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Spotted Gar fish identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.

The spotted gar is one of three gar species, very primitive fish and date back to the Cretaceous period, some 65 to 100 million years ago. The ancestors of spotted gar swam with the dinosaurs! A large gar can eat a lot of fish, including catfish, causing them to compete with some anglers. The spotted gar is very similar to the shortnose but has well-defined round black spots on top of the head, snout and body. It seldom exceeds three feet long and 8 pounds in weight. This gar prefers quiet, clear waters with heavy aquatic vegetation or standing timber and is most common in the lowland streams of eastern, central and southern Arkansas.
    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.

Spotted Gar Fishing The Spotted Gar - Lepisosteus oculatus, also known as gar, garfish, Florida gar is a primitive freshwater fish of the family Lepisosteidae, native to North America from the Lake Erie and southern Lake Michigan drainages south through the Mississippi River basin to Gulf Slope drainages, from lower Apalachicola and Ochlockonee River in Florida to Nueces River in Texas.

    They have been known to hybridize with Florida gars, which is why they are almost identical to Florida gars. Both are the only two gars that have dark spots on the on the body, top of the head and on all the fins. They can be distinguished by the distance between the front of the eye and the rear edge of the gill cover. The Spotter Gar have the distance more than 2/3 the length of the snout while the Florida Gar have distance less than 2/3 the length of the snout. Spotted gar has a single row of teeth in each jaw and has a much broader snout than that of the Longnose Gar.
    Gar are long and cylindrical with elongated mouths. Spotted gar grow to a length of 3 feet (0.9 m), weighing 8 lbs (3.6 kg). Growth is very rapid during the first year. They reach a maximum length of up to four feet. The long-lived gar has a life span up to 18 years. The coloration generally is darker than that of Florida gars, some fish being almost black, depending on the color of the water. Their upper body is brown to olive, and they have silver-white sides. Head, body, and fins have olive-brown to black spots that help camouflage the fish. A broad, dark stripe is on the sides of immature fish. Their long, snout-like mouth is lined with strong, sharp teeth, and their body is covered with thick, ganoid (diamond-shaped) scales.

    They prefer quiet, clear pools and backwaters of lowland creeks, small to large rivers, oxbow lakes, swamps and sloughs. It occasionally enters brackish salt waters along the Gulf Coast. The fish is a voracious predator feeding on various kinds of fishes and crustaceans. They are notable for being one of the few extant fish species with ganoid scales. They also use an air bladder to breathe air in oxygen depleted water. Young fish feed on zooplankton, small insect larvae and tiny fish larvae. Adult fish primarily feed on fish and crustaceans.
    They occur in backwater areas of rivers, lakes and wetlands. Like other gar species, it is tolerant of warm water with low dissolved oxygen levels. Gar move slowly unless trying to catch food, which it grabs in its jaws in a quick sideways lunge. They often bask near the water's surface on warm days. Fry feed primarily on insect larvae and tiny crustaceans, but fish appear on the diet of young gar very early. Prey is usually swallowed headfirst.
    They occur near shore, small, medium or large lakes, cool and warm medium or large rivers, with slow or moderate gradient.
    Gars are often seen basking just below the surface of the water in calm, weedy areas. At the surface of the water, they open and close their jaws, taking air in through their mouths. This enables them to exchange the air in their swim bladder, which is directly connected to their throat, for fresh air. Because their swim bladders are inundated with blood vessels, they function very similarly to the lungs of air-breathing animals, and allow gars to live in habitats with low levels of oxygen.

    Males are sexually mature in 2-3 years, and females in 3-4 years. They spawn in shallow water with low flow and heavy vegetation. Several males court a single larger female at the same time. Spawning season is in the late spring or early summer from April to May. The number of eggs varies greatly, but up to about 20,000 green, adhesive eggs. The adhesive eggs are dispersed in the water, attach to aquatic vegetation and hatch within six-to-eight days.
    Fry hatch after 10 to 14 days. Growth is rapid in the first year of life, with young spotted gar reaching a length of 10 inches after the first year. Young gar have specialized pads (a disk-like organ) on their upper jaws that allow them to adhere to vegetation. The organ subsequently is lost as the fish develops into an adult. They remain attached to plants until they are about 0.75 inches (2cm) long. The pad is lost when last of the yolk sac is absorbed.
    The spotted gar eats small crustaceans as a juvenile, but its diet quickly changes to fish as it matures. Gar are stalkers, slowly following behind prey, until they rapidly strike at the prey from the side. Gars initially grip the prey with their sharp teeth in a sideways fashion. After the prey ceases to struggle, the gar turns it in the jaw and swallows the prey headfirst.

Fishing Methods.
    They can be caught on a variety of artificial lures; however, dead minnows on a line fished just below the surface are quite effective. Wire leaders prevent the sharp teeth from cutting the line.
    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.
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