The spotted gar is one of three gar species native to Texas. They are 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. Because of the competition and because many people think gar are difficult to clean, gar are sometimes called a “trash” fish. This term may not be warranted when you consider that spotted gar, like all native species, have an important role to play in their ecosystem.
Lepisosteus is Greek, meaning “bony scale,” and oculatus is Latin, meaning “provided with eyes.” This last is probably a reference to the many dark spots on the head and body. Spotted gar may be distinguished from other Texas gar species by the dark roundish spots on the top of the head, the pectoral fins and on the pelvic fins.
As with other gar species, spotted gar may be captured by entangling the teeth in nylon threads or by bowfishing. In Texas, bowfishers have landed spotted gar up to 15 pounds.
Little is known about the biology of this huge fish. Alligator gar are usually found in slow sluggish waters, although running water seems to be necessary for spawning. They appear to spawn in the spring beginning sometime in May. Eggs are deposited in shallow water. Young fish may consume insects. Adults feed primarily on fish, but will also take waterfowl. This species is able to tolerate greater salinities that other gar species and feeds heavily onmarine catfish when they are available.
Spotted gar are found from central Texas east into western Florida. The species range extends north through the Missisippi River drainage into Illinois and the lower Ohio River. Populations also occur in the Lake Erie drainage.