The Cypriniform of the Mississippi
The Smallmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus) is a freshwater Cypriniformes fish. Native to major tributaries and surrounding waters of the Mississippi River in the United States.
While, this stocky fish is a relative to the Bigmouth Buffalo and Black Buffalo they have a smaller mouth which is ventrally located unlike the Bigmouth where the mouth is terminal and points forward.
Further, distinguished from the Black Buffalo as their eyes are significantly larger. Meanwhile, all three species resemble the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) but lack the characteristic barbels.
Description of the Smallmouth Buffalo
The Smallmouth Buffalo ranges in color from shades of grey to brown and coppery green with pale yellow to white bellies. While, the fin color matches the body where they attach generally darkening towards the tip.
Generally, stocky fish with a hump that rises from the operculum. While, the pectoral fins protrude ventrally like the anal fins and the caudal fin has even lobes.
Further, the dorsal fin protrudes from the top of the hump and tapers to a blunt point, shortening and running the length of the body to the base of the tail. They have subterminal small mouths that are slightly oblique.
While, the upper jaw is distinctly shorter than the snout and the upper lip is well below the lower margin of orbit. Meanwhile, the lips are thick and coarsely striate.
Generally, the larvae have terminal mouths. The lateral line consists of 45 lateral line scales and the dorsal fin has 22 – 30 fin rays. Meanwhile, the anal fin has 9 – 10 anal rays, 10 – 11 pelvic rays and there are 15 – 18 pectoral rays.
Further, there are less than 60 gill rakers and a 115 – 167 pharyngeal teeth. Meanwhile, the average length of adults range between 16 – 24 inches. However, some specimens may reach in excess of 35 inches.
Biology of the Smallmouth
A hardy fish inhabiting clear, moderate to fast-moving streams and some lakes and ponds. Generally, prefers dense aquatic vegetation and a silty bottom. Furthermore, has a high tolerance for hard water, even surviving in water with pH ranges between 6.5 and 8.5.
Distribution of the Buffalo
The native range includes tributaries of the Mississippi River from Montana east to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Meanwhile, also found in Gulf slope drainages from Alabama to the Rio Grande River drainage. Furthermore, in Texas the Smallmouth is found in most large streams, rivers and reservoirs exclusive of the Panhandle.
Found throughout the state except the panhandle. Some locations include the Red River, from the mouth upstream to the Kiamichi River and Sabine Lake including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay. Galveston Bay including minor coastal drainages west of the mouth of the Colorado River to the Nueces River. As well as, the Nueces River.
Fishing for the Smallmouth
Considered a rough fish in some areas and a highly prized fish in others. Rod and reel anglers have landed fish in excess of 82 pounds. Whereas, trotline records range around 97 pounds in Texas. However, anglers seeking to catch Smallmouth Buffalo have success with doughballs, cottonseed meal and corn on hooks. An exceptional sport when hooked.