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Bigmouth Buffalo The Largest Sucker Fish

February 10, 2020

Bigmouth Buffalo Fish

The Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) is the largest member of the freshwater Castostomidae or Sucker fish family. Native to North America. Other names including Gourd Head, Redmouth Buffalo, Buffalofish, Bernard Buffalo, Roundhead or Brown Buffalo. Furthermore, a native counterpart to the bighead and silver crap. Generally, compete with the common carp who outcompete the native buffalo fish.

Description of the Bigmouth Buffalo

Bigmouth Buffalo

Generally, has a dull brown or olive color with dusky fins. While, having a long dorsal fin and a terminal mouth which faces forward. Has a long dorsal fin. The largest of the buffalo fish species, reaching more than 4 feet and weight in at 65-pounds.

Biology of the Bigmouth

Inhabits sluggish areas of the large rivers and shallow lakes and streams. As well as, shallow swells, large slow-moving rivers or swamps. However, they spawn in rock and gravel substrates. A hardy fish tolerating high turbidity and low oxygen levels. Meanwhile, in spring and summer they seek pools with backwaters, marsh areas, littoral areas and protected embankments. Generally, found in water temperatures between 87.8 and 93.2°F.

Predators and Parasites

Bigmouth Buffalo Fish are susceptible to anchor parasites which lead to secondary infections and can be harmful in poor water conditions.

While, fingerlings are susceptible to Lernaea cyprinacae, they are mostly unaffected by the time they reach 30mm. These anchor parasites insert themselves between the scales margins and fin insertions. However, the main problem is a secondary infection that may arise due to the parasites.

While, other serious parasites includes the protozoan Epistylis and bacteria Flavobacterium columnare.


Native to the Red River of the North, Manitoba, Canada and North Dakota in the United States to the Ohio River and south to the Mississippi River system to Texas and Alabama. Naturally found throughout the United States from the Great Lakes south to Alabama and Louisiana drainages west to Texas and Montana.

Further, in Canada they inhabit the Milk River flowing through Alberta, the Qu’Appelle River flowing through Saskatchewan and Manitoba into Lake Winnipeg. While, in the United States they occur in Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama, Missouri River, North Dakota, Montana, Arizona, California and Los Angeles.

Fishing for Bigmouth Buffalo Fish

Vulnerable in shallow waters. Often caught by spearing or bow and arrow. However, the buffalo is caught on trotlines, setlines, hoop and trammel nets. As well as, seine fishing. Although having a good flavor, there are numerous small bones. Therefore, a popular food fish throughout the United States.

Conservation and Management

While, neither threatened or endangered. Therefore not given any Special Concern status. However, populations are dwindling in the northern range including parts of Minnesota, North Dakota and Canada where majority of individuals are more than 80 years old. Therefore, current management of the species is required.

Further, hybridization does not seem to negatively impact the populations but makes it more difficult to determine how many hybrids their actually are. Furthermore, the Buffalo is very readily reproduced by hatcheries and could be easily stocked if needed.

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