Buffalo Fish Vs Carp [Complete Guide To Differentiate Them] (2024)

Buffalo Fish Vs Carp- Buffalo fish are an indigenous North American species of the sucker family. The carp is a member of the family of minnows but is not a native of the United States. A common carp has a bronze or brown tint, but a buffalo fish will be more of a grayish or tea color. Like the carp, buffalo fish have smaller jaws.

Buffalo fish and carp are sometimes misidentified by anglers. I did as well because they remind me so much of each other. However, in actuality, these fish species are distinct from one another. As a result, I set out to learn the specific distinctions between the two species which is one of the pieces of information I will be sharing with you in today’s guide.

Buffalo Fish Vs Carp

These fish are actually very different from one another. A member of the minnow family, the buffalo fish (Ictiobus cyprinellus) is much larger than its close relative, the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) found throughout North America.

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Though both species are targeted in similar ways by anglers, the term “buffalo carp” is inaccurate because the buffalo is not a carp.

This essay will help you learn to distinguish between the two, even if they share many visual similarities so that you can feel confident when making transactions at the bank, (chuckles).

Buffalo Fish
Common Carp
Coloration Anything from white,
blueish, grey to black
Dark blueish to black
Tail Fin Bronze, golden or brown Orange, red to light brown
Mouth Small, turned-down,
no whiskers
Larger, round,
whiskers on both sides
Strong, fast,
often swims off in
one direction
Strong, fast, and aggressive,
all over the place

Although they share a similar overall form—long and skinny, often in the shape of a torpedo—between themselves and carp, the two species are otherwise quite dissimilar.

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Their skin tone is a defining feature. Typically, buffalo fish have a drab, almost tea-like coloration. Even though they are occasionally a bluish or blackish color, they can often have a spectral, washed-out appearance (black buffalo).

On the other side, common carp often appear bronzed, golden, or brown because they are full of vitality and health.

Their tail fins, known as caudal fins, also come in a variety of hues. The common carp’s tail fin is a near-perfect match for the fish’s overall appearance. Their tale fins are often just a shade or two lighter than the rest of their bodies and can range in color from orange to red to a light brown.

Instead, the buffalo’s tail fin is typically quite dark, even black. Even though the buffalo is otherwise uniformly black in color, this spot usually stands out.

The mouth’s structure and characteristics stand out as the most notable distinction between the two species. Smallmouth buffalo fish in particular have mouths that are no wider than an adult’s thumb.

The buffalo is quite easy to catch if the fisherman uses a hook that is small enough to pass through the fish’s small mouth opening. The buffalo’s mouth and lips are rather hard and leathery.

Another characteristic shared with suckerfish is a downwardly inclined mouth, which can be seen on the buffalo. Additionally, it has no whiskers or barbels.

The common carp has a much wider mouth. Carp have robust mouths and lips, but if a fisherman applies too much pressure, the fish can shake free a hook and swim away.

Carp also have two huge, recognizable whiskers (barbels).

Expert Tip: When feeding, buffalo lay flat on the bottom with their bellies on the mud, whereas carp graze with their heads angled downward.


Buffalo Fish Vs Carp

Finally, fighting techniques and behavior are where buffalo and carp diverge. The buffalo will typically make a beeline in one direction and continue on that course at full force.

It also stays below the water’s surface except when under attack. Simply put, they employ all of their tremendous might to retreat as far as possible from you.

While both species of fish are ultimately pursuing the same thing, common carp are much less predictable and directive once hooked.

They swim in circles, dive deep, roll on the surface, shake their heads violently, and even swim straight at the angler.

Both species, though, are incredibly formidable adversaries that won’t go down without a fight.

A buffalo (smallmouth), which is slightly heavier than ordinary carp, can reach a weight of over 100 pounds. Don’t see if you can’t get that train under control!

Buffalo Fish Vs Common Carp

Buffalo fish are an indigenous North American species of the sucker family. The carp is a member of the family of minnows but is not a native of the United States. A common carp has a bronze or brown tint, but a buffalo fish will be more of a grayish or tea color. It’s also worth noting that buffalo fish have even smaller mouths than carp.

Buffalo Fish Vs Carp Taste

While buffalo fish has a firmer, more robust flavor, Common Carp has a more subtle flavor and a smoother texture; both fish are hard and dense when cooked.

Smallmouth Buffalo Vs Carp

Due to its huge scale, the smallmouth buffalo is often misidentified as the more common carp by amateur fishers. Contrary to carp, buffalo do not have barbels. The smallmouth buffalo, in contrast to the larger and more typical bigmouth buffalo, has a unique downward-facing sucker-type mouth.

Does Buffalo Fish Have A Lot Of Bones?

The problem is in the skeleton, which consists of several tiny bones “floating” freely in the muscle tissue rather than being linked to the backbone. Naturally, the most expensive portion of a buffalo is its meaty ribs, as only the meat on the ribs is boneless.

Buffalo Fish Taste

Buffalo fish has a robust, tasty taste; its meat is firm and dense with a subtle flavor after cooking.

Where Do Buffalo Fish Come From?

All three species of buffalo fish—bigmouth, smallmouth, and black buffalo—are endemic to North America. These areas include the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala.

Back in 1819, at Kentucky’s Transylvania University, a scientist by the name of Constantine Samuel Rafinesque-Schmalz, who was born in France, discovered and named the species. His original naming of the smallmouth buffalo, after his initial discovery, was Ictiobus Bubalus, which literally translates to “Bull Fish” in Greek.

Throughout rural North America, buffalo fish was a staple food source between the years 1920 and 1950. In the decades following World War II, as the middle class grew increasingly prosperous, fewer and fewer Americans saw buffalo as a viable source of protein.

Since then, it’s been classified as a game fish, but it hasn’t gained much traction in the United States.

If you’d prefer a visual cheat sheet, here’s a pro tip: You can learn more about this topic by reading this Google Web Story on Buffalo and Carp.

Where Did Common Carp Originate From?

The common carp was first identified in the major rivers of Asia. Since then, they’ve been tamed, turned into a food source, and transported to several countries.

They arrived on the European seas in the 12th century, and by the 16th century, they had made their way to England. Then they sailed across the ocean to join the pioneers who had just begun to establish the North American continent. There has been a subsequent spread across the entirety of the North American continent.

When it came to feeding its rural citizens, the United States government filled several rivers and lakes with carp in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The common carp is no longer primarily caught for human consumption but is now prized as a game fish in many parts of the United States, Canada, and Europe. The carp has a legendary reputation among fishermen in England.

Where Can You Find Buffalo Fish?

From the northern states of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Montana to the southern states of East Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma, they can be found in most of the United States.

You’ll find a lot of them in the Mississippi River basin and the Hudson Bay region.

Big river systems like the Milk River and Qu’Appelle River in Canada both empty into Lake Winnipeg, therefore you’ll find them there.

Where Can You Find Common Carp?

In contrast to the buffalo, common carp can be found practically anywhere. They can now be found on nearly every continent, having spread to the lakes and waters of around 60 countries.

In Europe, this species is revered as a true classic of the game fish world; nevertheless, in the United States and Canada, it is more commonly seen as an invasive species or even a pest.

However, more and more people in North America are becoming interested in fishing for this formidable predator.

Although the common carp can be caught in every state in the United States, it is more difficult to locate in the western states. Common carp can also be found in high numbers around the Great Lakes.

They can be found in the southern parts of British Columbia, Kootenay, Kettle, and the Okanagan Valley in Canada.


If you find it difficult to differentiate between the common carp and the buffalo, then with the detailed information I have shown up there, you should be able to differentiate between the two fishes in your next fishing trip.

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