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Bigmouth buffalo

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The bigmouth buffalo, Ictiobus cyprinellus, also known as the gourd head, redmouth buffalo, buffalo fish, bernard buffalo, roundhead, or brown buffalo, is a large species of the Catostomidae or “sucker” family.

It is distributed from the Red River of the North Canada to the Ohio River and south in the Mississippi River system to Texas and Alabama in the United States. It lives in sluggish areas of large rivers and shallow lakes.

The bigmouth buffalo migrates upstream to spawn in the spring, usually April to June where it lays its eggs on plants to which they adhere. Bigmouth buffalo, unlike its close relatives the black and smallmouth buffalos, is a filter-feeder, using its very fine gill rakers to strain crustacean zooplankton from the water. It sometimes feeds near the bottom, using short up-and down movements to swirl the water and thus be able to filter from the water the plants and animals that hover near the bottom or rest lightly on it (Pflieger 1997). More than 1 male will assist in spawning by moving the female to the top of the water to help mix eggs and milt. Spawn is usually April-May.

The fish is vulnerable in shallow water and is often captured by spearing. It is commercially caught on trot lines, setlines, hoop and trammel nets, and seines. Though it has numerous small bones, its good flavor makes it one of the most valuable of the non-game freshwater fish.

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