Buffalo fish, commonly referred to as ‘buffalo,’ belongs to the Ictiobus taxonomic genus. Researchers recognize different species of buffalo fish: Usumacinta, Fleshylip, Black Buffalo, Bigmouth, and Smallmouth Buffalo. Some anglers catch them for sport while others catch them accidentally while carp fishing. To learn more about buffalo fish, including how to catch buffalo fish and the lure, tackle and bait that you can use, keep on reading!
Interesting Facts About Buffalo Fishing
For most anglers, fishing for buffalo, particularly freshwater buffalo fish, isn’t intentional. Most don’t even know how to catch buffalo carp the right way. If you’ve been angling for a while, you know that the pursuit of fishing for carp brings with it myriads of surprises – mostly large, trophy-class species of fish caught in local waters.
Captures can range from richly colored, pristine common carp to heavy-scaled and elusive mirror carp. There are even those that catch wild koi. But, in some states, adventurous anglers encounter a whole other species that isn’t a carp (contrary to popular belief) which is referred to as the buffalo.
It isn’t the coarsely coated buffalo that you may be imagining. It’s a US-native sucker that fascinates anglers for its appearance. Even though angling techniques that are effective for catching carp can align seamlessly to catch different buffalo species, there are a couple of adjustments that savvy anglers can make in targeting the more subtle-to-bite cousins of carp which both experience and experimentation can reveal.
Being very hardy, buffalo fish frequently favor moderate or fast-flowing rivers as their habitat but you can also come across some in ponds and lakes. They’re most often in water that has silty bottoms and aquatic vegetation, which are the preferred feeding areas of the fish.
They use their mouths in picking up organic debris found in the silt, consuming insect larvae, small crustaceans, and mollusks, and scraping algae off rocks and structures. They make use of their pharyngeal teeth in crushing their food as they dispel shells and swallow the meat.
How to Catch Buffalo Fish
You now know what the diet of the fish primarily consists of. But, they still have a preference and that’s small crustaceans. This is something to remember when you put to the test what you’ve learned from our guide.
The proper way to catch buffalo fish, regardless of the species, is drift fishing, but there are other effective methods that you can use in catching buffalo.
With drift fishing, cut and live baits are drifted with weight on the line to reach near the bottom but they can also be suspended beneath a popping cork or bobber.
The difference between bottom fishing and drifting a bait is the motion. When drift fishing for buffalo, natural bait will work best. However, lures, jigs, and artificial flies can still produce good results.
You may have heard that fly fishing is simply too difficult for a beginner. Don’t believe that statement. You can catch buffalo fish by just learning the fly-fishing basics.
But, make sure that you have the proper gear. Try fly fishing for buffalo in seams in a current, water transitions, and obstructions that block water current.
Still fishing or stillwater fishing is an effective and simple method to catch buffalo. It’s a matter of placing your bait on the water while waiting for fish to locate it.
Still fishing for buffalo can be done either from a bridge, a boat, a pier, or from the shore.
This is also a popular method for buffalo fishing as spincasting reels are easier to use for beginners, not to mention the fact that they’re easy to maintain and low cast.
Spincasting is an easy reel casting method that you can master. You can use a spincast to cast light to heavy lures to catch buffalo without breaking your line.
Lures, Tackle, and Bait for Buffalo Fish
The following are the lures, bait, and tackle you can use in catching different buffalo species:
Fish cut into small pieces will attract buffalo differently compared to live freshwater bait or lures. Buffalo are attracted to the scent and they’re more likely to strike on cut bait.
The best buffalo flies are the ones that imitate the aquatic and terrestrial insects that local buffalo fish like eating. Always “match the hatch,” as seasoned anglers would say.
Dough Balls or Bread
The fancy name of dough balls is prepared fishing bait. You can make homemade dough balls that are tasty for buffalo or buy some that are commercially made.
If you’ll buy them, they usually come in cans and are labeled for specific species of fish e.g. buffalo, catfish, and carp.
Minnows are juvenile fish and they’re great all-around fishing bait for freshwater. Minnows can be purchased from local tackle shops but you can also catch them on your own (check if it is legal to catch them in your area).
They differ in size and the larger shiners are great for buffalo fishing.
Where to Catch Buffalo Fish
Different buffalo species can be found along Mississippi drainages and Lake Eerie, Ohio. Bigmouth and smallmouth buffalo, in particular, have been introduced in California and Arizona.
These is a list of the places where you’ll be able to catch buffalo fish:
- Current edges
- Merging currents
- Dams and falls
- Riparian zones
- Outsides of bends
- Rock or boulder pockets
- Overhanging bushes and trees
- Lakes and ponds
Buffalo fish have a long lifespan and their size can reach epic proportions.
They are often some of the biggest fish in the body of water that they inhabit. It’s one of the reasons why an angler is drawn and fascinated by the species.
Any interaction with the fish that size would certainly be a moment to treasure. Let us know if you’re also interested in going after this often misunderstood and overlooked fish!