Longnose gar
Lepisosteus osseus (Linnaeus, 1758)

member of the Gar Family (Lepisosteidae)

St. Croix River, Chisago County, Minnesota 12 June 1987

young of the year.

recently hatch embryo with adhesive organ on snout

photos by Konrad P. Schmidt












What's In a Name?
Longnose gar: "long nose" refers to the size of the snout compared to the shortnose gar; "gar" is an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning "spear", in reference to the pointed snout

Lepisosteus (leh-pee-sauce´-tay-us) means "scales of bone" in Greek
osseus (ahs´-say-us)
means "bony" in Latin



Where Do They Live?
The distribution for the longnose gar in Minnesota is limited because of its preference for warmer water. It lives in the lower Mississippi, St. Croix, and Minnesota rivers and some of their tributaries. There is a record from 1893 in the Red River drainage, but no gar have been found there since then. The longnose gar lives in large rivers that have backwaters with little to no current and in weedy, floodplain lakes.

"Cool Fact": By gulping air at the surface, gar can live in hot, shallow water where most other fish cannot (because there isn't enough oxygen in it).



How Big Do They Get?
How Long Do They Live?
Like paddlefish, gars grow very rapidly early in their lives. In southern United States there are records of them reaching almost 500 mm (20 in) in their first year of life. In Minnesota, 1-year old longnose gars are more like 150-200 mm (6-8 in) long. Large adults easily grow to 1 m (a little over 3 ft) or more. They can weigh 3-4.5 kg (6.6-10 lbs). The Minnesota state record for this tremendous fish is 7.6 kg (16 lbs 12 oz). It was caught in the St. Croix River in Washington County. Female longnose gars grow faster, reach larger sizes, and have a longer life span than the males. Longnose gar can live for a long time. Twenty years is not unusual, and the record is 32!

    What Do They Eat?
Except for the first few weeks of their existence (when they eat copepods and waterfleas), longnose gar are definitely piscivores (fish-eaters). They eat fish of all sizes and all kinds. Often gar will lie near the surface of the water barely moving and wait for schools of small fish to swim by. With a quick sideways snap of the head, a gar grabs one or more fish in its long, many-toothed jaws. Gar also catch their prey by swimming up along side of them. The following is a short list of fishes found in longnose gar stomachs: carp, brook silversides, many minnow species, bluegill, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, cisco, yellow perch, walleye, and other gar.

What Eats Them?
Because longnose gar grow very rapidly and are protected by heavy-duty scales, they are not normally preyed upon by other fishes. As a young fish, their main predators are other gars. Humans do not eat this poor tasting fish. It eggs are even said to be poisonous.


How Do They Reproduce?
Female longnose gar can be mature at 4 years old, males at 3. Their spawning season in Minnesota is probably late May into June when water temperatures are 19° C (67° F) or more. Both sexes migrate into smaller tributaries if possible; otherwise they use shallow, weedy waters of lakes. In tributaries, they seek out weed beds over a gravel bottom. The female swims over the spawning site and is followed by up to 15 males. She comes to rest with her head tilted down and the males move along side of her. She vibrates and releases her eggs and the males fertilize them. Once they are done the group of gars move away from the site, possibly to find another one, and the process begins again until the female has deposited all her eggs. A single female may lay 4,000-60,000 eggs, depending on her size and age.

The eggs (embryos actually) hatch in about a week and attach themselves to a rock, log, or plant using a small disc on their snouts. Once their mouth and digestive tracts are developed enough, they release and begin feeding.


Conservation and Management
Longnose gars have no special conservation status in Minnesota and are not managed as a sportfish. Very few humans angle for this fish, but it is a great challenge to hook and land.




Permission is granted for the non-commercial educational or scientific use of the text and images on this Web document. Please credit the author or authors listed below.

Photographs by Konrad P. Schmidt
Text by Nicole Paulson & Jay T. Hatch in cooperation with
the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' MinnAqua Aquatic Program

This page developed with funds from the
MinnAqua Program
(Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fisheries)
and the
Sport Fish Restoration Program (Fish and Wildlife Service, US Department of the Interior)

Maintained by Jay T. Hatch
General College and James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History
University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul

Last updated 04 February 2002