Elongated fish with long snouts

Alligator Gar Alligator Gar
Lepisosteus spatula


They are one of the most distinctive freshwater fish species. Alligator gars are the largest of all gar species with a head that looks very much like an alligator's. They can be distinguished from all other gars species by the two rows of teeth in the upper jaw, their short-broader snout, and their size when fully grown. The body is long, slender, and olive or greenish brown (sometimes black) along the back. The dorsal surface of the alligator gar is a brown or olive-color, while the ventral surface tends to be a lighter color. The sides are mottled toward the head with large black spots toward the rear and on the rear fins. The young have a light stripe along their back from tip of snout to upper base of caudal fin. Unlike other gars, the mature alligator gar possesses a dual row of large teeth in the upper jaw. It is these remarkably alligator-like teeth which gives it its name.


The roe (eggs) of the Alligator Gar are considered poisonous.


They inhabit sluggish pools and backwaters of large rivers, bayous and lakes. They rarely are found in brackish or salt water. Though the alligator gar prefers slow-moving waters, it appears to need running water in order to spawn. Spawning occurs in May-Aug, when the fish deposit their eggs in shallow water. The female swims up stream with an escourt of 2 or more males. They are one of the monsters of fresh waters.

Alligator Gar - Moon Lake, Mississippi. March 1910,
Alligator Gar


Alligator gar are found in the southeastern United States: Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina. They have also been known occasionally to come as far north as central Kansas, off the Republican River and up into Clarks Creek. They inhabit sluggish pools and backwaters or large rivers, bayous, and lakes. They are rarely found in brackish or saltwater, but are more adaptable to the latter than are other gars.


They can reach lengths of up to 10 feet and weights of more than 200 pounds. Because of their huge size and great strength, alligator gars are popular with anglers. Their scales are diamond-shaped and interlocking (ganoid) and were once used by Native Americans for jewelry. They are edible, but are not highly rated by most people. As with other gars, the roe is toxic. The world record is 279.00 pounds, caught in the Rio Grande River, Texas, in 1951. Even larger alligator gars — over 300 pounds — have been caught by trotliners.