What Kind of Gar Is It?

Garfish of four varieties are common in Texas waters, but not all waters produce every kind of gar.

Alligator garfish are protected with a daily bag limit of one fish and a provision in state regulation to close certain areas when optimal spawning periods occur.

The following notes are from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s garfish profiles.

Gars are easily distinguished from other freshwater species by their long, slender, cylindrical bodies, long snouts, and diamond-shaped interlocking (ganoid) scales. The tail fin is rounded. Dorsal and anal fins are placed well back on the body and nearly opposite each other.

Alligator Gar (Photo Courtesy of TPWD)

Alligator gar is the largest of the gar species. It can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh more than 300 pounds. Adults have two rows of large teeth on either side of the upper jaw. Coloration is generally brown or olive above and lighter underneath. The species name spatula is Latin for “spoon”, referring to the creature’s broad snout.

Spotted Gar (Photo Courtesy of TPWD)

Spotted gar grow to a length of 3 feet (0.9 m), weighing 8 pounds (3.6 kg). 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. 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.

Shortnose Gar (Photo Courtesy of TPWD)

Lepisosteus is Greek, meaning “bony scale”, and platostomus is also Greek, meaning “broad mouth.” Shortnose gar may be distinguished from other Texas species in that they lack the double row of teeth in the upper jaw of the alligator gar, the long snout of the longnose gar, and the spots of the spotted gar.

Longnose Gar (Photo Courtesy of TPWD)

Longnose gar are distinguished from other gar species found in Texas by the long snout whose length is at least 10 times the minimum width.

Story by Chester Moore Jr.


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