The Spotted Gar is a primitive freshwater fish of the family Lepisosteidae. They are notable for being one of the few extant fish species with ganoid scales. They have been known to hybridize with (and look similar to) Florida Gar. It occurs in quiet, clear pools and backwaters of lowland creeks, small to large rivers, oxbow lakes, swamps, and sloughs. It occasionally enters brackish waters. The fish is a voracious predator, feeding on various kinds of fishes and crustaceans. The lifespan for Spotted Gar varies between males and females. The maximum lifespan for a gar is 18 years. Males mature at the age of two or three, whereas females mature at three or four years old. Females on average are known to be larger and live longer than the males. Females also have less annual mortality rates.
Spotted Gar are long and cylindrical with elongated mouths. Spotted gar grow up to 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, diamond-shaped scales. Spotted Gar may be distinguished from other species by the dark roundish spots on the top of the head, the pectoral fins and on the pelvic fins.
The Spotted Gar 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 Spotted Gar that hit. Because of their relative ease of hooking, an angler can use many techniques to land these Spotted Gar. Easily the best lure for Spotted Gar is the Lambo Lure Spinner. It is the only lure made specifically for these fish. Other lures get caught up in the teeth preventing a strong hookset. The Lambo Lure is smooth; the only thing that sticks in the gar are the premium treble hooks. Other in-line spinners like Panther Martin, Mepps, Rooster Tail, and Blue Fox can also be used, but change the standard hooks to premium.
In most conditions, a Spotted 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 or a similar sized piece of cut bait on a #4 treble with a #4 treble stinger hook. If weeds are thick, 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 Spotted 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.
The Spotted Gar is native to North America and its current range is from southern Ontario to the west from the Nueces River in Texas east to the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico and southeast to the lower Apalachicola River in Florida. The Spotted Gar population is small in the north and is being threatened in Lake Erie by the destruction of their habitat and pollution. The Spotted Gar is more common in the southern waters like the Mississippi River basin from southern Minnesota to Alabama and western Florida currently. Historical records indicate the Spotted Gar resided in the Thames and Sydenham Rivers in Ontario, Canada. Also, the fish was once common in Illinois in the Green and Illinois Rivers to the swamps in Union County; though sporadic, the population has dwindled in these water systems because of the loss of specific habitat they need to live, clear pools with aquatic vegetation.