Ictiobus Cyprinellus



Lake, River, Backwater

30 - 65 pounds

24" - 48"

Bigmouth Buffalo 

Also Known As: Buffalofish, Gourdhead, Marblehead, Redmouth Buffalo, Bernard Buffalo  

Guides Who Fish This Species

Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus Cyprinellus) Description

A species going into decline, the Bigmouth Buffalo has an incredibly long lifespan but have irregular reproduction seasons. Due to their size and appearance, people may sometimes mistake the Bigmouth Buffalo for a carp but they’re not. However, what sets them apart is their dorsal fin. Bigmouth Buffalos lack a single, serrated spine at the front portion of their dorsal fin. Bigmouth Buffalos are somewhat fusiform (appearing bullet shape) which is all the more emphasized by their long dorsal fins.

They are part of a family of fish that prefer to suck up their food. While they do have some teeth, they actually don’t have any in their mouth. Bigmouth Buffalos although they suck up their food, have something they call terminal lip. This means that their mouth is often facing upward, showing their preference to take food from the surface.

A Bigmouth Buffalo is also identified by its green-gold to black gradient with a somewhat copper-colored gloss. 


Bigmouth Buffalo Diet and Size

Bigmouth Buffalos like feeding on small crustaceans and anything that is considered part of the pelagic portion of the water column. This includes some phytoplankton which they eat via filter feeding. Their gill rakers serve as “filters” to stop the plankton from escaping.

On average, a Bigmouth Buffalo can grow up to 43-52 cm.


Interesting Facts about the Bigmouth Buffalo

  • Bigmouth Buffalos can live up to 110-112 years.
    • They are considered the oldest among the freshwater ray-finned fish.
  • For Bigmouth Buffalos, maturity depends on age and gender.
    • Female Bigmouth Buffalos are mature at 10 years old.
    • Male Bigmouth Buffalos are mature at 6 years old.
  • A Bigmouth Buffalo’s young are susceptible to parasites which quickly cull their numbers.
    • It’s also why they are considered an endangered species in Pennsylvania.
    • They are currently under special watch in Canada.
  • Bigmouth Buffalos are important for maintaining the water ecosystem.
    • This is due to their ability to filter feed which improves the quality of the water.


Bigmouth Buffalo – Fishing Techniques: How to Fish for a Bigmouth Buffalo

One of the most common methods people mention on how to fish for a Bigmouth Buffalo is via bow and arrow. Yes, a bow and arrow because these fish love swimming near the surface.

However, if you’re not trained with a bow and arrow, that’s okay. There’s still the good ‘ol hook and line. In which, there are two ways to do it: via Driftfishing or Stillfishing. Although, it highly depends on which one you’re more accustomed to doing. People often recommend using heavily scented bait to attract the Bigmouth Buffalo as they’re not the kind of fish that are attracted to live bait. Some even recommend using a small nymph to get them to come closer.

The problem however is that the Bigmouth Buffalo are usually more active at night. And the issue here is that, so are the carps. Most people mistake the Bigmouth Buffalo for a Carp so, you’ll really have to look closely at its dorsal fin which has a serrated line. 

Once you’ve caught it on the line, you’re in for a pretty good haul. Bigmouth Buffalos can be quite heavy so reeling them in will be the bigger part of the challenge. Once you feel the hook set, reel them slowly as their weight can cause your line to snap. 


Bigmouth Buffalo Habitat and Distribution

Bigmouth Buffalos like floodplains or shallow lakes. Large rivers are also their home along with a few reservoirs. Some say that the Bigmouth Buffalo might even be found on large streams with backwater areas.