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Bigmouth Buffalo

Bigmouth buffalo


Bluish-green back shading to coppery-blue sides and light bluish-grey belly; deeply rounded body with a large head and mouth; dorsal fin sickle-shaped; individuals over 40 pounds not uncommon in commercial catches; form schools.


Bigmouth buffalo Distribution

Large, slow-moving rivers and river impoundments throughout most of the state.


Plankton, copepods and cladocerans.

State Record

64 lbs 6 oz.; 41.5 in. - Lake Manawa, Pottawattamie County, April 2007 - Ronald Anderson, Omaha, NE

Expert Tip

Bigmouth Buffalo are rarely caught on hook and line - if you do, hold on because these fish are strong!


Bigmouth buffalo are well-adapted for life in shallow, standing water that is characteristic of lakes, impoundments, marshes and backwaters of large rivers. They prefer very shallow and slow-flowing water habitats over bottoms rich with detritus in mud and silt. This species tolerates very turbid waters but prefers clear, organically-enriched water with heavy algae and zooplankton blooms.

Spawning commences in April when the water temperature reaches 60 degrees F. The adult fish enter flooded marshes along river bottoms enticed by a sudden rise in water temperature or by an increasing water stage from runoff. They congregate in large schools to spawn over sedges and grasses in shallows about 2 to 3 feet deep. A single gravid female sinks to near the bottom and is surrounded by several males. Together they engage in a series of rushes that pushes the female to the surface while the adhesive eggs are broadcast and fertilized at random. The eggs are unattended until they hatch after incubating 8 to 14 days. Maturity varies, but most fish are sexually mature and spawn at age III. Fecundity of a 10-pound buffalo is around 400,000 eggs.

Growth rate of bigmouth buffalo is rapid. Specimens from the Wisconsin River had calculated body lengths of 5.2 inches at age 1 to 33.3 inches at age 12. Growth varies considerably with location.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Coralville Reservoir Johnson 4 miles north of Iowa City 5280.00
Trumbull Lake Clay 4 miles west, 5 miles north of Ruthven 1183.00
Lost Island Lake Palo Alto 3 miles north of Ruthven 1162.00
Silver Lake (Dickinson) Dickinson west edge of Lake Park 1041.00
Five Island Lake Palo Alto north edge of Emmetsburg 973.00
Lake Macbride Johnson 4 miles West of Solon 889.00
Lake Manawa Pottawattamie Southwest edge of Council Bluffs 747.00
High Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 467.00
West Swan Lake S.W.M.A. Emmet 3m SE Gruver 379.00
Swan Lake Dickinson 2m N Superior 371.00
Ingham Lake Emmet 6 miles east of Wallingford 357.00
Elk Lake Clay 1 mile west, 3 miles south of Ruthven 261.00
Center Lake Dickinson 2 miles west, 1/2 miles south of Spirit Lake 220.00
Diamond Lake Dickinson 2 miles east, 2 miles north of Montgomery 143.00
Sand Lake Marshall On the Northeast edge of Marshalltown 95.00
Sand Lake Johnson 1.5 miles south of Hwy 6 on Gilbert Street in Iowa City. 90.00
Folsom Lake Mills 2 miles west of Glenwood 45.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 42.00
Bartlett Lake Fremont ½ mile west of Bartlett 22.00
Big Lake (Including Gilbert's Pond) Pottawattamie North 25th street exit off interstate 29. Nash Blvd to Big Lake Road. Northeast Council Bluffs. 21.00