Species At Risk

Spotted Gar

(Lepisosteus oculatus)


Spotted Gar
Spotted Gar occurrences map


The Spotted Gar has a long, streamlined body. In Ontario, it usually grows to a length of 50 centimetres, but has been known to reach more than 75 centimetres. It has a long beak-like mouth packed with sharp teeth. The body and head are olive or brownish-coloured and covered with dark spots. Its fins are also spotted and it has an olive-grey belly. The Spotted Gar is similar in appearance to the more common longnose gar, but its snout is much shorter and broader.


In Canada, the Spotted Gar is found in a few wetlands along the north shore of Lake Erie and in East Lake off of eastern Lake Ontario. There are historic single records of this species from the Bay of Quinte and from Lake St. Clair at the mouth of the Thames River, but no recent sightings in these areas.


In Ontario, the Spotted Gar lives in calm, clear pools and bays with plenty of aquatic plants. It is usually found in lakes with soft mud bottoms. During the spring breeding season, the adults move to shallow water with lots of aquatic plants, where they mate and lay eggs. The eggs are slightly sticky and attach to aquatic plants. The Spotted Gar feeds on small fishes.


In Ontario, the small remaining populations of Spotted Gar are threatened by pollution and destruction of wetland habitat along the Lake Erie shoreline.


The Spotted Gar is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act and the federal Species at Risk Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Spotted Gar

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Spotted Gar. You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Invasive species seriously threaten many of Ontario’s species at risk. To learn what you can do to help reduce the threat of invasive species, visit: ontario.ca/invasivespecies ; www.invadingspecies.com ; www.ontarioinvasiveplants.ca ; and, www.invasivespecies.gc.ca .
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species at risk recovery.You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Help improve fish habitat and keep Ontario’s water safe and clean by maintaining natural vegetation next to lakes and rivers. There are many things that you can do to help keep pollution and soil from washing into Ontario’s lakes and rivers and you might be eligible for funding assistance. For more information, visit the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association: www.ontariosoilcrop.org.

Did you know?

The Spotted Gar can breathe air! It uses a special organ called a swim bladder like a lung when the fish comes to the surface for a breath of air. This allows the fish to live in areas with little oxygen in the water. Like most fishes, the Spotted Gar also uses gills to breath underwater.

Did you know?

Spotted Gar also use their swim bladders to maintain buoyancy allowing them to float like sticks near the surface of the water and drift toward their prey.

Did you know?

The Spotted Gar is an ambush predator that lies in wait for prey. It can quickly lunge to capture prey using its streamlined body and long skinny snout. Its mouth is packed with sharp teeth for grabbing small fish, such as minnows and yellow perch, which are grabbed, flipped head first and swallowed.

Did you know?

Young Spotted Gar eat mosquito larvae.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.