SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lepisosteus oculatus
CHARACTERISTICS: A spotted gar has from 54 to 58 lateral line scales and 17 to 20 diagonal scale rows, counting obliquely from the anal fin origin upward to the dorsal midline. Predorsal scales generally number from 45 to 54. The head, back, and sides are medium brown with scattered round, darker brown spots. The venter varies from light brown to cream. The fins are light yellow to brown with round brown or black spots.
ADULT SIZE: 2.9 to 3.9 ft (0.9 to 1.2 m). The state angling record (8 lb, 12 oz) was caught in Cotaco Creek, a Tennessee River tributary, in 1987.
DISTRIBUTION: Our sampling efforts, supplemented with data from the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division and Tulane University, indicate that spotted gars are widespread and occasionally abundant in the Mobile basin and larger coastal drainages. We collected this species at 58 stations in the Tennessee River drainage and observed dozens of individuals in Bear Creek in Colbert County on 6 June 1993. The range of the spotted gar will be expanded by future surveys of Alabama’s riverine faunas.
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Our samplings over the past 10 years indicate that this is the most widespread and abundant gar species in Alabama, probably because it is adaptable to a broader range of habitats than other gars. We have collected individuals in rivers and reservoirs, large and small streams, swamps, and oxbow lakes. Unlike longnose gars, which prefer flowing water, spotted gars seem to like areas of little or no current. They are also frequently associated with floating and attached aquatic vegetation and other heavy cover. A spawning aggregation of adults was observed on 18 May 1989 in Hatchet Creek, a major tributary of the Coosa River. Eggs and larvae of this species in Alabama are described by Simon and Tyberghein (1991).
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Winchell described the spotted gar in 1864.
Lepisosteus means bony scale.
Oculatus means eyed, referring to the round spots on the body and fins.
The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.
Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.