Spotted Gar
  • Adult spotted gar.
  • Adult spotted gar.
  • Adult spotted gar.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • Close-up chin: Notice the dark freckling on the chin.
  • Close-up snout: Notice the spots on top of the snout.
  • Close-up head: Notice the spots on the head.
  • The lines are showing the areas where counts of lateral line, predorsal, and transverse scales are made: There are 54-59 lateral line scales, 45-54 predorsal scales, and 17-24 transverse scales.
  • Close-up posterior: Notice the spots on the median fins and the posterior flanks.
  • Side view of a breeding male: Breeding males are much darker.
  • Close-up pelvic fins of a breeding male: Notice the dark pelvic area.
  • Close-up chin of a breeding male: Notice the dark chin pigmentation.
  • Alternative view of a breeding male in a spillway, trying to swim into a lake.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Gars (Lepisosteidae)
Mouth and Snout: Prominent beak-like snout forms mouth, which is terminal to slightly subterminal with numerous small but obvious needle-like teeth. No barbels. Body Pattern: Diffuse black spots on dark gray, brown or olive back and flanks. Spots may be absent and body may show a uniform dark color in turbid or darkly stained waters. Undersides white with dark freckling on chin. Spots on fins. Covered in thick ganoid scales. Body Shape: Snout dorsal-ventrally flattened, but body cylindrical and rigid. Typical adult size is 600-800 mm TL, with a maximum of 1100 mm.
Heterocercal tail, but rounded. Single dorsal fin with no spines, located on the posterior portion of the back. Pelvic fins abdominal. No adipose fin.
Distinguishing Characteristics
Beak-like mouth with numerous sharp teeth, in top view the length from the eyes to the tip is about 5 times the minimum width. Diffuse, dark, eye-sized or larger spots on top of head, snout, and jaw (may be hard to see on head and snout in turbid or stained water). Lateral line scales 54-59, predorsal scales 45-54 (usually less than 50), transverse scale rows on side 17-24 (usually less than 21). See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Males may become very dark, jet black or blue-black.
Upper part of tail has long thin filament. Dark lateral stripe on sides.
None known from Wisconsin.
Compare Similar Species
Gar, LongnoseLonger and narrower, in top view about 15 times as long as wide
Gar, ShortnoseSimilar dimensions
Gar, SpottedBeak-like with numerous sharp teeth, in top view the length from the eyes to tip is about 5 times the minimum width
Body Pattern
Gar, LongnoseNo spots on head or snout, but sometimes a few on jaw
Gar, ShortnoseNo spots on top of head, snout or jaw
Gar, SpottedDiffuse, dark, eye-sized or larger spots on top of head, snout, and jaw
Lateral Line Scales
Gar, Longnose60-66
Gar, Shortnose55-64 (usually more than 58)
Gar, Spotted54-59
Predorsal Scales
Gar, Shortnose45-54 (usually more than 50)
Gar, Spotted45-54 (usually less than 50)
Lamprey, Chestnut47-55
Transverse Scales
Gar, Longnose17-24
Gar, Shortnose20-23
Gar, Spotted17-24 (usually less than 21)
Similarity Index
Gar, LongnoseModerately similar
Gar, ShortnoseVery similar
Gar, SpottedN/A
Gar, SpottedNot known from WI, but included as possible stray. Nearest confirmed record from Mississippi River, pool 13, about 30 km downstream of WI border, where species is rare.