How to identify a Florida Gar
Like the spotted gar, the Florida gar has spots on top of the head a well as over the entire body and on all the fins. Other gars have spots on the fins and usually on the posterior part of the body only. The gar's body is covered with enamel-hard, diamond-shaped plates called ganoid scales. The Florida and spotted gars can be distinguished from each other mainly by the distance from the front of the eye to the back of the gill cover. In the Florida gar, the distance is less than 2/3 the length of the snout, and in the spotted gar it is more than 2/3 the snout length. The only other gar that is known to occur within the Florida gar’s range is the longnose gar which is found throughout much of the eastern half of the United States, including Florida, at least as far south as Lake Okeechobee. The longnose gar, however, lacks spots on top of its head and its beak is 18-20 times as long as it is wide (at the narrowest point), while the Florida gar’s beak is probably less than 5 ½ times as long as it is wide.
Where to catch Florida Gar
The Florida gar can be found throughout peninsular Florida and in the panhandle as far as the Apalachicola River drainage, where there is evidence that it may hybridize with the spotted gar, its closest relative. The Florida gar also occurs through part of southern Georgia to the Savannah River drainage. Further beyond this species’ western limits, the Florida gar is replaced by the spotted gar and the only overlapping territory for these two species is in the Apalachicola drainage. The Florida gar is relatively common in medium to large lowland streams and lakes with mud or sand bottoms and an abundance of underwater vegetation. It is also abundant in canals throughout Florida. The following list includes additional details on where to catch this fish: