar also lacks bony scales on its throat, unlike the spotted gar.

Aside from these characteristics, all species of gar have similar colorations and habits.

State Record

The record weight is 9.44 lbs. The Big Catch is 28 inches or 5 lbs.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND BEST FLORIDA GAR FISHING?
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT FLORIDA GAR

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