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How Big Do Buffalo Fish Get? (Interesting Fish Facts)

How Big Do Buffalo Fish Get? (Interesting Fish Facts)

In the vast and diverse fishing world, buffalo fish are a unique and popular target species for many angling enthusiasts in the southern states.

With their distinct bodies and small, sucker-like mouths, these freshwater giants are a sight to behold and a true challenge to catch.

But just how big do buffalo fish really get?

While the average size of most buffalo fish is 15 to 30 inches and 5 to 15 pounds, these fascinating fish can reach a maximum size of around 48 inches and 80 to 90 pounds. Impressively, largemouth buffs can get well over 100 years old.

So, how big do these aquatic marvels get? Let’s dive deep into the sphere of the buffalo fish and reel in some fascinating size facts!

How Big Do Smallmouth Buffalo Get?

a US carp angler holding a huge smallmouth buffalo fish
Courtesy of James King

The smallmouth buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus) is a very popular target species in the US, primarily thanks to its elusive nature and impressive size. 

Despite its name and small mouth, this buffalo type is actually the haviest one of the trio! 

On average, smallmouth buffalo fish typically measure between 15 and 30 inches in length and weigh around 5 to 15 pounds. 

However, the maximum size these buffalo fish can reach is around 40 inches and 80 lbs. That’s massive!

And like common carp, buffs are all muscle. So, if you’re lucky enough to hook a giant smallmouth buffalo, you’re in for the fight of your life. 

Once these fish get going, there’s no stopping them!

What Is the Biggest Smallmouth Buffalo Ever Caught?

The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) records showcase an awe-inspiring smallmouth buffalo caught in Texas, weighing in at a massive 82 pounds 3 ounces! 

Angler Randy Collins caught this absolute behemoth of a smallmouth buff in Athens Lake in 1993.

By the way, Texas is the number one destination for monster smallmouth buffalos!

Almost all all-tackle line-class and length world records have been caught in Texan waters. 

For example, the current all-tackle length world record smallmouth buffalo was caught in the Sam Rayburn Reservoir in 2023. 

That fish measured an impressive 37.8 inches and was caught by angler James Schmid.

How Big Do Largemouth Buffalo Get?

a close up of a big largemouth buffalo fish
By Alus164 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The bigmouth, or largemouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus), is another big member of the buffalo fish family. This buffalo type is much slimmer than the smallmouth buff and has a lower-arched back. 

This makes it the bigmouth buffalo the longest buffalo type. 

On average, largemouth buffs can attain lengths ranging from 15 to 30 inches and weigh between 5 and 15 pounds. 

However, the largemouth buffalo has a reported maximum length of 48 inches and a maximum weight of around 70 pounds. 

What Is the Biggest Largemouth Buffalo Ever Caught?

The current world record bigmouth buffalo is a fish that was caught back in 1980. Unfortunately, this shows how rare giant largemouth buffs have become!

This record fish, caught in a lake in Bastrop (Louisiana) by angler Delbert Sisk, weighed in at an incredible 70lb 5oz. 

This buffalo type is both harder to catch and much rarer than the smallmouth buff, which the record lists clearly indicate.

No all-tackle length record has been reported, and most of the line-class world records were caught in the 70s and 80s.

Time will tell if the bigmouth buffalo stocks will, once again, increase and thrive again one day!

How Big Do Black Buffalo Get?

With its dark, iridescent body, the Black Buffalo (Ictiobus niger) is a captivating sight for any angler. 

Much like its relative the largemouth buffalo, this buffalo type has a fairly slim, but robust body shape. 

While being the rarest of the three buffalo species, the black buff can reach a respectable size and is a strong fighter. 

On average, black buffalo fish span lengths of 20 to 30 inches and weigh between 10 and 15 pounds. 

However, the true giants of this species have been documented to exceed lengths of 45 inches and tip the scales at over 60 pounds!

With a maximum reported length of 48 inches, it can get as long as the bigmouth buff but doesn’t quite reach the same maximum weight. 

What Is the Biggest Black Buffalo Ever Caught?

The IGFA database lists the world record for black buffalo at 63 pounds 6 ounces, which seems hard to beat, given the rarity of this fish species. 

This massive black buff was caught by angler Jim Winters in the Mississippi River in Iowa in 1999.

Only this one world record is listed for the species, and only time will tell if it’ll ever get cracked! 

How Fast Do Buffalo Fish Grow? 

Buffalo fish are known for their impressive growth rates, a factor that contributes to their substantial size. In optimal conditions, these fish can grow up to 12 inches in their first year! 

After that initial first year, their annual growth rate remains steady and rapid, about 3 to 5 inches, until they reach an age of 8 to 10 years.

After that, the buffalo fish’s growth slows to about 1 to 3 inches yearly. 

Population genetics, stock sizes, environmental factors, food availability, water temperatures, predation, and food competition play crucial roles in influencing their growth rate. 

Are Buffalo Fish Bigger Than Carp? 

a Texan carp angler holding a nice common carp
Courtesy of James King

The comparison between buffalo fish and carp is a common one, given their similar habitats and characteristics.

In fact, many people need help to tell apart carp and buffalo fish and frequently mistake buffs for common carp.  

So what species is the bigger of the two, then?

Funnily enough, both fish types have roughly the same maximum lengths and weights, which doesn’t help when trying to tell them apart. 

While common carp roughly have the same maximum weight as smallmouth buffalos, namely around 70 to 80 pounds, they have almost the exact same maximum length as the largemouth buffalo, namely around 48 inches. 

If we’re talking all-tackle world records, though, the smallmouth buff wins by a few pounds, as the world record common carp has a weight of 75lb 11oz (vs. the 82lb 3oz smallmouth buffalo).

How Old Do Buffalo Fish Get? 

an ancient largemouth buffalo fish in a net
By Reanore – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

This last section of the article is a really interesting one! Buffalo fish exhibit impressive longevity, adding to their allure among both the angling and fish biologist communities. 

While most buffalo fish have an average lifespan of 15 to 30 years, their reported maximum age is much higher! 

In fact, the largemouth buffalo is the oldest confirmed freshwater fish in the world. How about them apples?

Research has shown that this fish species can get well over 100 years old. More specifically, the oldest largemouth buffalo fish was estimated to be an unbelievable 127 years old. 

That beats every other fish (and all of us humans) on the planet by several decades! 

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Featured image courtesy of James King