Grabbing buffalos

By Larry Dablemont, Contributing Columnist
Posted 4/26/23

I love the outdoor life I live because all day long when I am on the river or exploring the woods, I see spectacular things that remind me that God is still in charge somewhere, though those places …

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Grabbing buffalos


I love the outdoor life I live because all day long when I am on the river or exploring the woods, I see spectacular things that remind me that God is still in charge somewhere, though those places grow fewer nowadays.

All day long I see no one, and there is no television or smart phones or news. It could be 1840 if you can forget that there is a California or Chicago or New York, and about the only place you can forget those conflagrations of men and women at their worst is off in the wild someplace.

Floating the river a day or so back, I saw some huge black buffalo getting ready to spawn below shoals where they will mass in great swarms in three feet of flowing water. They are unlike other suckers in that they are very dark, when you see them beneath your boat. They are not related to the carp, which is an introduced, not-native fish.

As a kid on the Piney River I grabbed a lot of suckers; yeller suckers and some redhorse suckers too, none ever much bigger than three pounds. But this week or next I will go down to one of those shoals and grab some black buffalo fish that, if I am lucky, will weigh 10 pounds or better. I never caught one that big, but you see lots of ‘em there. There will be bigger ones on that shoal. Few will weigh less than five pounds and a few will go up to 15 pounds.

Some specimens of the black buffalo have been known to weigh 50 pounds but I have never seen one above 15. Last year I snagged one that was about seven pounds and I thought he was bigger because it like to wore me out. I use 18-pound line and casting gear, with a great big treble hook and a piece of white rag tied about two feet in front of that hook. When a fish swims over the white rag you jerk like the dickens and hope your hook hits home. The fish will give you a fight like you haven’t often had, using that swift current. You won’t land all you hook, but if you can net a couple or three you can have some good eating; just look for the recipe for Buffalo Ribs in some old fashioned cook book. Folks in Arkansas and Louisiana say there isn’t a catfish fillet anywhere that will equal fried buffalo ribs. I have never tried them, but they are bragged on too often not to be great eating. Anyway if I succeed, as I expect to do, I will send a picture next week of me holding up a black buffalo, grinning and happy, as I usually am when off somewhere far from concrete, pavement, and those poor folks who have to go to work each day. I’m happy even if I don’t have a big fish to hold up and grin about, if I am where there isn’t another soul but me.

Right now there are big gar on a shallow shoal so thick their backs stick up out of water. They are not native to small Ozark streams. They are native to the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and somehow, about 100 years ago began moving up into flooded small Ozark streams, and reproducing there. Some more diversity, which is always disastrous in nature too! I have been told that gar are relatively good to eat but I have never tried one. “Ain’t gunna neither” as the old fisherman in the pool hall would say. I’d druther eat a mud puppy! I hate gars! Never ate one because I never did fancy using a chain saw to skin a fish! Gar too can get up to about 50 pounds in the big rivers and lakes, and are said to be remnants of the prehistoric age. They are the ugliest of fish, and a detriment to any Ozark stream where they are found.

You can find out more about both species on the computer, but the black buffalo are not nearly as dark in the photos I have seen as they are where I will be snagging them. Check out my blogspot, (www.larrydablemontoutdoors) to see some great photos of migrating teal I shot this past week. And if you want to get a copy of my new magazine, just contact me. The spring issue is available now, 112 color pages on the outdoors and the Ozarks.

Write me at P.O. Box 22, Bolivar, Mo 65613 or email…