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The bigmouth buffalo, the largest member of the sucker family, lives in most lakes and rivers. The bigmouth buffalo is a dull brownish olive color with dusky fins. Like other suckers it has a long dorsal fin, but unlike others it has a large oblique and terminal mouth. It is the largest of the buffalo fish and reaches a length of more than 4 ft (1.2 m) and 65 lb (29 kg) in weight. The meat is firm, white, flaky and good tasting, although somewhat bony. They are especially fine eating when smoked.
A combination of understanding the fish and the techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish to the end of your line. Better knowing and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fishing for trout on a river or surfing on the beach or trolling on the open water.
Bigmouth Buffalo Fishing The bigmouth buffalo, (Ictiobus cyprinellus), also known as the gourd head, redmouth buffalo, buffalo fish, bernard buffalo, roundhead, or brown buffalo, is a large species of the Catostomidae or "sucker" family. Found in Lake Erie, Ohio, and Mississippi drainages from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, the bigmouth buffalo has also been introduced into Arizona and California.

    Heavy bodied fish has gray to olive-bronze back with green-copper reflections. It has black to olive-yellow sides, pale yellow to white belly. Its head is large and ovoid with a sharply oblique, terminal mouth. No barbels or spines. Length: 12 to 41 inches. Weight: 1 to over 39 pounds. Bigmouth buffalo are similar in color and shape to smallmouth buffalo, except that the mouth is not oriented downward in typical sucker fashion, but rather straight ahead. It is the largest member of the sucker family, growing to over 70 lb. (31 kg). In general body shape it very much resembles the carp. The dorsal fin is similar, beginning with a tall lobe near the middle of the back and continuing to a lower portion nearly at the tail. The carp has a single serrated spine at the beginning of the dorsal fin, while the bigmouth buffalo has no spines in any of the fins. The toothless mouth is relatively large and wide, and slants downward when closed. The upper lip begins almost on a level with the eyes.

Habitat and Habits
    The bigmouth buffalo is a filter-feeder, using its very fine gill rakers to strain crustacean zooplankton from the water. It sometimes feeds near the bottom, using short up-and down movements to swirl the water and filter from the water the plants and animals that float near the bottom or rest lightly on it. Bigmouth buffalo lives in still waters such as ponds, pools, impoundments. It occurs in floodplain lakes with shallow waters, as well as large rivers, main channels, and backwaters of small to large rivers. Bigmouth buffalo live in lowland lakes, sloughs, and big rivers with slow to still waters and bottoms of mud, silt, sand, and gravel. The species may occur in schools. Young fish seem to prefer eating bottom-dwelling invertebrates, while older individuals prefer crustaceans dwelling in the midwater. They are especially abundant in flood plain and oxbow lakes. The fish is vulnerable in shallow water and is often captured by spearing.

    Bigmouth buffalo appear to spawn in very shallow water during the spring, in April or early May when water temperatures reach 60°F to 65°F. Eggs hatch in 9-10 days. Typically, the species may occur in schools. Young fish seem to prefer eating bottom-dwelling invertebrates, while older individuals prefer crustaceans dwelling in the midwater. The fish will move to rivers, flooded lakeshores and marshes. They spawn in units of one female surrounded by 2 to 4 males, in an orgy-like fashion; they move together through the shallow water in a series of "spawning rushes" evidenced by the ripples and splashes made by bodies and fins; the female sinks to the bottom and releases eggs, whereupon the males surround her and push her to the surface to start the whole thing over again. The female is in the middle moving through the water creating ripples. As she releases her eggs the males move in to fertilize the eggs. This process is a very loud and sends water splashing everywhere. A single female, depending upon size, can lay between 100,00 - 800,00 eggs. The fertilized eggs are normally sticky and stick to the first thing they touch - usually weeds. Once hatched, they are on their own and receive no care from the parents. The embryo's hatch in a couple of weeks and remain in the same shallows to feed and become bigger.

Fishing Methods.     These fish are rarely caught by rod and reel, but successful anglers have used small hooks hidden in dough balls. In addition to angling, bigmouth buffalo may also be taken by bow and arrow, crossbow, snare, gig, spear and spear gun as long as none of these methods are practiced within two hundred yards of any boat dock or designated swimming area. About 90 percent of the bigmouth buffalo’s diet consists of small crustaceans. It also feeds on algae and other plant matter, but very seldom eats insects, insect larvae, or other fish. Consequently, the species does not form a large sport fishery since it will not take the normal types of baits. It is commercially caught on trot lines, setlines, and hoop and trammel nets, and seines. Though it has numerous small bones, its good flavor makes it one of the most valuable of the non-game freshwater fish.
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