The Largest Buffalo Fish Ever Caught in Illinois Was an Absolute Unit
A fish species you can find throughout much of Illinois is the smallmouth buffalo. This small-mouthed fish spawns in the summer and are popular game fish, although not as popular as bass. Bigmouth and smallmouth buffalo are also fished as food and served in some towns up and down the Midwest. Not only are they delicious, but they are also thrilling to catch. These fish can reach impressive lengths and weights. Can you guess the size of the largest buffalo fish ever caught in Illinois? Keep reading to find out!
What is the Largest Buffalo Fish Ever Caught in Illinois?
On April 12, 1990, history was made. Ralph B. Lowery caught a jaw-dropping 57-pound buffalo fish in the Guntersville Reservoir. Considering most buffalo fish only ever reach around 30 pounds, this record is impressive! However, some buffalo fish can weigh nearly 80 pounds, if not more.
About Buffalo Fish
Now that we’ve discovered the largest buffalo fish ever caught in Illinois, we can learn more about this fish species. Technically, there are multiple types of buffalo fish, like the bigmouth and smallmouth buffalo. Buffalo (Ictiobus) is really a genus of freshwater fish native to North America. There are about five species and they are all members of the Catostomidae family.
Appearance and Size
The appearance and size of a buffalo fish depends on the species, although there are few differences. Smallmouth buffalo are gray to brown and coppery green dorsally and pale yellow to white ventrally. They range a lot in shade. Smallmouth buffalo fish are easy to identify from other fish species due to their stocky, thick bodies. They have small mouths and measure between 16 to 24 inches long.
Bigmouth buffalo have a similar appearance but can be darker than smallmouth buffalo. This species also has small eyes and wide mouths. Their bellies are white or pale yellow. Interestingly, although also thick, bigmouth buffalo fish have thinner bodies compared to smallmouth buffalo fish.
Another buffalo species is the black buffalo. Despite its name, this fish isn’t entirely black. They have small, but thick nearly horizontal mouths.
Distribution and Habitat
Buffalo fish are native to the larger tributaries of the Mississippi River from Montana east to Pennsylvania and West Virginia. You can find these fish in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala. Buffalo fish are hardy animals. They live in many different environments but especially thrive in highly vegetated rivers and lakes. The exact habitat depends on the species. However, they generally live in clear, fast-moving waters.
Buffalo fish can have a wide diet. They consume insect larvae, algae, aquatic plants, small fish, and crustaceans. Honestly, they eat just about anything available. To eat algae, they scrape their mouths on rocks and flat structures.
Adult buffalo fish have very few predators, except for humans. However, young buffalo fish are targeted by fish-eating birds and larger fish species like walleye, northern pike, and catfish.
Other Fish in Illinois
Would you believe us if we told you that the state record buffalo fish is nowhere near as large as the largest fish ever caught in the state? Keep reading to learn more about other fishing records in the state, the numbers may surprise you!
The first fish on our list is the channel catfish. This gigantic catfish species is found throughout Illinois. Although not as large as the state record for buffalo fish, the channel catfish state record is still inspiring. In 1967, Donald R. Cox reeled in a 40-pound channel catfish from an inland lake. No one has tackled this record for over fifty years.
One of the largest fish in North America is the longnose gar. This prehistoric fish has a long range and is also common in Illinois. You can find them near the surface of the water in lakes and rivers with thick vegetation. The largest longnose gar ever caught in Illinois weighed 32 pounds and 14 ounces. Gary Smyth caught this fish on April 18, 1985, in the Jordan Reservoir.
Another gar species in Illinois is the alligator gar. This incredible gar species is a giant heavyweight fish that can reach up to 10 feet long. One person isn’t enough to haul a massive alligator gar in a boat or on land. In 2009, Richard Johnson caught the largest fish in Illinois. He managed to reel in a 151-pound and 10-ounce alligator gar in the Tensaw River.
Although black crappies are not as large as buffalo fish, they are still great fish to catch. These shiny, but dark fish, are easiest to target during early mornings or late afternoons. They are relatively easy to catch and can be lured using many different types of bait. Shelley Meadows holds the state record for the largest black crappie. Shelley Meadows caught a 4-pound and 5-ounce black crappie in Fort Payne Res on March 27, 2007.
Another fish species found in Illinois is the yellow bass. Yellow bass can grow very quickly. In non-native waters, they are considered an invasive species. On average though, a yellow bass is 5 to 11 inches long. Most yellow bass weigh under a pound. So, how does the largest yellow bass ever caught in Illinois compare? On April 12, 2000, Dennis M. Woebbeking caught a 2-pound and 8-ounce yellow bass in the Guntersville Reservoir.