The longnose gar is recognizable by its elongated snout. It makes area rivers its home during spawning season.
TONTOGANY -- While the prized walleye is the poster boy of the spring spawning runs on area rivers, there are a whole lot of other fish using those waterways for the propagation of the species.
A large run of white bass usually follows right on the heels of the walleyes and also draws significant crowds of fishermen, but for the many other finned visitors and year-round residents of the Maumee, Sandusky, and Portage rivers, obscurity prevails.
On a recent stop at the Weirs Rapids public fishing access near here, Jim Wolfe of Holland witnessed one of the Maumee's least attractive inhabitants -- the longnose gar -- gathering for its spawning ritual.
Normally, the serious river fisherman might catch an occasional glimpse of a longnose gar shooting by, but the clusters of 30, 50, or more of the fish are unique to their spawning season, which usually occurs in late May and early June.
When he happened upon the group of gar in shallow water in the Maumee, just 15 feet offshore, Wolfe brought his wife, Jackie, back to see the odd-looking fish, with its narrow snout and long, cylinder-shaped body.
"It was really unusual to see that many big fish so close to shore," Jackie Wolfe said about the gathering of gar, which seek out faster water and riffles during their spawning season . "It was like watching one of those outdoors shows on TV."
The cluster of fish was located just upstream from Indian Island, where the Maumee runs wide and flat for a stretch, and below where the river takes a sharp, right-angle bend to the south.
The Weirs Rapids access, maintained by the Ohio Division of Wildlife, is on Range Line Road, off State Route 65. It has a paved parking area and is popular among spring walleye and white bass fishermen, and summer anglers in pursuit of catfish and smallmouth bass.
The longnose gar the Wolfe's observed in the Maumee inhabit the drainages of both Lake Erie and the Ohio River, and normally prefer the quiet, slower water stretches of the streams. They have an air bladder and will occasionally poke the tip of their beak out of the water and grab a gulp of air. The gar also have functioning gills.
"I've fished that river for 34 years and never caught one," Jim Wolfe said. "And that's the first time I've ever seen them grouping up like that in the spring. I've lived here all of my life, and that was something new."
Jeff Tyson, the fisheries biologist supervisor for the Ohio Division of Wildlife's Lake Erie Fisheries Research Unit in Sandusky said the longnose gar is one of just two species of gar native to Ohio and is much more common than the other species, the spotted gar.
"They are just one of a number of different species, both resident fish and fish that move up these waters from Lake Erie, that use the rivers for spawning," he said. "The walleye come in fairly early, and there's a lot of attention paid to that, but as the water warms, more and more species of fish will be spawning in the rivers."
The female gar lays about 30,000 eggs, which are sticky and attach to rocks or plants in the water. Once fertilized, the eggs hatch in around a week. In the first year, the longnose gar will reach a foot or more in length.
Common carp, buffalo sucker, and quillback carpsuckers make the river their spawning grounds, as do the long list of resident species such as crappies, flathead and channel catfish, smallmouth bass, and other varieties of suckers.
SAFE BOATING COURSES: The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is offering a series of seminars at the Bass Pro in Rossford, focused on safe boating practices. On June 3rd from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., the "Suddenly In Command" session will address what to do in the event the boat operator is unable to be in command.
The June 13th hour-long event starts at 6 p.m. and is called "Personal Watercraft Course." Successful completion will earn each enrollee a PWC operator card. On June 15th from 1 to 4 p.m. "Navigating with GPS" will take place, while on August 12th from 1 to 5 p.m. "How to read Nautical Charts" prepares boaters for those times when GPS is not available and also covers navigational aids.
On the last Saturday in June, July, and August, kids boating programs prevail. The 10 a.m. session each Saturday is geared for children up to and including third grade level, with "Boating Fun-Adventure on the Water," while the 11 a.m. session targets grades 4-6 with more detailed boating safety discussions.
Registration and information on the fees involved with the adult classes is available by contacting Cathie Slabaugh at 419-283-7297 or at email@example.com, or Patty Jo Fatooz at Bass Pro at 419-891-3917 or PJFantozz@basspro.com via email.
Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6068.
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