Buffalo ID

45 posts / 0 new
Last post
E. Subvaria
E. Subvaria's picture
Buffalo ID

I don't catch enough buffalo to be able to tell the difference.  I caught this one in August below a dam in Winona in about 70 fow.  I have a video of the fish somewhere if i need to pull that if we can't get a positive ID.   I understand its hard to view this specimens nape in this photo.

Thanks in advance.

 

niener32
niener32's picture
Video

The video would be most helpful if you would not mind putting it up! I think then a full "picture" of the fish can be gained.

roughfish29
roughfish29's picture
Looks like a Smallmouth to me

Looks like a Smallmouth to me. and 70 fow?! Man that's deep. I didn't know they liked to chill in that deep of water.

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
Looks like a Smallmouth to me

Looks like a Smallmouth to me as well.  I've caught them from some deep water before.  Not 70 feet but 30 easily.

niener32
niener32's picture
I am inclined to say it is a

I am inclined to say it is a black. To me, this fish is too slender to be a smallmouth buffalo. Now, this appearance could be due to the fish being tipped toward E, but I think that it is simply a slender fish. The mouth is another point that makes me think black. Those are some pretty big, fleshy lips. Also, to me it looks like an intermediate mouth position, not a mouth that would project straight down like it should for a smallmouth. For all these little id things the video would be helpful to confirm or challenge what I am seeing in this photo. 

perkinsdonald
perkinsdonald's picture
hmmm

The mouth does has big fleshy lips angled just right....  wile were on the subject not to hijack your post E.Subvaria heres mine I also need input on. although I don't think this is one from your samplings niener I've been told it is a black...

 

 

The gods do not subtract the alotted span in men's lives the hours spent in fishing.

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
Heres another one with the sl

Heres another one with the slender profile.  But not a fleshy mouth.  And what I would consider a pretty classic downward pointed mouth angle.  Sometimes I wonder if they are male and female Smallmouth Buffalo.   I've got a few pics of Buff's with this slender look.  Always just thought they were SM Buffs.  

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
And what I would consider to

And what I would consider to be a Buff with some fat lips.  Not a great pic.  Old ass scan.  But more than likely a Black Buffalo if you were to judge the size of the lips and the slender profile.   I've always considered this catch to be a Black anyways...Edit:  Better quality pic...

Corey
Corey's picture
Buffalo Head Proportions

Dunno if this will help, but it might.

Can't rule out hybrids, either.

 

 

 

 

 

niener32
niener32's picture
Continuing dialouge

Perk- though I don't think it is a fish from my study, I would still say it is a black.

 

Dr.- I would say you are right on, with the first fish you posted as a smallmouth and the second as a black.

 

Which really gets me wondering about the E's fish. I still am inclined to say it is a black based on the features I previously mentioned. This really gets me thinking about exactly what Corey posted. My study for my undergraduate thesis was looking at identification tools, as well as hybridization in buffalo. What we found as far as ID characters go is that the images Corey posted are one of the most helpful tools in identifying buffalo, besides body compression and lip characteristics. The ratio of the measurements shown, are statistically different enough between smallmouths and blacks that a statistics program can sort out fish into identities based on that measurement. So, for quick field id, just take those two measurements and they can lend to a proper id. For black buffalo, the ratio between the measurements should be around two, where as the smallmouth's ratio should be around one. But other observations are just as helpful, like using lips and body shape and body compression. 

Gunnar
Gunnar's picture
OK, what the hell. I'll jump

OK, what the hell. I'll jump into this too.

I considered this a smallmouth buffalo, but 2 people who've seen photos told me they thought the lips looked fat enough that it could be a black buffalo. I played with the eye-opercle measurements but the ratio was right between 1 and 2, depending where I drew the line and which photo I used.

 

Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com


2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

perkinsdonald
perkinsdonald's picture
No confirmed hybrids in WI

From what I read although plausible there is no confirmed hybrids of blacksx smallmouth or blacks x bigmouth.In my opinion Gunner yours looks like a black buffalo too...

 

 

The gods do not subtract the alotted span in men's lives the hours spent in fishing.

niener32
niener32's picture
Gunnar

Yep, I would agree that Gunnar's buff is a black!! Actually, the last photo in the set is a very good one for lip ID of black buffalo. You can really see the pronouced grooves in the lower portion of the lip. From John Lyons work, the smallmouth would have mostly smooth lips, with the black showing the ridges in the lower section. Also, the last picture shows the oval body compression seen in black buffalo, another one of the observation metrics that were really helpful to provid ID clues to the buffs in my study!

Gunnar
Gunnar's picture
Seriously? Wow. I wonder how

Seriously? Wow. I wonder how many votes I need before I will feel comfortable changing it on my lifelist.

 

Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com


2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

Jknuth
Jknuth's picture
I dont know that looks like a

I dont know that looks like a black to me Gunnar. 
 

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
And Gunnar's fish has that sm

And Gunnar's fish has that smallmouth Buff like hump going on too.  So you can throw out the more streamline, rounded look as a reliable ID characteristic for Black Buffalo.  That would make the fat, full set of lips probably the number one thing to look for while in the field.  Makes me wonder about some Buffs caught from one particular "bleachy" place.  Seen some in question from that spot too, with the puffy lip thing going on.  Wonder if there are Blacks mixed in there? 

andy
andy's picture
I don't think any of them are black buffs...

Really don't see the big lips on any of these fish, except maybe Doc's but the photo isn't top-notch.  Having seen the closeup of this fish's mouth though I do think it is a black(maybe).  I'm not a buffalo specialist, but I have caught hundreds of them.  Never a black.  Smallmouth buffalo take on all different shapes and sizes, and some may even be a second cousin to a black.  Some just have weird lips.  Some are really tall, some slender.  They can be black, white or blue.  Seems to me a true black buffalo sticks out as different, while a lot of specimens are muddled in concrete definition.  I recently had a conversation with a field expert who said that they find most hybridization between black X bigmouth buffalos.  Personally, I hesitate to call them all black buffalo.

 

Especially since the black buffalo is now on the State of MN Threatened Species list.  It's the single most important large, catchable roughfish in many respects to us Up North.

 

There has to be a better field identification attribute that we can look for.  Other than, "Well, it has pretty big lips and isn't TOO tall..."   - please enlighten me on some lateral line scale counts or fin rays or something.  I honestly don't know enough.  Since in Minnesota we may be asking bowfishers to please not kill black buffalo, we need to ensure that as anglers we can absolutely identify the species if caught incidentally while targeting other fish. 

 

Niener32, it's great to have somebody with field experience to chime in.  I assume you're right in your IDs, but I just need some enlightenment and concrete identifiers.  I appreciate all of the input here, it's great.  

 

 

 

 

TonyS
TonyS's picture
Yeah from Lyon's ID guide: Li

Yeah from Lyon's ID guide:

Lips:

Buffalo, Black Subterminal or inferior; lips thick with deep grooves
Buffalo, Smallmouth Inferior; lips thick with deep grooves

Body:

Buffalo, Black Somewhat deep-bodied, but less so and more elongated than other buffalos; back rounded without a distinctive arch or ridge; BD 29-38% of SL; HL 26-34% of SL; smallmouth buffalo are very difficult to distinguish, except at large sizes (>500mm TL)
Buffalo, Smallmouth Very deep-bodied, sharply arched/ridged back; steep profile from head to dorsal fin, giving a "humped" appearance in lateral view; body depth (BD) about 36-42% of standard length (SL); head length (HL) about 24-29% of SL

 

TonyS
TonyS's picture
Seems like it is difficult to

Seems like it is difficult to ID them.  Lyons ID site says it is extremely difficult, getting easier as they get larger. Kind of seems like you need to suspect it looks Black Buff-ish and then check the measurement ratios with good pics. 

TonyS
TonyS's picture
I found some other interestin

I found some other interesting keys from other states:

 

Tennessee says: Their [black buffalo] eye diameter is equal to or less than the distance from the fleshy posterior tip of the mouth to the fleshy anterior tip of the lower jaw. In other words, their eye appears smaller than that of a smallmouth buffalo.

 

Michigan says the two best are

body depth into standard length = 2.9-3.4 is black, 2.4-2.8 is Smallmouth

and

eye diameters in head length = 5.1-7 is black, 4.4-5.1 is Smallmouth

Gunnar
Gunnar's picture
How useful is standard length for us?

Technically, at least for maximum accuracy, standard length (length from the tip of the head to the end of the last vertebra) requires a dead fish and a blade. Since the numbers for these two species are not widely separated, I don't know if even a good attempt at getting SL (by measuring to the caudal fin or where you believe the last vertebra to be) is going to be that helpful in the field for a fish that will be released. Or is it? Niener, did you get SL, or an approximation of it, in your research? Can buffalo vertebrae be felt or otherwise located easily and accurately enough to measure the posterior end of the last one?

 

Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com


2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

niener32
niener32's picture
Bowfishers and more thoughts

I think if we as a collective are having a tough time, it is lost cause for bowfishers to ID them. I think habitat will be the saving grace if you will, for black buffs. From all that I read in my thesis prep it seems black buffalo like the main channel over rocks and gravel. And they spawn in a similar area, rocks, but that doesn't mean deep water, just rocks and running water. 

 

If E has a better shot of this fish, showing the full lateral line that would be a huge help!! 

 

Tony is right on with good sources for ID points. I would also consult Becker's Fishes of Wisconsin, as well as Fishes of Missouri.

 

For ID characteristics I used information from Becker, FIshes of Missouri, and Fishes of Iowa, and John Lyons. The following are the numbers I used to compare my data to. 

Smallmouth Buffalo- Dorsal Ray count ranges from 26-31 and Lateral Line scale count ranges from 36-38.

Black Buffalo- Dorsal Ray count ranges from 27-31 and Lateral Line scale count ranges from 34-39.

The ratios that John Lyons uses for the Measurements that are suggested by Corey's post are as follows:

Smallmouth Buffalo- the ratio is about even or 1

Black Buffalo- the ratio is about 2

 

Now remember, my study is not a published study, but my data is data and is open for interpretation. But, for black buffalo, my average Dorsal Ray count was 27.08, or 27. The Lateral Line count average was 38.5. For smallmouth buffalo, I wish I had more fish! With 4 fish, the Dorsal Ray count was 29 and Lateral Line count average was 37. Both of these in the range, but not any easy ID fix. For the eye and gill cleft measurements, black buffalo averaged a solid 2 and smallmouth buffalo averaged 1.17. I found that many measurements are the way to go to get a correct ID. Which is not something fisherman really would want to do. But you could get a good ID on a fish if you really took a lot of time to do it.

 

I would also echo Andy's sentiments that fish are variable. You should have seen all the different shapes of bigmouth buffalo I captured in my study! And I would echo that experience is the best bet. I can't claim to be an expert either and am just sharing all my knowledge and information I have to help out the ID conundrum!

Gunnar
Gunnar's picture
Scale and ray counts aren't m

Scale and ray counts aren't much use for buffalo ID, unfortunately.

According to Becker, Fishes of Wisconsin, the numbers are:

  dorsal rays anal rays pelvic rays lateral line scales
Bigmouth 24-32 8-10 10-11 34-39
Black 27-31 8-9 9-11 36-39
Smallmouth 26-31 usually 9 9-11 36-38

For bigmouths, Becker mentions natural bigmouth x smallmouth hybrids and artificial bigmouth x black.
For blacks, he mentions natural black x smallmouth hybrids and experimental black x bigmouth hybrids.
For smallmouths he mentions natural smallmouth x bigmouth hybrids and experimental smallmouth x black.

I could compile numbers from other books, but I think I remember correctly that they all agree.

(Edit: Niener's info was posted while I was typing this, and I didn't see it until I hit the button to post it. Sorry for the repetition.)

 

Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com


2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

Gunnar
Gunnar's picture
Not knowing whether I'd caugh

Not knowing whether I'd caught a smallmouth or a black was driving me crazy. I decided to see what John Lyons would say about my fish. He said it's clearly not a smallmouth, that the first photo made him think it was a black, but the others made him think it's not purely black either. To him it looks like a black x smallmouth hybrid, more precisely an intergrade: mostly black buffalo but with a smallmouth in its recent ancestry. He also said that they see nearly as many intergrades as pure blacks in the Wisconsin and Mississippi and some other rivers.
He also noted that the ratios don't always work for black buffalo. They don't work for intergrades, which they've confirmed with genetic analysis--which is the only way to be sure.

He has seen enough that I trust his judgment on this.

So: can I count it as a black buffalo on my liefelist, or do I have to catch a pure one?

 

Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com


2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

andy
andy's picture
Niener32 said: ” I think if w

Niener32 said:

” I think if we as a collective are having a tough time, it is lost cause for bowfishers to ID them.”
Agreed. Since the black buffalo is now considered threatened in MN, it is nice to hear from a person who did thesis research on these fish. I personally do not want this resource threatened by bow $&@&$! Fishers.

andy
andy's picture
Gunnar said: ” So: can I coun

Gunnar said:
” So: can I count it as a black buffalo on my liefelist, or do I have to catch a pure one?”

Catch a pure one. Just my opinion. I have had mr Lyons call some of My buffalos hybrids too.

Gunnar
Gunnar's picture
Nope. That's the only buffalo

Nope. That's the only buffalo I've caught so far. They've avoided me in droves. I've watched them lift their middle fingers at me for hours on end.

I think I'll put it on my list as a black  since John said it's "mostly black" but I'll work twice as hard to catch a pure one this year. Along with pure smallmouth and bigmouth.

 

Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com


2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

E. Subvaria
E. Subvaria's picture
vid and a few more shots.

 I was really hoping to spark a conversation regarding Buffs and it seems that my intententions are exceeding expectations.

Video here. http://youtu.be/skDWYNuMtiA

Here are a few screen shots I pulled from the vid as I edited it.

And a profile capture.

Gunnar
Gunnar's picture
crazy head/mouth

That head's got more going on, architecturally, than any buffalo I've ever seen.

 

Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com


2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

niener32
niener32's picture
Thanks for the post E!

I think for me, that last shot gets me more confident about an ID. I would be so moved not to call this fish a black or a smallmouth, but a hybrid. The last two shots clearly show, to me, that there is a more downward angle to the position of the lips, as opposed to the expected 45 degrees or so of a black buffalo. But, there is enough of an angle to the lips where I don't think it is a pure smallmouth. I would probably call this fish a hybrid, it just doesn't speak pure smallmouth to me. It would be welcomed what others who have handled more than 4 smallmouth buffs to weigh in here too. 

TonyS
TonyS's picture
Definately not a "text book"

Definately not a "text book" Smallmouth.  Though we run into fair numbers of "weird looking" Smallmouth too.  Looking at the Black Buffalo on the species page - that thing looks very distinct from a Smallmouth to me.  I have to wonder if hybrid buffalos (especially back crosses) are the cause of a lot of these "ambigous" buffalos.  

 

KInd of like the Sauger-Walleye issue on the Mississippi.  Brian Brecka is (was?) a biologist for the WI DNR on the Misssissippi - I haven't seen him in probably 15 years or more.  I know he said that when they run genetics tests on Walleyes and Saugers on the Mississippi a huge percentage show mixed blood.  As is multiple back-crosses, not just 75% one species but sometimes 87% one species.  Sometimes that shows as looking more or less exactly like a pure and sometimes it produces an individual that just looks a little "weird" 

 

 

Corey
Corey's picture
Hybrids

Exactly, a black buffalo should have all the characteristics and no contraindications, elsewise it's a smallmouth buffalo with a dash of black buffalo genes. I electrofished literally thousands of smallmouth buffalos from the Mississippi with Konrad Schmidt and no black buffalo showed up. Lots of black buffalo features - lots of puffy lips, some elongated bodies, some shallower mouth angles, etc. Hell, if you counted any fish with black buffalo hybrid features, you'd be talking about half the smallmouth buffalo in the river. Then you have fish that have all of the features - sort of. Fish that are sortof elongate, but still have a hump-back, the lips are kinda puffy, and the mouth is kinda angled not quite right. That means black buffalo are so rare here in the north that they have trouble finding each other to spawn, so they pollute the smallmouth buffalo gene pool. I imagine there are probably a couple dozen giant male black buffalo in the northern part of the Mississippi and those handful of fish are fertilizing a certain amount of the smallmouth buffalo females. Konrad himself mentioned that he has never seen a pure black buffalo under about 20 pounds in the northern region. They simply aren't reproducing very well. We've known about this for decades.

 

Which is another reason why they need to be protected. Introgression from hybridization is an indicator that the species is on its way out. It might be a good idea for people to document their catches more rigorously. Since all black buffalo catches are incidental, I don't see a problem with this.

 

I also think you guys are way off with regard to the "fat lips" characteristic. When shocking these fish, we were looking specifically for black buffalo and went through thousands of smallmouths, many like the ones pictured. In short, a true black buffalo has a fleshy mouth that could eat a golf ball. That lower lip is at least an inch wide. An inch. That's wider than a man's thumb. Most of these fish are sporting lips that are a quarter inch to a half-inch wide.  And if the fish has a humpback keel (like Gunnar's fish, which has the perfect head-on photo to show this) then it's obviously a smallmouth. You can't see that from the side-shots, of course, but the back behind the head comes to a sharp pount when viewed from the front.

 

In short, I think you need to START with the obvious - body shape is round in cross-section. That's the #1 most obvious feauture that everyone has to look for, and it cannot be photographed unless you do it the way Gunnar did, head-on. If the body isn't round, then it's a smallmouth, move on, because that's how you tell smallmouths from black buffalo or bigmouth buffalo. Black and bigmouth both have round bodies, smallmouths have the flatter shape with dorsal keel. If the fish is rounded without a dorsal keel, THEN you look at the mouth, for the big fat lips and 45 degree angle. Then confirm with head measurements, if necessary. The "elongated shape" is not very helpful, because it all depends on the angle the photo is taken and the condition of the fish. Several of these shots, especially the "selfies" have the fish's belly slghtly exposed and the back hidden because the camera is lower than the fish (presumably on a small tripod). This exaggerates the elongated shape and hides the keel and hump. Even the head-on shot of Gunnar's has the fish angled upward which hides the obvious keel on the back to some degree. But that shot clearly shows the fish doesn't have a round body.

 

In other words, I think people have definiately been catching smallmouth buffalo sprinkled with black buffalo DNA. Many are smallmouth buffalo that show some black buffalo influence. Black buffalo do not grow a dorsal keel when they get big, as you can clearly see in this photo:

 

 

 

 

niener32
niener32's picture
Backcrosses

Tony, I was thinking the same thing as far as backcrosses go. It is tough without genetic analysis. Parentage can be guessed but odd purebred fish might look the same as 3rd generation backcrosses. Ancestry is going to be tough to prove, if not impossible in some cases, like an 87% fish. Crazy fish, crazy good discussion!

Gunnar
Gunnar's picture
OK, Corey. All points taken.

OK, Corey. All points taken.

Based on Lyons' estimation that it was a black with a little smallmouth in its family tree, I changed it to black on my lifelist.

So now a question for everyone who keeps a lifelist:
Given all this, can I in good conscience even keep it on my list--as either black or smallmouth--at this point, or by asking questions did I doom my one buffalo? I don't really care what species I list it as for now, but I would like to have a buffalo on there. All this has got me completely determined to go out and catch the hell out of all species of buffalo this year and take a lot of photos and measurements.

Would someone PLEASE discover that the mucus of each species of buffalo has a unique chemical composition and use that discovery to come up with an Ictiobus ID meter or test that can be used in the field, gives instant results and is 100% accurate? Something like a home pregnancy test, but without anyone needing to pee on it.

 

 

Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com


2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

andy
andy's picture
Just keep it on your list as

Just keep it on your list as a smallmouth buffalo.

Corey
Corey's picture
Buffies

I agree, it's clearly mostly smallmouth, and probably has some black buff blood, so according to the rules it counts as a blue pancake. Just like a sunfish that is clearly a bluegill but might have some other sunfish blood. It's a tough one, though - the one picture makes it look like a black much moreso than the other two. Great fish in any case! And it really illustrates the black buffalo field ID problem, which is something all of us can work to solve in the future.

kernel j
Oh my!

The Dude declared...

I would be beyond annoyed to spend three hours fishing to a Carpsucker to catch a hybrid.

 

Thus, you stand alone in your misery.  I would be skipping about all happy-ass at a 1:3 ratio of carpsuckers to hours.  

 

All kidding aside, I do get your point and be they Buffs, OT Darters, or Carpsuckers the whole ID thing is kinda maddening.  Makes one ponder the way we humans try to organize our world by arbitrary means that don't always fit tight and true with the realities we're describing.    

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
Heres my Black Buffalo that K

Heres my Black Buffalo that Konrad ID'ed from the Minnesota River.  Fish was about 7 or 8 lbs max.  Probably less.   Think you must have forgot about this one Corey.  I think there is a good population of pure strain Black Buffs in the Minnesota River.  Me and my fishing buds have caught many suspect Blacks from there over the years.  Many were caught well before the digital age.  Wish I had more pics!   Quite frankly, we didnt think too much of them back then.  So we never even thought to take pics.  But we got them up to 15 or so lbs.  I'm gonna spend more time on the Minnesota River this year.  Fish it like I used to fish it many years ago.  We did alot of crawler fishing back then.  Like to get me one of them monster Buoy Tenders like the one Fishing Dude posted.  Which I might add was from the Minnesota River as well. 

Dr Flathead
Dr Flathead's picture
And a Smallmouth Buff from th

And a Smallmouth Buff from the exact same spot on the exact same outing for comparison...

Cast_and_Blast
Cast_and_Blast's picture
If the Black Buffalo are down

If the Black Buffalo are down in deeper water and more in main channel habitat, wouldn't that be harder water to sample by electroshocking, etc.?  And thus the reason for the fewer numbers being sampled? 

Gunnar
Gunnar's picture
I remembered reading in (the

I remembered reading in (the very outdated and frustrating) Fishes of Illinois (Smith, 1979, 2001) that black buffalo were possible extirpated from NE Illinois, and since my fish definitely has black buffalo genes (whether you take the MN view that it's mostly smallmouth or the WI/IL view that it's mostly black) I thought it might be important to determine their status. I checked sampling reports for the river I was fishing and others in the area and saw no mention of black buffs, so I contacted the guy at the IL DNR in charge of knowing what fish are in the waters of this section of the state. He told me they get tons of them in that area and he wasn't surprised that I got one.

That increases my confidence that my fish is at least as much I. niger as I. bubalus, if not more, but it also tells me not to sweat it, lifelist-wise, since I've got a very good chance of hooking up with more black buffs when the weather warms up.

I do have a question, and it's not meant to be whiny, argumentative, or confrontational. If, to count as a black buffalo, a fish should have no traits of smallmouth, then why to count as smallmouth can it have traits of black? If this perspective is based on the fact that you're in a place where blacks are very uncommon, does the same logic hold for fish caught in places with high numbers of blacks?

I want to know a lot more about how much variation there can be among pure black buffalo. Some are going to look more like smallmouths than others, obviously, as that's true of any pair of related species. Some largemouth bass have mouths that are smaller than others, some quillbacks have higher fins than others. The problem with Ictiobus is that the usual meristics aren't useful and ID is more subjective. I would like to find some area of North America that only has blacks and no smallmouths and do some intensive sampling and photography. I wouldn't be surprised to find some with humps, keels, etc., particularly in locations with different conditions, food availability and other factors. If you look at the photos on the WI DNR black buffalo page (http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/EndangeredResources/Animals.asp?mode=detail&Spec...), even some not labeled as hybrids have humps or keels, and some would probably be considered by the majority of us to be smallmouths. It's no wonder the black buffalo was considered a hybrid of bigmouth and smallmouth for so long.

Again not arguing, not worried about what my fish was. Personally, I like to think it's a black. Doesn't matter, though. I'll just go catch a bunch more this spring! I know exactly where to look.

If nothing else, this thread has awakened in me an obsession for Ictiobus as fishing target and scientific research subject. I've not bothered to read much about them--at least compared to my reading on other sucker genera--and now I'm probably going to get lost in them. For that, thanks everybody!

 

Redhorse ID cheatsheets, gars, suckers: moxostoma.com


2019: 34 days fishing 45 species 13 lifers. 2018: 39/40/5 2017: 49/52/14

Corey
Corey's picture
Buffalos

I could easily be wrong. I just don't see a better system being proposed by anyone.

Corey
Corey's picture
Buffies opinions

I think it's counterproductive to have unsupported opinions thrown out there without explaining what the criteria used for coming to your conclusion were.

 

So I think it would be best for me to explain why I came to the conclusion I did.

 

First, body shape of Gunnar's fish is tall and laterally compressed. This is really obvious if you compare photo 1 to photo 2. It looks much thinner in photo 1. Why is that? Because in photo 1, the fish is tilted relative to the camera, and in photo 2 it's being held vertically. This means that there is a BIG difference between the fish's height and width. If the fish's body were at all rounded, the fish would appear the same in both photos. Because of the difference in photo 1 and photo 2, you can tell that it's more narrow than wide. This is the same optical effect that makes E-Sub's fish look long and skinny. Photo 3 makes this really obvious as well - the body is almost half as wide as it is tall.

 

Second, the mouth points straight down. from the head Draw a square around the snoot and it becomes obvious. The fish is perfectly horizontal, and the mouth is just shy of 90 degrees. In a black buffalo, this angle should be near 45 degrees.

 

The gill/pre-opercle ratio is very close to one. You don't really need this measurement, but it's a nice confirmation; the head is much less flattened, more like an equalateral triangle.

 

All three of these criteria point to smallmouth buffalo, not black buffalo.

 

Now, even though all three characteristics of this fish indicate it's a smallmouth buffalo, could it still be a black buffalo? Yes! It could be a weirdly-shaped black buffalo. But the criteria system I use says smallmouth.

 

And one of the many reasons for this website to exist is to develop criteria systems to identify roughfish. Is every criteria system perfect? Hell no, not even close! But we have to have a criteria system for each hard-to-identify fish. For example, I know in my heart of hearts that a guy in the last contest got gypped out of a cutthroat trout (my apologies to the gypsies)  because even though the fish he caught was obviously descended from cutthroat stock, by some freak of genetics it didn't have a red slash under the jaw. Which wouldn't be a problem if our criteria system was better - but the criteria for ID'ing a cutthroat is to look for that red slash. So it doesn't matter if "The Truth" is that the fish was a cutt, what matters is if it has a red slash under the jaw, thus fulfilling the flawed criteria system. That's what's great about this community, though - we can improve on them. And we have! For many of a favorite ruffies, we have, as a community, created field criteria for ID'ing species, criteria that the scientific community missed or do not find useful because they don't work on preserved specimens.

 

So when folks say "I think this fish is X" you need to state explicitly what criteria were used to come to that conclusion. Saying the criteria are wrong is great, that's a very important step in improving the criteria. But you must have an alternative criteria system that effectively works to distinguish the two species.

 

Which brings us to the carpsuckers. I've also handled thousands of those, and the criteria for them are very simple and crude. I have looked at so many carpsucker lips that have a pointed end, sort of like a nipple - but not really. It's an absolutely crappy criteria and I fully admit it. But Dude, it's all we've got right now. Someday, we might learn that the black buffalo has a shorter third ray of the anal fin or that the river carpsucker has an extra row of scales above the lateral line. Then we could have a better system and the world will be a better place. But we don't live in that world, yet.

 

So, in the end, it's great if someone has a better system that can flawlessly distinguish these fish - as long as we know what the system is.

 

I'd appreciate it if the folks with contravening opinions could explain what criteria they are based on.

Eric Kol
Eric Kol's picture
this is why

This is why this is a bad-assed forum. Love this.

Carpy Diem!

Garmaster Bob in WI
Black Buffalo

If anyone wants to see some photos of a couple of  "no doubt" black bufflao. I have some photos from sampling with John Lyons. I never got into great discussion on separating the hybrids which he noted was quite difficult. I just asked him what was what in the boat but the black buffalos we sampled were very dark colored and big. None of the photos are close-ups of lips or any great close ups but they give you and idea on body shape. There is a head on shot of one.