Post date: Sunday, March 4, 2012 - 13:21
Updated date: 7/9/15
Bigmouth Buffalo - Ictiobus cyprinellas


The bigmouth buffalo is a large-bodied native fish. Their large scales and broad body shape make them look a bit like carp, but carp have barbels (whiskers) near their mouth; bigmouth buffalo don't. Their eyes look very different from carp eyes as well - they look like black marbles. Many bigmouths have a distinct bluish tint to them, but this is not a reliable identifying characteristic. In some waters, they might appear silvery, brownish, or grayish. These large, powerful native fish that have earned a reputation for being both tough to catch and very tough to land.


Bigmouth Buffalo are NATIVE filter feeders that compete DIRECTLY with the invasive Asian Carp. They should not be killed unless it's for food, because every bigmouth buffalo you kill means more invasive Asian Carp infesting our rivers. Please, show some respect for our great American waters and refrain from killing bigmouth buffalo unless you plan to eat them.


Other Names:  roundhead, common buffalo, bullhead buffalo, stubnose buffalo, slough buffalo, trumpet buffalo, gourdhead, white buffalo, lake buffalo, pugnose buffalo, mud buffalo, blue buffalo, redmouth buffalo





Bigmouth buffalo grow to over 50 pounds in weight. They eat plankton, insect larvae, and - at certain times - small minnows. The body of a bigmouth buffalo is almost round in cross-section. Bigmouth buffalo tolerate oxygen-depleted water even better than carp do - look for them in swamps and sloughs, as well as large rivers and the backwaters attached to them.


The Plague of Bowfishing

Bigmouth Buffalo come to the surface to feed at night, so they are very easy to shoot. Every night, idiots with spotlights and compound bows drive around the lakes shooting every buffalo they see for no good reason. The entire population of bigmouth buffalo in a lake can be destroyed in just a few nights of unrestricted bowfishing; indeed since the addition of night bowfishing to local waters, the bigmouth buffalo population has crashed to the point that they have become exterpated in many area lakes - lakes that once used to have large, healthy buffalo populations that were a thrill for local anglers to catch, and the young of which provided great forage for predatory fish like muskies and walleyes. Why these reckless and un-American bowfishing losers think it's OK to kill a valuable, beneficial native species  - that competes directly with invasive Asian carp - for no other reason than to slake their thirst for killing I will never know. Because of this, and because the Bigmouth Buffalo is not only a highest-order game fish, but also a highly esteemed commercial food fish with great economic value, we think that bowfishers (and anglers) should be limited to harvesting no more than 3 bigmouth buffalo per day. Even before this law is implemented, we suggest that bowfishing organizations should encourage their members to limit their harvest of bigmouth buffalo to 3 fish per day as well. Three bigmouth buffalo is more than any one person can reasonably use. The truth is, of course, that most bowfishers are not eating the fish they kill. Because of this, reducing the kill limit to 3 will not impact the amount of fish they actually harvest and use.




Since they grow so large, tackle for bigmouth buffalo should be designed with an emphasis on strength. Long rods help tire the fish quickly, and give you additional leverage to stop their bullish runs. Line should be strong, but avoid anything too obvious whenever fishing for buffalo in clear water. Spinning reels should have a good, smooth drag and an ample line supply. Although they are very large fish, they prey on very small food items - so if you want to flyfish for them, the delicate presentation of a 5-7 weight is probably best.  Bigmouths can be sight-fished just below the surface. The bigmouth buffalo is not a bottom feeder like the rest of the suckers. It's mouth is at the front of its head, rather than on the bottom. Because of this, standard sucker tactics that place the bait directly on the bottom may not be effective for bigmouths. Midwater presentations, utilizing floating jigheads, floats, or neutrally bouyant lures will work better. Shot-and-indicator nymphing, or drifting a tiny float with the current, are both very effective tactics when bigmouth buffalo are found in running water. In still water, you need to rely on the buffalo to suck your bait in with the powerful force of incurrent water it uses to feed. Usually, they will not move very far to take the bait - they will just open their gills and suck the bait and water into its mouth. Set the hook immediately and get ready for an epic battle.


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