How to Catch Buffalo Fish: Expert Fishing Guide (Ictiobus genus)



How to Catch Buffalo Fish

Buffalo fish are native species in North America, and their size and strength make them a challenging catch. However, to successfully learn how to catch buffalo fish, you must have the right equipment, suitable bait, and knowledge of their habitat.

Catching buffalo fish requires strong and sturdy fishing equipment. As well as an understanding of their behaviour. Like buffalo fish feed on the bottom. Sinking baits like worms, crayfish, tiger nuts, or boilies are effective and can increase your chances of success.

By following this guide, hopefully you will catch your first “buff fish”. So, keep reading to equip yourself with the necessary knowledge and techniques for success.

How To Catch Buffalo Fish? Essential Equipment

Catching buffalo fish can be a thrilling experience, but it requires the right equipment. Without decent gear your chances of landing one of these elusive fish is slim. In this section, we’ll discuss the essential equipment you need to catch buffalo fish.

To catch Buffalo fish, you need a heavy and durable fishing rod, a reel with a good drag system, strong fishing 30lb line and a size 4 or 6 hook. As buffalo fish are bottom feeders, so you need a 3oz ledger. Good baits include boilies, tiger nuts, or worms.

Buffalo Fish
Big Mouth Buffalo Fish

Carp Rods Are the Best Type of Rods to Catch Buffalo Fish

For fishing for Buffalo fish you need to have a strong and sturdy fishing rod. Carp rods are your best because they are designed specifically for catching big carp and powerful fish like buffalo. Carp rods are strong, durable, and can handle heavy weights without breaking.

Carp rods come in different lengths and actions, I recommend a rod size between 10 ft and 12ft with a test curve of 3 pounds. Note, a longer fishing rod will allow you to cast your bait further while a shorter rod will give you more control over where your bait lands.

More Helpful Content: Learn the Differences Between: Carp Vs Buffalo Fish. The good, the bad, and the ugly between these beautiful fish species.

Strong and Sturdy Gear: Reel and Line

Buffalo fish are known for their strength and power. To catch them successfully, you need gear that is strong and sturdy enough to handle their weight and force. Again, reels designed for carp fishing would be ideal, a big pit reel with high line capacity and a strong drag system.

You should also invest in a good quality fishing line that can withstand the weight of buffalo fish. A braided line with a high pound test is recommended as it provides greater strength than monofilament lines. A good braid mainline strength would be between 20 lb to 30 lb.

Sinkers: Keep Your Bait in Place

As buff fish tend to feed on the bottom of the lake, sinkers that are heavy enough to reach the bottom and help keep your bait in place against any currents that may be present.

The size of sinker you use depends on the depth of water you are fishing in and how fast the current is moving. Heavier sinkers work better in deeper waters with stronger currents while lighter ones work better in shallow waters with weaker currents.

Three Rod Setup On Bite Alarms

Bite Alarms: Detect When a Buffalo Fish Takes Your Bait

Bite alarms are an excellent tool for detecting when a buffalo fish is biting your bait. However, they are not a must have but they will help alert you when the line moves or tension increases. Allowing you to set the hook and reel in your buff fish.

Bite alarms come in different types and styles. However, electronic bite alarms are more advanced and offer greater accuracy while mechanical ones are simpler and easier to use.

Sturdy Landing Net: Keep The Fish Safe

A sturdy landing net with a wide mouth is helpful for safely netting and landing buffalo fish, especially if they are large and powerful. I have lost countless fish without using a landing net.

You can actually find some really good deals, I would recommend a landing net designed for carp fishing with a telescopic pole handle, and a size of between 36 inch to 42 inch’s.

You Only Need a Few Basic Equipment to Catch Buffalo Fish

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a lot of tackle to catch buffalo fish. With just a few basic items, you can increase your chances of catching these elusive creatures.

Aside from carp rods, strong gear, sinkers, and hooks, you will need weighing scales, a camera, and a pair of pliers or forceps to help remove the hook from the buffs mouth.

Best Time For Catching Buffalo Fish

The best time of the year to catch buffalo fish is between spring and fall. Buffalo fish tend to be more active during these seasons. As water temperatures begin to rise in the spring, buffalo fish become more active and start feeding. In the fall, the fish become more active again as they prepare to bulk up for the upcoming winter.

Buffalo fish are most active during the summer months when the water is warmest. The best time of day to catch them is early in the morning or late in the evening when they are feeding. During the middle of the day, buffalo fish tend to be less active and harder to catch.

Techniques for Catching Buffalo Fish

One effective technique for catching buffalo fish is using live bait such as worms or minnows. You can also try using cut bait such as chicken liver or shrimp. When using live bait, keep it moving slowly along the bottom of the water where buffalo fish are known to feed.

Another technique that works well for catching buffalo fish is using a jig with a soft plastic tail. This mimics their natural prey and can entice them into biting. Ensure you cast your line near structures like logs or rocks where buffalo fish like to hide.

  • Bottom Fishing: Since buffalo fish are bottom feeders, use heavy sinkers to keep your bait on the bottom where buffalo fish are likely to be feeding.
  • Drift Fishing: Drift fishing involves casting your bait upstream and allowing it to drift with the current. This technique can be effective for targeting buffalo fish in rivers and you can cover a larger area. Use a sliding sinker rig to keep your bait near the bottom.
  • Chumming: Chumming is when you disperse small pieces of bait into the water. Effective for drawing in buffalo fish. Use a mix of crushed boilies, grains, or fish meal as chum.
  • Sight Fishing: Sight fishing involves visually locating the fish. This technique requires stealth, accuracy and clear water conditions. You can use this technique to spot buffalo fish near the surface or in shallow areas and cast your bait directly in their path.
  • Bow Fishing: Bow fishing is popular method for targeting buffalo fish. By using a specialized bow and arrow to shoot the fish directly in the water. Bow fishing is commonly practiced in shallow, and clear waters.
  • Fly Fishing: Fly fishing is another technique to use to catch Buffalo fish. However, fly fishing tackle can be more expensive, and it also takes time to master the art of fly fishing. With that said, I have caught several decent carp on a fly fishing rod over the years.

Where to Find and Catch Bigmouth Buffalo Fish?

Bigmouth buffalo fish are a popular catch for many fishermen in North America. These fish can grow up to 80 pounds and are found in large rivers and lakes throughout the region. In this section, we will discuss where to find bigmouth buffalo fish and how to catch them.

Where to Find Bigmouth Buffalo Fish?

Bigmouth buffalo fish prefer slow-moving waters with sandy or muddy bottoms. Bigmouth fish are found in large rivers like the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers. They can also be found in lakes like Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, and Lake Oahe.

When looking for bigmouth buffalo fish, it is important to pay attention to the water conditions. Look for areas with slow-moving water that is at least 10 feet deep. These fish tend to congregate near drop-offs or other underwater structures.

How to Catch Bigmouth Buffalo Fish?

To catch bigmouth buffalo fish, you will need a sturdy rod and reel with a strong line, essential for targeting these powerful fish. Bait your hook with worms, corn, or dough balls. These baits work well because they have a strong scent that attracts bigmouth.

When fishing for bigmouth buffalo fish, be patient as these fish can take some time before biting your bait. Once you feel a bite, set the hook quickly and reel in the line slowly but steadily. Also, keep tension on the line while reeling in the fish. If there is too much slack in the line, the hook may come loose from the mouth and you may loose your first Buffalo fish.

How to Identify Bigmouth Buffalo Fish?

Bigmouth buffalo fish are easily identifiable by their large mouths and elongated bodies. They have dark brown or black scales on their back and sides with a white belly. Buffalo fish have one dorsal fin stretching the full length of their backs.

60 Pound Buffalo Fish
60 Pound Buffalo Fish Caught By Austin Anderson

Big mouth buffalo can grow up to 3 feet in length and weigh up to 80 pounds. This is one of the reasons why they are a popular catch, for their size and fighting ability. Some people say they do look a lot like the ghost Carp species.

Where to Catch Bigmouth Buffalo Fish?

Bigmouth buffalo fish can be found in various locations throughout North America. Here are some popular areas where you can target the bigmouth buffalo:

  1. Mississippi River: The Mississippi River is an excellent habitat for bigmouth buffalo fish. Look for slower-moving sections of the river with deep pools and submerged structures.
  2. The Great Lakes: Bigmouth buffalo can be found in the Great Lakes, particularly in Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. In areas with weed beds, drop-offs, and rocky structures.
  3. Missouri River: The Missouri River, especially in, Nebraska, and South Dakota, is known for its bigmouth buffalo population. Look for deeper sections with slower currents and areas near gravel bars or sandbars.
  4. Arkansas River: In Arkansas and surrounding states, the Arkansas River is a productive spot for bigmouth buffalo fishing. Target areas with deeper holes, eddies, and sandbars.
  5. Texas Lakes: Lakes in Texas, such as Caddo Lake and Toledo Bend Reservoir, are known for their bigmouth buffalo populations. Look for areas with submerged vegetation.

Best Baits and Lures for Catching Buffalo Fish

To catch buffalo fish, knowing what works best in terms of fishing baits is key to success. One of the most effective baits to use to catch buffalo fish is natural baits. These include worms, crayfish, and shad. When using natural baits, ensure they are fresh and lively. Buffalo fish are more likely to take the bait if its moving about in the water, as appose to dead bait.

Carp Fishing Baits

Tried and tested baits for catching both smallmouth buffalo and big mouth Buffalo species are baits designed for carp fishing these include, boilies, either 15mm or 20mm sizes and pop up boilies work too. Tiger nuts or artificial nuts are also effective, or a mix of both, a pro tip is to ensure the boilies have a strong scent to attract the fish from a distance to your hookbait.

Use Stinky Baits

Buffalo fish are also attracted to stinky baits such as chicken liver and blood bait. These baits have a strong odour that can attract these fish from long distances. When using stinky baits, ensure to keep them fresh by storing them in a cooler with ice until you are ready to use them.

Use Homemade Pack Baits

A cost-effective way to catch buffalo fish, is by using homemade bait recipes. One of the most popular choices for buffalo fishing is pack bait due to its effectiveness.

Pack bait is a mixture of ingredients like cornmeal and flour that you can use to attract fish. These two ingredients form the base of most pack bait recipes because they are inexpensive, readily available, and easy to work with.

You can also add other ingredients like scents (anise or garlic), sweeteners (sugar or molasses), or protein sources (soybean meal or fishmeal) depending on your preference.

To make pack bait, mix your chosen ingredients together until they form a dough-like consistency. Then, roll the mixture into balls or shape it around your hook before casting.

Pack Bait Recipes

Here are three pack bait recipes that have been proven effective for catching buffalo fish:

Recipe 1: Classic Cornmeal Pack Bait
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tablespoon anise extract

Mix all ingredients together until they form a dough-like consistency. Roll into balls and use on your hookbait immediately.

Recipe 2: Garlic Flavoured Pack Bait
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup soybean meal
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Water (add gradually until desired consistency is reached)

Mix all dry ingredients together before adding water gradually until the mixture forms a dough-like consistency. Add minced garlic and mix thoroughly. Roll into balls and use immediately.

Recipe 3: Sweetened Pack Bait
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • Water (add gradually until desired consistency is reached)

Mix all dry ingredients together before adding water gradually until the mixture forms a dough-like consistency. Roll into balls and use immediately.

Fishing Lures

In addition to using natural baits, lures can also be effective in catching buffalo fish. Lures that mimic the movement of small fish can be particularly effective. Try using jigs with soft plastic bodies or spinnerbaits with flashy blades to entice the buffalo fish to bite.

When choosing a lure, consider the color of the lure as well as its size and shape. Different colors may work better depending on the time of day or water conditions. Also, experiment with different types of lures until you find what works best for your specific location.


Hopefully after reading this guide, you are better equipped with the knowledge to fish for buffalo fish. Remember to use the right equipment, like a strong rod and reel, for big mouth buffalo, but not so much for smallmouth buffalo fish. Also, choose your baits wisely. Homemade bait recipes can also be effective in attracting these elusive fish.

Don’t forget to experiment with different techniques. If you are not having any luck you can also try using colourful lures to entice the fish. And always practice responsible fishing by releasing any undersized or unwanted catches back into the water, if the rules permit.

Thanks For Reading, Tight Lines!

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