The Largest Buffalo Fish Ever Caught in North Carolina Was as Big as a Generator

Written by Nixza Gonzalez
Updated: September 2, 2023
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North Carolina is an excellent place to go fishing. This lovely southern state has thousands of lakes, rivers, and ponds stocked with bass, trout, and bluegills. Not only can you fish for bass, but also buffalo fish. In this article, we discuss the largest buffalo fish ever caught in North Carolina and other amazing state fish records!

What is the Largest Buffalo Fish Ever Caught in North Carolina?

The largest buffalo fish ever caught in North Carolina weighed an astonishing 88 pounds. Tony Crawford caught this monster of a fish in Lake Wylie on November 14, 1993, using Pack bait. This massive creature is the third-largest fish species caught in the state!

Buffalo fish

The largest buffalo fish ever caught in North Carolina weighed 88 pounds. It was a smallmouth buffalo fish.

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About Buffalo Fish

The buffalo fish species found in North Carolina is the smallmouth buffalo. They are members of the Catostomidae family. They can live long lives, well over 60 years! Interestingly though, smallmouth buffalo fish aren’t native to North Carolina.

Appearance and Size

Smallmouth buffalo fish are about 16 to 24 inches long. They vary a lot in weight. Most smallmouth buffalo fish only weigh about 5 to 15 pounds. However, they can surpass 40 inches long and 80 pounds.

Smallmouth buffalo also vary in color. They are generally gray to brown or blue-grey. They are also coppery green dorsally and pale yellow to white ventrally. Smallmouth buffalo are long and narrow, with an arched back.

A smallmouth buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus) hooked on a fishing line with method feeder on rocky shoreline of Grapevine Lake, Texas, USA. An American native rough hardy fish in Catostomidae species

Smallmouth buffalo fish are generally between 5 to 15 pounds.

©Trong Nguyen/

Distribution and Habitat

Smallmouth buffalo fish have a wide range in North America. They are native to the major tributaries of the Mississippi River in the United States. It’s also common in other states outside of its native range.

You can find these narrow fish in clear freshwater streams or lakes with thick vegetation. 


So, what do these fish eat? Smallmouth buffalo fish are bottom feeders. They mainly eat vegetative matter at the bottom of bodies of water. They also eat algae off of rocks and surfaces. These fish may also hunt for crustaceans and zooplankton.


The larger a smallmouth buffalo fish grows, the fewer natural predators they have. Young smallmouth buffalo fish are commonly targeted by other large fish species and snakes. They are also sometimes eaten by frogs and large birds like herons. Humans though are this fish’s main predator.

Other Fish in North Carolina

Smallmouth buffalo fish are just one fish species in the state. You can find both freshwater and saltwater fish in North Carolina. Keep reading to learn more about other fish in the state and their records!

Black Sea Bass

The first fish on our list is the black sea bass. This fish is a member of the family Serranidae. The average size of a black sea bass is 12 inches long. They typically weigh between 1 to 5 pounds. In 1979, Joe Mizelle caught an 8-pound and 12-ounce black sea bass off the Oregon Inlet.

black sea bass in water

Most black sea bass weigh between 1 to 5 pounds.

©Mike Brake/

Blue Marlin

Another common fish found in North Carolina is the blue marlin. Blue marlins are massive marine fish endemic to the Atlantic Ocean. Currently, they are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Blue marlins are popular game fish, with a unique hunting method. These large fish are about 1,190 to 1,810 pounds. They are also very long fish, with some females reaching 16 feet long. Although not as big as 1,810 pounds, in 2008, Trey Irvine caught a record-breaking 1,228-pound blue marlin off the Oregon Inlet.

Jumping Marlin

Blue marlin are long fish, sometimes reaching as long as 16 feet.

©Colin MacDonald/


The next fish on our list is the sailfish. The sailfish is a marine fish with a long bill and lives in colder pelagic waters throughout the world. They are excellent hunters but are sadly listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The largest sailfish ever caught in North Carolina weighed 100 pounds. John P. Grooms, Jr. caught this impressive fish in 1987 off of Ocean Isle.


Many scientists consider the sailfish to be the fastest fish in the ocean.

©A Cotton Photo/


Last but not least is the bluegill. The bluegill is a North American vibrant freshwater fish found in many cool water streams, lakes, and ponds. They are excellent hiders and spend a lot of time inside old tree stumps. Bluegills can live in deep water, or near the shore. They prefer taking shelter in vegetation with shade. Bluegills are also small. Some bluegills don’t even weigh 2 pounds. Danny Case in 1976 caught a 4-pound and 5-ounce bluegill in Henderson County using a Catalpa worm as bait.

Bluegill or Brim freshly caught is laying on a grass background

The largest bluegill ever caught in North Carolina was over 4 pounds.


The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

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