Carp vs Buffalo Fish: Understanding 10 Key Differences



Carp vs Buffalo

If you are an avid freshwater angler and wanting to encounter two common fish species: carp vs buffalo fish. These fish species, while sharing the same habitats in lakes, ponds and rivers, possess distinct characteristics that set them apart.

Buffalo fish, also known as “buffalo carp,” belong to the sucker family are a native species to North America, and they play a vital role in freshwater ecosystems. Conversely, carp are opportunistic feeders that can become invasive in certain waters, posing a threat to native species by outcompeting them for resources.

While buffalo fish and carp can be caught using traditional rod and reel methods. Grass carp, a type of carp species, is often pursued using bowfishing techniques. Buffalo fish typically feed on plankton, insects, small crustaceans, and mollusks while carp will eat almost anything including vegetation, insects, crustaceans, and even small fish.

Carp Vs Buffalo Fish: The Key Differences

Buffalo fish, native to North America, are a freshwater species belonging to the Ictiobus genus family. They have been an integral part of the freshwater ecosystems in North America for centuries. Comprising of the bigmouth and smallmouth (Ictiobus Bubalus) varieties. Distinguished by their brown to black body coloration, with darker dorsal and tail fins.

Bigmouth buffalo have a larger size and a rounder head. They possess visible scales, long dorsal fins, and are bottom feeders, consuming insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish.

Buffalo Fish
Buffalo Fish

Carp, belonging to the (Cyprinus Carpio), a freshwater fish found in Asia, Europe, and North America. They have a long history of cultivation and domestication in countries like China and Japan. Carp were introduced to North America in the 19th century and have since become established in various waterways across the world.

Carp have prominent barbels near their mouth and an elongated, slightly compressed body shape. Carps exhibit a range of colors, from light to dark brown, with scales covering their body surface. Small eyes and a comparatively small mouth relative to their body size.

Carp Fish Species
Carp Fish

Different Fish Species

Buffalo fish and carp may look similar at first glance, but they are actually two different types of fish that belong to different families. Buffalo fish, also known as “buffs,” are members of the Catostomidae family (sucker family). On the other hand, carp belongs to the Cyprinidae family with several thousand different species.

Differences in Taste

Buffalo fish and carp also differ in terms of taste and texture. Buffalo fish has firm flesh with sweet, mild flavor that is often compared to that of salmon or trout. It’s also low in fat which makes these fish an excellent choice for grilling or frying.

Carp, on the other hand, has soft flesh with slightly muddy taste due to its diet which mainly consists of algae and aquatic plants. However, some people enjoy carps distinct flavor when prepared properly through smoking or pickling.

Both Buffalo fish and carp can be cooked using various techniques such as grilling, baking, frying or boiling although this does depend on personal preference.

Differences in Size and Weight

Buffalo fish and carps differ in terms of size and weight. Buffalo fish, depending on the species, can grow to several feet in length and weigh over 70 pounds. The bigmouth buffalo, known for its larger size, can reach impressive lengths and weights.

In contrast, carp can also grow to substantial sizes, with some exceeding three feet in length and weighing over 100 pounds. But, they generally tend to be smaller compared to bigmouth buffalo fish. With that said, the size and weight of both fish species can vary depending on factors such as their habitat, food availability, and genetics.

Nonetheless, whether you encounter a massive buffalo fish or a sizable big carp, both species can offer an exciting challenge for anglers looking for and exciting fishing experience.

Feeding Habits

Carp and buffalo fish also differ in their feeding habits. Carp are bottom feeders, meaning they scavenge for food on the riverbed or lake floor. They eat worms, insects, crustaceans, and other small aquatic creatures found near the bottom of the water column.

Buffalo fish, on the other hand, are surface feeders that prefer to eat insects and small organisms found floating on top of the water. They will occasionally dive down to feed on plants growing near the shore but generally stay close to the surface.

Catching Techniques

Different fishing techniques and baits are required for catching these fish due to their differing feeding habits. To catch carp, you’ll need to use bait that sinks down to the bottom of the water column like corn kernels or bread dough balls.

For catching buffalo fish, try using live bait like worms or crickets suspended beneath a bobber just below the surface of the water. Patience is key regardless as both species can be difficult to catch as they tend to be cautious and skittish about taking bait.

10 Differences Between Buffalo Fish and Carp

  • Species and Family: Buffalo fish belong to the Ictiobus genus and are part of the minnow family, while carp belong to the Cyprinus genus and are part of the carp family.
  • Origin: Buffalo fish are native to North America, while carp have a widespread distribution across Asia, Europe, and North America.
  • Body Shape: Buffalo fish have a more rounded body shape, while carp have an elongated and slightly compressed body shape.
  • Size: Buffalo fish can grow larger than carp, with some species reaching several feet in length and weighing over 80 pounds. Carp can also grow large but typically reach smaller sizes compared to buffalo fish.
  • Colouration: Buffalo fish tend to have darker coloration, ranging from brown to black, while carp display a range of colors including light to dark brown.
  • Scales: Buffalo fish have easily visible scales, while carp have scales that cover their body surface.
  • Habitat Preference: Buffalo fish are commonly found in rivers and larger bodies of water, while carp can thrive in various freshwater habitats, including lakes, rivers, and ponds.
  • Feeding Behaviour: Buffalo fish are primarily bottom feeders, consuming insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and small fish. Carp are opportunistic feeders and can consume a wide range of food, including vegetation, insects, crustaceans, and small fish.
  • Fishing Popularity: Carp fishing is more popular worldwide compared to buffalo fish, which are primarily targeted by local anglers in North America.
  • Ecological Impact: Carp, especially some invasive species, can have a negative impact on ecosystems by outcompeting native species for resources. Buffalo fish, as native species, play an important role in freshwater habitats as a food source for larger predatory fish.

Where To Find The Fish Species, Carp Vs Buffalo?

Carp and buffalo species have their preferred habitats. Carps like the common carp, mirror, grass carp, leather, and Ghost carp are widely distributed species. That can be found in various freshwater environments across the world.

Carp are known to adapt well to different water conditions, which contributes to their widespread presence and they thrive in lakes, ponds, rivers, reservoirs and canals.

The buffalo species have a more limited distribution and are predominantly found in North America. They inhabit freshwater systems such as rivers, streams, and large lakes throughout the continent. They tend to favour habitats with slow-moving currents and deeper waters. They are commonly encountered in the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes.

Whether you’re searching for buffalo or carp fish, understanding where to find them can help enhance your chances of a successful fishing outing.

Essential Tackle Tips for Buffalo and Carp Fishing

Bow Fishing

Choose the right fishing rod and reel

When targeting buffalo and carp, it’s essential to use a sturdy and durable fishing rod and reel combination that can handle the size and strength of these fish. Opt for a medium to heavy-action rod with a strong backbone and a reel with a smooth drag system.

Bow Fishing Techniques

Using the correct bow fishermen gear can make all the difference when it comes to bow fishing for buffalo and carp. Invest in a reliable bow fishing bow, equipped with a heavy-duty reel and line specifically designed for bow fishing. Additionally, make sure to have a fishing arrow with a barbed point that can securely hold the fish once it’s shot.

Select the appropriate fishing line

Buffalo and carp are powerful fish that can put up a good fight. Use a fishing line with a high pound test rating, such as 15-30 lb monofilament or braided line, to withstand the fish’s strength and potential abrasion from underwater structures.

Utilize effective bait and lures

Buffalo fish are typically bottom feeders and are often caught using natural baits such as worms, crayfish, or cut bait. Carp, on the other hand, have a varied diet and can be caught using a range of baits like corn, dough balls, or boilies. Experiment with different bait options to determine what works best in your fishing location.

Employ proper rigging techniques

For buffalo fishing, using a simple bottom rig with a weight attached to the line and a hook baited with natural bait is effective. Carp fishing often involves using specialized rigs such as hair rigs or method feeders to present the bait in an enticing manner. Research and learn different rigging techniques specific to each species to maximize your chances of success.

Practice Patience and Stealth Tactics

Both buffalo and carp can be cautious and easily spooked, so it’s important to approach fishing for these species with patience and stealth. Avoid making loud noises or sudden movements that could scare away the fish. Take your time to locate feeding areas and cast your bait accurately to increase your chances of enticing a bite.

By following these essential fishing tips, you’ll be well-equipped to target buffalo and carp successfully and increase your chances of landing these powerful freshwater fish.

Black Buffalo Carp Vs Common Carp?

Black Buffalo carp and common carp are two distinct fish species that can be found in the United States. While both species belong to the carp family, they have notable differences in their characteristics and appearances. Common carp are known for their varied body colors, ranging from gold to bronze.

On the other hand, black buffalo, a type of buffalo carp, displays a dark, almost black body coloration. Additionally, smallmouth buffalo fish, another variety of buffalo carp, can be identified by their smaller mouth and body shape. These features help differentiate between the buffalo carp and common carp species.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where Can You Find Buffalo Fish?

Buffalo fish can be found in various locations across the United States and Canada. In the United States (US), they are commonly found in the Lake Erie drainage system and the Mississippi River. North Dakota is also known to have buffalo fish populations. These fish prefer freshwater habitats and are often found in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

Where Can You Find Common Carp?

Common carp can be found in various freshwater bodies around the world, including lakes, rivers, and ponds. They are particularly abundant in regions of Asia, Europe, and North America. In North America, you can find common carp in many states, such as California, Texas, and Florida. They are also commonly found in Canada, especially in areas like Ontario and Quebec.

Buffalo Carp Vs Asian Carp?

Buffalo carp and Asian carp are two distinct fish species with notable differences. Buffalo carp, also known as buffalo fish, are native to North America and have distinct body coloration ranging from brown to black. On the other hand, Asian carp, originally from Asia, are known for their ability to leap out of the water. While both species are carp, their geographical origin and unique characteristics set them apart.

How Common Are Carp?

Carp are quite common fish species found in various parts of the world, including Asia, Europe, and North America. They are known for their adaptability and ability to thrive in a wide range of habitats, such as lakes, rivers, and ponds. Due to their abundance and widespread distribution, carp are frequently encountered by fishermen.

How Common Are Smallmouth Buffalo?

Smallmouth buffalo are relatively common fish found in North America, particularly in the Mississippi River drainage and its tributaries. They prefer habitats such as lakes and rivers with slow currents. While not as widespread as some other fish species, they can still be encountered by anglers in certain regions. The popularity of smallmouth buffalo among fishermen varies, but their unique characteristics and challenging nature make them an intriguing catch for those who seek them out.

How Common Are Bigmouth Buffalo Fish?

Bigmouth buffalo fish are relatively common in North America, particularly in larger lakes and slow-moving rivers. They can be found in various states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois, and Canada. While not as well-known as some other fish species, bigmouth buffalo offer an exciting challenge for fishing enthusiasts due to their size and strength, adding to the allure of pursuing these impressive fish.

Is Buffalo Fish the Same as Carp?

While buffalo fish and carp may appear similar at a glance, they are actually distinct freshwater fish species. Buffalo fish belong to the Catostomidae family, while carp are part of the Cyprinidae family. Both inhabit lakes, rivers, and ponds across North America, but buffalo fish are native species that play an important ecological role. Carp were introduced and can become invasive.

In terms of physical characteristics, buffalo fish have a more rounded body shape compared to the elongated carp and reach larger sizes, with some buffalo species growing over 5 feet long. Like carp, Buffalo fish tend to be bottom feeders, eating insects, crustaceans and plants. So while these two species share some similarities, buffalo fish and carp have many key differences that make them unique freshwater gamefish.

Is Buffalo Fish a Good Fish to Eat?

Buffalo fish offer a tasty, mild flavoured meat that makes them a delicious fish to eat. Their flesh has a firm yet flaky texture similar to salmon or trout. Since buffalo fish are low in fat and calories, they can be prepared in healthy ways by baking, grilling, or pan frying. The sweet, mild taste lends itself well to a variety of seasonings and breading’s.

Many anglers compare buffalo fish favourably to walleye in terms of taste, Buffalo fish contain an excellent source of protein and nutrients like Vitamin B12 and phosphorus. Additionally, they are low in mercury and considered a sustainable fishing option. While not as popular or well known as bass or catfish, buffalo fish deserve more attention at the dinner table. Their sweet flavor and firm texture make them a tasty, nutritious fish that can be incorporated into many recipes.


When you compare buffalo fish vs carp, it is clear they have many similarities in terms of habitat preference, feeding habits, and size. There are some significant differences in terms of physical appearance, bait preference when angling them (natural diet vs corn/bread baits), and tackle recommendations etc.

As an experienced angler who wants to catch either one of these species, you should consider these differences before heading out on to the water. Then you can adjust your techniques accordingly. I hope this guide has given you some insights regarding these fish.

Thanks For Reading, Tight Lines!

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