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Shortnose gar illustration

Shortnose Gar

Gar Family: Gar are primitive fish, often referred to as living fossils. Their long bodies are reminiscent of pike when seen near the surface of a quiet Missouri River backwater. Gar have hard, diamond-shaped scales and their long thin jaws have many short, sharp teeth. Gar have the unique ability to breathe atmospheric air by gulping it into their swim bladder, which acts as a primitive lung.

Shortnose Gar Identification

  • Long and slim
  • Hard, diamond-shaped scales
  • Long thin jaws have many short, sharp teeth


This tough, bony fish is seldom taken by anglers, but occasionally by people bowfishing when they find them sunning near the surface.

Long and slim, it grows to about a 30-inch maximum length.

It is armor-plated, large toothed and is an interesting fish that was probably more abundant before the large Missouri River dams were built.

Shortnose gar are the only gar species in North Dakota.