Shortnose Gar fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
Gar are ancient fish, little changed since the days of the dinosaur. An inhabitant of warm, quiet waters, the gar is known for its sharp teeth and aggressive nature. As with alligator gar, shortnose gar may be captured by entangling the teeth in nylon threads or by bowfishing. Shortnose gar up to five pounds have been brought in by anglers. In addition to breathing through gills, gar can also take in oxygen by swimming to the surface and gulping air into their swim bladders. This ability to "breathe" means they can survive in water that has almost no oxygen. They can even live out of water for many hours, as long as their bodies stay moist.
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 Shortnose Gar - Lepisosteus platostomus, also known as Billy Gar, Short-billed Gar, Stub-nose Gar, gar, gar-pike, billygar, billfish, duck-billed gar, is a primitive freshwater fish of the family Lepisosteidae. Shortnose gar are present in the Mississippi River system, ranging from the Gulf Coast as far north as Montana in the west, and the Ohio River in the east. In Texas, shortnose gar may be found in the Red River basin below Lake Texoma. The shortnose gar is widely distributed throughout North America within the Missouri and Mississippi River system. The gar family as a whole ranges from southern Canada to as far south as Central America.
Shortnose gar can be discerned from other gar species in that they lack the upper jaw of the alligator gar, the long snout of the longnose gar, and the markings of the spotted gar.
This fish is cylindrically shaped, with an elongated bony head and snout containing one row of sharp, conical teeth. The dorsal fin is located far back on body and the pectoral and pelvic fins have no spots. The skin is covered with diamond shaped ganoid scales arranged in oblique rows, providing a very protective surface armor. They have 60-64 scales along the lateral line. There are usually no dark spots on the head or snout, but where encountered in clear water dark spots are evident. The beak is much broader and shorter than that of the longnose gar.
Color varies from brownish or olive green on the dorsal surface lightening to yellow on the sides and silvery to white on the belly. Young gar less than 10 inches in length process a black stripe along the midline. Shortnose gar may reach a size and weight of about 31 inches and about 3.5 pounds.
Shortnose gar Inhabit quiet pools and backwaters of creeks and small to large rivers, swamps, lakes and overflow areas of large streams. Often occur near vegetation and submerged logs. They prefer warm water with the optimum temperature ranging from 86 to 95 °F. It has a higher tolerance to turbid water than the other four gar species found in North America.
The diet of the shortnose gar is primarily composed of fish. However, crayfish and insects are also utilized. Young gar are feeding on small insects and zooplankton, with fish entering the diet when gar are 1.25 inches in length. Gar is known as fierce predators of smaller fish using ambush as a primary hunting technique.
Shortnose gar spawning activity occur in spring from May into July as water temperatures reach the 60-70 degrees F. Shortnose gar become sexually mature at three years of age when fish reach about 15 to 19 inches in length. Females are often accompanied by more than one male. A 9-pound female will produce about 34,000 eggs. Adhesive eggs are deposited in quiet, shallow water over aquatic plants or other submerged objects. A sticky, gelatinous adhesive holds clumps of yellowish-bright green eggs to the vegetation. Gar eggs are poisonous to mammals.
After 8 to 9 days the hatching occurs. The fry remain in the yolk-sac phase for another week, at which time they begin to feed on insect larvae and small crustaceans. At little over an inch in length, fish appear in the diet. Young become active (and feed) about seven days after hatching. 16 days after hatching, the young start feeding on micro-invertebrates and mosquito larvae. Growth during the first year is very rapid with lengths up to 16 inches being attained at age 1. The young lead solitary lives floating near the surface. Shortnose gar are more tolerant of high turbidity than other gar species.
They seem to be most common in shallow water. Look for them by dams near shore.
One decent way to target them is casting free-line dead bait (no weight) and working shallow surface water.
If angling for gar, a small circle-style hook should be used, allowing the gar several minutes with it. The circle hook will prevent any serious injury to the gar, as it is designed to catch only in the corner of the mouth. The fish are known as nocturnal feeders in some waters, so anglers should be prepared to angle for them in the twilight.
Because of their unique, slender snout, longnose are pound-for-pound the most difficult gar to hook. It was these gar that spurred early anglers to develop bizarre methods to catch them. The most common methods are the nylon rope lure and live baiting.
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. 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. If weeds are thick, use a 1/0 single and a 1/0 stinger other case use a rig a 4”-5” shiner (live or dead) or a similar sized piece of cut bait on a #4 treble with a #4 treble stinger hook. 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 the him run. Let the gar for at least a minute then reel in slack and set the hooks hard.