• Buffalo, Smallmouth

Latin name

Ictiobus bubalus

Other names

Azorback buffalo, roachback, thick-lipped buffalo, channel buffalo, humpbacked buffalo, high-back buffalo, river buffalo.


A deep-bodied and compressed fish, the smallmouth buffalo has a small conical head, a high back, and a long dorsal fin. It also has a small, thick-lipped mouth with distinct grooves on the upper lip. The upper jaw is considerably shorter than the snout. The coloration is usually lighter than that of other buffalo: the back is gray, olive, or bronze, the sides are black to olive-yellow, the belly is white to yellow, and it has an olive-bronze sheen. The pelvic fins are olive or grayish black, and the rest of the fins are indistinctly dark. It bears a marked resemblance to the bigmouth buffalo, but can be distinguished by its more compressed body and more steeply curved back. It also has a smaller, subterminal mouth located laterally. The bigmouth buffalo has its mouth located obliquely. It is characteristic of all suckers that the mouth expands downward, this is when the fish is feeding.


Found only in North America, the smallmouth buffalo has a range similar to that of the bigmouth buffalo. It is found in the Lake Michigan drainage and the Mississippi River basin, from Pennsylvania and Michigan to Montana and south to the Gulf of Mexico, and from Mobile Bay, Alabama, west to the Rio Grande in Texas and New Mexico. It also occurs in Mexico and has been introduced into Arizona. Likewise, it is most abundant in the central states.


Smallmouth buffalo inhabit pools, dams, large streams, and the main channels of small and large rivers, as well as warm lakes and reservoirs. They prefer cleaner and deeper waters than bigmouth buffalo, which explains their relatively smaller numbers.


Growing slower than bigmouth, smallmouth buffalo can reach 36 inches in length. The average size of fish caught commercially ranges from 2 to 10 pounds, although some specimens reach 15 to 20 pounds. The world record for catching smallmouth buffalo is 82 pounds 3 ounces.

Life history and Behavior

Spawning and schooling habits are similar or identical to bigmouth buffalo.

Food and feeding habits

Smallmouth buffalo feed on mollusks and algae, crushing them with bone plates in their throats designed for that purpose. They eat more insects and bottom organisms than bigmouth buffalo.


No information

Phylum Chordata
Class Actinopterygii
Squad Cypriniformes
Family Catostomidae
Genus Ictiobus
Species I. bubalus
Conservation status Least Concern
Habitat Pelagic
Life span, years No information
Maximum body weight, kg 40
Maximum length, cm 101.5
Sailing speed, m/s No information
Threat to people Edible
Way of eating Predator

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Buffalo, Smallmouth

Tags: Buffalo, Smallmouth