Gars are a primitive fish easily identified by their long, narrow jaws with ample sharp teeth, cylindrical bodies, hinged, non-overlapping bony scales, and the extension of their backbone into the upper lobe of their caudal fin. Their internal anatomy is also distinctive with several unique characteristics. The family occurs in eastern North America and on Cuba although fossils have been found globally. One species is present in New York, although there are reports of a second species, which has been extirpated. Although not uncommon and reported from most New York drainages, distribution within the state is spotty. Gars typically are found in slow-water habitats in lakes and streams and are often associated with emergent aquatic vegetation. The longnose gar is native to the Mississippi and Saint Lawrence drainages, but has been introduced into other drainages in the state.
Longnose Gar occurs in warm lowland lakes and rivers. It is often associated with sluggish water and emergent vegetation; spawning occurs in current. It is native to ten watersheds and nonnative in two. Its native range includes the Great Lakes watersheds and Chautauqua Lake of the Allegheny. Recent records suggest that it is increasing in abundance.