Florida Gar fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
Florida gars can reach a length of over 3 feet (132 cm). Females grow faster, bigger, and live longer than males and can attain lengths in excess of 3 feet. This species is able to tolerate greater salinities that other gar species and feeds heavily on marine catfish when they are available. The Florida Gar can survive up to two hours above water.
A combination of understanding the fish and the techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish to the end of your line. Better knowing and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fishing for trout on a river or surfing on the beach or trolling on the open water.
The Florida Gar - Lepisosteus platyrhincus, also known as gar, garfish, spotted gar, is a species of gar that is found in the USA from the Savannah River and Ochlockonee River drainage of Florida and Georgia, southward through peninsular Florida and northward to Savannah River drainage, Georgia. They often congregate in spring-fed rivers of Florida.
The gar's body is covered with hard, diamond-shaped, interlocking plates called ganoid scales, as well as bowfins, paddlefishes, and sturgeons. Each scale consists of a bony base layer and an outer layer which is an inorganic bone salt. The ganoid scales are "armored" protection against predators. The Florida gars are distinguished from spotted gars mainly by the snout length. The distance from the front of the eye to the back of the gill cover is less than 2/3 the length of the snout in the Florida gar, while it is more than 2/3 of the length in the spotted gar.
The snout is elongated, with the nostrils located at the tip and a single row of irregularly spaced sharp teeth on both upper and lower jaws and no bony scales on the throat. The gar breathes with its gills and with its special lung-like air bladder. Due to the highly vascularised air bladder that is connected to its throat, the gar may survive in hot, stagnant waters that might not have sufficient oxygen for most other species of fish.
Florida gars have irregular round, black spots on the top of the head and over the entire body and fins. Other gars, except for spotted gars, have spots on the fins and usually on the posterior part of the body. Their coloration is olive-brown along the back and upper sides with a white-to-yellow belly. The young may have dark stripes along back and sides.
Florida gars are common in medium to large lowland streams, canals, and lakes with mud or sand bottoms and an abundance of underwater vegetation. They often congregate in spring-fed rivers of Florida. This is in contrast to their close relative, the Longnose gar that often cruise open water. Like all gars, they use an air bladder to breathe air to survive in poorly oxygenated water.
Young Florida gars feed on zooplankton, insect larvae and small fish. Adults feed primarily on fish, along with some crustaceans and insects. The gar floats silently near the surface of the water, disguised as a stick or log. When it comes upon a fish, it propels itself slowly forward with a flick of its fins. Once into position the gar snaps its head sideways and secures the prey with its sharp teeth, then it slowly repositions the fish so that it can be swallowed headfirst.
Florida gar spawn mostly in late winter and early spring, during the months of April and May, until October. Groups of fish of both sexes congregate in shallow weedy waters where the females discharge their adhesive eggs among the submerged aquatic plants. Nests are not built; instead the female spawns by distributing her adhesive eggs in shallow pools, weedy backwaters, or shallow riffles. The eggs are greenish-colored and are fertilized by two or more attending males.
The newly hatched young have an adhesive disc on the front of their blunt snout, which it uses to attach itself to gravel or vegetation until reaching an approximate length of ¾ inches. As a juvenile, the gar has a fragile fin that extends along the upper edge of the tail and vibrates constantly. The fin is lost during the first year of life.
Still fishing is the main fishing techniques. The Florida gar is not normally considered a sport fish but it commonly takes a hook and produces a worthy fight on light tackle. The gar's sharp teeth and bony jaws often force anglers to opt to use a wire leader while using shredded nylon floss to entangle the gar's teeth. Another fishing method uses a baited wire noose that is pulled tight over the jaws once the gar has nosed its way towards the bait. They can be taken with minnows and artificial lures or during daylight by spearing (although not by spear gun) and snagging them with treble hooks. They are popular with bow-fishermen and anglers using frayed nylon cord as a lure snag, which entangles the gars teeth.
All three gar, shortnose, spotted, and Florida, are relatively easy to catch. Their snouts are wide and therefore provide more of a target to sink a hook. Even with the best techniques, you will miss some of the gar that hit, but they are much more forgiving than the giant alligators or the tricky longnose.
Because of their relative ease of hooking, an angler can use many techniques to land these gar. In most conditions, a gar angler can use lures to land these gar, but during the colder times of the season, after cold fronts, or when the gar are buried in thick weeds live bait may be preferred. Rig a 4”-5” shiner (live or dead). In thick weeds it is better to use a 1/0 single and a 1/0 stinger. Cast and use a slow stop-and-go retrieve holding your rod tip up high. When a gar takes, drop the rod tip to give slack and open your bail to let him run. Let the gar for at least a minute then reel in slack and set the hooks hard.