Gar in Montana? Yes, the shortnose gar can be found here.
In the Big Sky state known for blue ribbon trout streams, this warm-water, toothy critter found its own little piece of heaven in "the dredge cuts" adjacent to the Missouri River below Fort Peck Dam. This fish inhabits large and small river systems, including backwaters, oxbow lakes, and large pools—so the dredge cuts are a suitable environment for it.
The shortnose gar is a native of the Missouri and Mississippi river drainages. The population in the Fort Peck Dam dredge cuts, the farthest northwest that this fish has been found, is a species of concern here due to its limited population and range. We have very little information on this one isolated population. FWP has used standard gill net sampling there since 1979, and in that time only three specimens have been captured.
FWP fisheries crews have seen gar on several occasions lurking near the surface of the water waiting for their next meal. Local anglers have employed a variety of techniques to catch the elusive fish, including hook and line, bowfishing or spear.
The shortnose gar is among the smallest members of the gar family, rarely exceeding three to four pounds. That makes it surprising that the Montana state record shortnose gar is seven pounds two ounces and 34 inches long. The world record from the state of Missouri is a mere one pound heavier at eight pounds three ounces.
Consider the challenge this elusive, toothy predator presents any angler—then marvel at the fact it is one of the state's rarest native species.