Ontario Fish Species

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Longnose gar
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Parts of a Fish




Lake Nipissing

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Longnose Gar Ontario

Longnose Gar


Photos by Rob O'Reilly (Dave Wallace in Picture)

Longnose Gar 

Longnose Gar

Gars are called “living fossils” because nearly all their relatives are extinct. They were abundant in Europe during the Tertiary or the first period of the Cenozoic but, before the close of that period, which embraced approximately 58 million years measured by radio-activity, they became extinct in Europe, and the family is now exclusively North American in its distribution. .)

Gars are distinguished by their slender cylindrical bodies, their thin, long jaws which are produced forward into a beak, and by the more or less diamond-shaped scales that cover the body. The jaws are armed with sharp teeth.

Longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus) is the accepted common name of the fish but billfish and gar pike are also used. It has a very elongated and subcylindrical body, covered with obliquely and regularly arranged diamond-shaped, hard plates or scales, covered with an enamel-like substance, ganoin.

The body length attained may be five feet, but the average is much less. Three-foot specimens are not uncommon. The jaws are elongated into a beak which is twice the length of the head and provided with several rows of teeth which are exceptionally strong, sharp and conical.

Although extremely variable, the colour is more commonly greenish above, silvery on the sides and whitish below. The body and fins have large black spots or blotches, and young individuals have a blackish lateral band. The skeleton of the fish is partly cartilage and partly bone.

The longnose gar ranges from Montana eastward through the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes, from the head of Lake Huron to the St. Lawrence River below
Quebec. lt occurs, also, in Lake Simcoe, Lake Nipissing, the Ottawa River to Lake Champlain, southward to the Atlantic coastal plain to Florida, and in the Mississippi Valley to north Mexico and Alabama

Longnose Gar Range

The spotted gar (L. producrus), which differs chiefly from the longnose gar in the length of the jaw, occurs in Lake Erie and is essentially a southern species.

The longnose gar is found generally in warm, quiet areas of larger bodies of water. Habitat requirements may have prevented their penetration into northern rivers and lakes. The waters of the Mississippi Valley are believed to have been the source of the population of this species.

They may be observed floating like sticks near the surface of the water on warm days or nights. This is a useful form of mimicry by means of which they may drift towards their prey. They are sluggish in their habits except when feeding, when they move swiftly to capture their prey.

They possess gills but, because of the fact that the air bladder is connected with the pharynx, it may be used as a lung, and they can rise to the surface to expel air from the air bladder and take in a fresh supply. The ability to use atmospheric air in this way enables the fish to live in waters of low oxygen content.

The longnose gar spawns in late spring or in early summer; they appear in large schools in a suitable spawning area, in close formation in order to en-sure fertilization of the eggs. They have polygamous procreating habits. The spawn is deposited in shallow, weedy- bays, usually on submerged vegetation or aquatic plant roots.

Port Loring Cottages 


Ontario Fishing Magazine

Longnose Gar

Longnose Gar Pike

Glen Hales and Ari Vineberg
(photos by Nick Benidt)

Longnose Gar Ontario
photo by Dustin Boczek