SCIENTIFIC NAME: Ictiobus cyprinellus

CHARACTERISTICS: The bigmouth buffalo has a large body and head and a terminal, oblique mouth. The front of the lightly grooved upper lip is nearly level with the lower margin of the eye. The dorsal fin contains 24 to 32 soft rays, and its free margin is falcate. The eye is small compared to that in other members of the genus Ictiobus, and it is located closer to the tip of the snout than to the rear of the operculum. The back is charcoal gray to olive brown, shading to light gray or cream on the venter. All fins are usually gray or black with white edges. See Cuvier and Valenciennes (1844) for original description.

ADULT SIZE: 24 to 35 in (610 to 890 mm). This species is the largest member of the sucker family in Alabama. A 57-pound specimen was landed in Lake Guntersville in 1990.

DISTRIBUTION: Biologists with the Tennessee Valley Authority collected bigmouth buffalo at 17 Tennessee River stations in Alabama from 1936 through 1941. Jandebeur (1972) mentions a previous TVA collection in the lower reaches of the Elk River. We collected bigmouth buffalo at seven stations during our 1991-93 surveys. Future gill-net sampling in the Tennessee River proper and in the mouths of its large tributaries will probably increase the species’ known range. Moreover, individuals could eventually enter the upper Tombigbee River via the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. The single record of bigmouth buffalo in Perry Lake, Perry County, resulted from purposeful introduction during studies at the federal fish hatchery near Marion (Phillip L. Kilpatrick, 1992, personal communication). A few large, possibly nonreproducing individuals still inhabited Perry Lake as late as 1992.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: This species occurs in large rivers and reservoirs, feeding on larval insects and other benthic invertebrates. Little is known of its life history in Alabama. Bigmouth buffalo may have been more common in previous years; because individuals live in deep water, it is a difficult species to collect. Minckley et al. (1970) report that bigmouth buffalo feed along the bottom, consuming algae, organic material, and aquatic insect larvae. Spawning probably occurs in shallow backwaters and tributaries of reservoirs.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Valenciennes described the bigmouth buffalo in 1844.

Ictiobus means bull fish.
Cyprinellus means small carp.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.