Atractosteus Spatula



Inland, Nearshore

100 - 160 pounds

48" - 120"

Alligator Gar 

Also Known As: Gemfish  

Guides Who Fish This Species

Alligator Gar (Atractosteus Spatula) Description

The Alligator Gar resembles its namesake, the alligator. With long bodies and a jawline full of sharp teeth, they look like the tenacious alligator but actually are fairly passive when it comes to humans. The Alligator Gar is one of the largest freshwater fish in North America and the largest in the gar family. Their prehistoric look gives them their accurate nickname ‘primitive fish,’ since they keep certain characteristics of their earliest ancestors. 

The Alligator Gar is a ray-finned euryhaline fish that typically reaches around 4 - 6 feet in length and around 100 -160 pounds. They have elongated snouts with a lining of razor-sharp teeth. These fish are typically brown or olive-colored while fading to a gray or yellow on their stomach. Unlike other fish, Alligator Gar have rhomboid ganoid scales that resemble bones, kind of like dinosaurs. Ganoid scales are incredibly strong armor, giving them an advantage in their defense against predators.

Interesting Facts

 The alligator gar has a similar digestive system to sharks, leveraging a spiral valve intestine, a more ancient fish characteristic before years of evolution. 

Alligator Gar can breathe in water as well as above water, allowing them to prey on anything from small fish to even birds, small mammals, and reptiles above the water.

Distribution and Habitat 

Alligator Gar United States Heatmap

Over the years, the Alligator Gar’s habitat has diminished due to habitat destruction, segregation, and unrestricted harvests. Today, they primarily reside in the southern portions of the United States. They are typically found inshore of lakes, rivers, bayous, and backwaters in the states of Mississippi, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. While there have been reports of Alligator Gar as far north as Nebraska, those are rare and have not been confirmed in quite some time.


Fishing Techniques - How to Catch Alligator Gar 

Catching an Alligator Gar ain't easy. There are a variety of techniques and methods to catch one. Methods include legal bow fishing, rod-and-reel, and passive gear such as juglines, limblines, and trotlines. Bowfishing is regulated as a lethal method to catch these fish in most states, however,  once a gar is shot with an arrow, it cannot be released.

Even though the Gar spawns in brackish waters in spring, the best time for hunting them is in late summer in hot and dry weather.  They can be found in deep river bends adjacent to shallow pools.

The best bait to use is common carp, smallmouth buffalo, gizzard shad, and mullet and shiners. Rig them on a 5/0 to 6/0 treble hook tied 6 inches below a bright-colored 4-inch in diameter bobber.

It is illegal to keep an Alligator Gar.