Several species of buffalo fish belong to the buffalo fish genus. There is one species that can weigh over 80 pounds, Ictiobus bubalus! The common name for the largest buffalo fish is “Smallmouth Buffalo” – perhaps a reference to the fish’s huge body in contrast to its small, downward-facing mouth.
Compared to their cousin the Bigmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus), the Smallmouth Buffalo only lives around 18 years. Among animals that live past 100 years, it is rare. The Bigmouth Buffalo, despite its common name, weighs 65 pounds at most.
Buffalo fish belong to the suckerfish family. As a result of their bottom-facing mouth, these fish can scrape algae off rocks, suck up detritus, and gather food scraps and nutrients drifting to the bottom of a body of water.
As a result, some cultures describe buffalos as “rough” and inedible, while others readily consume buffalo in a variety of forms. There are many places along the Mississippi River where you can eat fried buffalo.
Fishing for Buffalo?
Buffalo fish prefer sluggish rivers with lots of vegetation, but they can also be found in lakes. The best way to catch buffalofish is to bait your hook with corn and weight it so that it hangs just above the bottom of the lake or river.
Night bow fishing with a light is another common method of fishing for buffalo. Fishing-modified bows and arrows can be used to shoot and reel in buffalo fish when the light attracts them to the surface. In addition to becoming more popular, this method also dramatically increases a fisherman’s average harvest.
Fishermen must take care not to harvest more fish than they need until appropriate laws are passed to protect buffalo fish populations.
Because buffalo lay their eggs in areas with slightly exposed aquatic vegetation, they prefer high areas of vegetation. Fish fry (babies) feed on microscopic algae and plankton. All buffalo fish take nearly a decade to mature, and the largest fish produce the most eggs. Trophy hunters who kill or remove the oldest individuals are likely to negatively affect this species.
Interesting Insights from the Buffalo Fish!
Adapted to living at the bottom of murky, fast-moving streams, buffalo fish are a genus of fish. Therefore, it has adapted to this environment in a number of ways. Buffalo fish adaptations, as well as other aspects of this fish, lend support to some very interesting biological concepts.
In order to feed, many fish have developed a special method. Any advantage you have over your competition can mean the difference between life and death on the water. Buffalo fish are perfectly adapted to living on the bottom of murky rivers and lakes.
Buffalo fish have downward-facing mouths that allow them to scrape algae directly from rocks and scrape food from the silt and sand at the bottom of waterways. Like other algae-eating fish, buffalo fish have a number of gill rakers.
In fish, gill rakers are bony protrusions that filter microscopic organisms from their gills. The buffalo fish gathers algae by swimming through algae-dense waters, just like other algae-eating fish. Food gathering is a passive process, which is why buffalo fish can grow so big!
Dams and Fish Reproduction
There are many species of river-dwelling fish that are having problems with dams, including buffalo fish. Water dams or energy dams are typically built for two purposes. It is not uncommon for dams to serve both of these purposes at the same time.
It is important to note, however, that many dams were built without taking fish into consideration. Often, fish eat and grow in one part of a river system and migrate to another to reproduce. Buffalo fish, like many species, attempt to reproduce upstream without dams. Dams make it extremely difficult for buffalo fish to migrate upstream to reproduce.
A study found that the only individuals still living in a lake above a dam constructed nearly 70 years ago were around 80 years old – a sign that no new individuals were finding their way to the lake since then! The natural flow of fish in rivers is often blocked by dams, unless they are designed with fish in mind.
Say that five times quickly! A “supercentenarian” is an organism that lives for over 100 years. There is only one species of buffalo fish that is a “supercentenarian,” and that is the Bigmouth Buffalo.
The Smallmouth Buffalo may only live up to 18 years, but the Bigmouth Buffalo has some sort of genetic adaptation that has allowed it to live nearly 5X-6X longer!
Scientists can determine a fish’s age by measuring the otolith, a bone in its inner ear. As fish grow, calcium and minerals are added to the otoliths, which are used for hearing and balance. As a result of this study, scientists confirmed that Bigmouth Buffalo fish are among the longest-lived fish species, although we still don’t know how or why they do it!