The bigmouth buffalo, Ictiobus cyprinellus, is the most important commercial species in Lake Oahe, a reservoir in the upper Missouri River. The population was dominated by three strong year classes (1959, 1960, and 1962). Estimated population in the fall of 1964 was 540,000 fish of the combined 1959-60 year classes and 5 million of the 1962 year class (equivalent to 81 kg per hectare). Abundance declined irregularly during 1964-70. Annual landings of these two dominant groups during 1965-70 ranged from 149 to 271 metric tons. The total landings during the period amounted to about 151,800 fish of the 1959-60 year classes and 313,000 fish of the 1962 year class.
Growth rate was high during the first few years of impoundment and then declined. Males and females grew at about the same rate for the first 4 yr of life, but females were longer and heavier than males at ages V-VIII. At these ages, fish of the 1962 year class were about 10% shorter and 36% lighter than those of the 1959 year class. Growth of tagged and untagged fish was similar. The number of females per male increased with age. Age at maturity increased slightly as growth rate declined.
Movement of marked fish was extensive and the recapture of marked fish was directly related to size of fish, location of release, and subsequent fishing pressure; 44% were recaptured downstream from the point of release, and 38% upstream. Females showed a stronger tendency to move downstream than males. Maximum distance traveled was 380 km and maximum rate of travel was 6.4 km per day.
Successful reproduction appeared to be associated with flooding of shoreline vegetation during spring and early summer. Inasmuch as little such flooding is expected in the future, annual landings of bigmouth buffalo will probably continue to decline sharply.
Additional publication details
Federal Government Series
Population trends, growth, and movement of bigmouth buffalo, Ictiobus cyprinellus, in Lake Oahe, 1963-70