Spotted Gar

Lepisosteus oculatus

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

This species has been identified as Threatened by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). It is listed under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) and is afforded protection under the SARA. Additional protection is afforded through the federal Fisheries Act. Under the SARA, a recovery strategy must be developed for this species.

General Description

The Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) is a member of the Gar family (Lepisosteidae) and has the following characteristics:

  • Streamlined, with a long, cylindrical body, usually 28 to 60 cm in length but can grow to over 1 m;
  • Beak-like mouth with sharp teeth;
  • Snout broader and shorter than Longnose Gar;
  • Dorsal portion of the body is olive brown and ventral portion is grey; adults are generally dark brown with darker spots; and
  • Distinctive spotting on the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the head, body and fins.

Distribution

In Ontario, the Spotted Gar is mainly found at three sites in Lake Erie: Long Point Bay, Point Pelee and Rondeau Bay. There are historical records from the Thames and Sydenham rivers, and also one record from the Bay of Quinte in Lake Ontario, which may represent an introduction. Populations in these areas are extremely small.

Habitat and Life History

The Spotted Gar usually lives in quiet, clear pools and backwaters of creeks, rivers and lakes with abundant aquatic vegetation. In spring, adults move to shallow, heavily vegetated waters to breed. Spawning occurs in late spring/early summer among rooted vegetation and weed beds. Males become sexually mature at two to three years, and females at three to four years.

Diet

Spotted Gar feed on small fishes such as minnows and yellow perch.

Threats

It is likely that the Spotted Gar was never common in Ontario since this is the northern limit of its range. Pollution and destruction of the shallow, weedy bays required for breeding is a threat to this species in Ontario. As this fish is so uncommon, there have been no reports of capture by anglers in Canada.

Similar Species

Shortnose Gar (Lepisosteus platostomus) (not yet found in Canada) and Longnose Gar (Lepisosteus osseus) differ in scale counts and width of snout, and spots are mainly limited to the fins and posterior half of the body. A common aquarium species, the Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus), also looks similar but has a shorter snout than the Spotted Gar and the distance between the eye and the gill cover is less than two-thirds the length of the snout.

Text Sources: Campbell 1994; Scott and Crossman 1998.

For more information, visit the SARA Registry.

Spotted Gar

Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus) (© J. R. Tomelleri)

Lepisosteus oculatus - © J. R. Tomelleri

Scientific name: Lepisosteus oculatus
Taxonomy: Fishes (freshwater)
SARA Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
Region: Ontario

Spotted Gar Distribution: Current and Historical Records as described in the following paragraph

Spotted Gar Distribution: Current and Historical Records

Did You Know?

Although it is a fish and breathes dissolved oxygen through gills, the spotted gar also has what is known as an ‘air bladder.’ This is an air-filled structure rich in blood vessels that is used like a lung. The bladder enables gars to come to the surface and breathe air.

Spotted Gar (Photo Credit: W.R. Glass)

Photo Credit: W.R. Glass

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