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Ictiobus Bubalus



Lake, River, Tributaries

20 - 50 pounds

16" - 44"

Smallmouth Buffalo Game Fish Quality Very Good
Smallmouth Buffalo Meal Quality Very Good
Smallmouth Buffalo Fly Fishing Quality Excellent

Smallmouth Buffalo

Smallmouth Buffalo
Also Known As: Razor Back, Thicklipped Buffalo, Roachback

Smallmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus) Fish Description

The cousin to the Largemouth Buffalo and the Black Buffalo, the Smallmouth Buffalo is also a stocky fish. Unlike that of the Largemouth Buffalo, however, its mouth is located under the eyes. Its mouth is smaller and at the same time, there appears to be a “bridge” that leads down to the mouth. Another difference to notice is that its eyes are bigger than that of the Black Buffalo.

Aesthetically and to an untrained eye, a Smallmouth Buffalo can look like a carp. Unlike the carp though, the Smallmouth Buffalo doesn’t have barbels under its chin.

Color-wise, the Smallmouth Buffalo’s back is a verdant copper color. It can sometimes also be a mix between brown and gray. However, its belly is more of a yellowish-white. The fins usually match where it's placed. For example, the anal fin is white in color but it gets darker at the tips. Whereas, the dorsal fin is a grayer color. Their pectoral fin also sticks out similarly to how its anal fin does.


Diet and Size

Smallmouth Buffalos are detritivores. In a way, it feeds on the decaying parts of dying or dead animals. They eat a variety of algae but they also eat insects, shellfish, and invertebrates. They’re also known to feed on different kinds of vegetation.

Smallmouth Buffalos can grow quite big. Their average size however ranges between 16-24 inches. However, someone managed to catch a Smallmouth Buffalo that was 35 inches long. That’s almost 3 ft!


Interesting Facts about the Smallmouth Buffalo 

  • Smallmouth Buffalos have long lifespans. There’s an approximate 40 years but there’s no recorded maximum lifespan yet.
  • They are often a target for anglers that engage in Night Bowfishing.
  • Smallmouth Buffalos are actually a common commercial fish.
    • They’re easy to raise.
    • Smallmouth Buffalo is also known for its tasty and firm flesh.
  • The Smallmouth Buffalo is also known as the Razor Back due to the sharp spines it has on its back.
  • A Smallmouth Buffalo takes 4-5 years to sexually mature if male and 6 years if female.


Fishing Techniques: How to Fish for a Smallmouth Buffalo

When catching a Smallmouth Buffalo, they do have an interesting way of catching them. Some people use baits that are known to have “spicy” traits such as chili peppers or baits dressed in hot sauce. Some have mentioned that using doughballs or corn helps in attracting these fish as well. 

To catch the Smallmouth Buffalo, anglers recommend “setting the hook”. When you set the hook, it’s when you lodge the hook into the mouth of the Smallmouth Buffalo. Doing this technique however means you’ll have to watch your rod closely. The Smallmouth Buffalo is not known to attack straight away. They sometimes have a tendency to mouth at the bait. Meaning, they’re just nibbling or touching it. One of the few ways to know if they’re really biting is if your lure gets dragged underwater. However, it’s not entirely reliable as the Smallmouth Buffalo also has a tendency to yank. It takes a lot of time and practice but the best way to do it is to feel your way into the rod. Wait for the pull to get strong before you try to reel it in.


Habitat and Distribution

Smallmouth Buffalos are known to be native to the Mississippi River. However, some people have also found Smallmouth Buffalos lurking around with the carps in Lake Erie. Though, some people prefer fishing for the Smallmouth Buffalo in the rivers where they usually stay.

Smallmouth Buffalos are hardy fish. They like fast-paced streams. However, they’ll also enjoy lakes and ponds so long as there’s a lot of vegetation that they can eat or lay their eggs. When fishing for them, you can try dropping a doughball or corn among the vegetation to have them snapping.