Researcher discovers 112-year-old fish living in Minnesota lake

Alec Lackmann, a graduate student at NDSU was researching Bigmouth Buffalo fish populations when he discovered one of the fish he was researching was 112 years old.

“I had a natural curiosity for the species going back to 2011. I’m a fisherman myself growing up in Minnesota, and I was confused why they were considered a rough or trash fish because I knew they were a native species,” Lackmann said.

Lackmann, a Moorhead-area native, had his researched published in a nature research journal in May.

He was studying the ages of the fish by looking otoliths and bomb-radiocarbon dating of the otoliths.. The 112-year-old fish was caught by a bowfisher in Crystal Lake in Otter Tail County and given to him for his research.

Previous studies of the Bigmouth Buffalo fish suggested they could live up to age 26. Samples given to Lackmann from bowfishers and the commercial harvest proved the fish can live a lot longer.

“The first bigmouth buffalo that I aged was 87 years old and it was way older than previously thought,” Lackmann said.

According to Lackmann, Bigmouth Buffalo fish have been referred to as “rough fish” or fish that anglers don’t typically try to catch. They are also competitors with invasive Bighead, Silver and Common Carp and are themselves a native species to North America.

“There are other species out there that are in this rough fish category that haven’t been studied [so closely]. So what else is out there?” Lackmann said.

Lackmann explains Bigmouth Buffalo are difficult to catch with “hook-and-line” because of how they are “filter feeders” and rarely take a baited hook. He said some anglers bowfish for Bigmouth Buffalo and some commercial companies are interested in harvesting them.

"Here’s one of the oldest freshwater fish species in the world right here in Minnesota and we still have them! In China and Asia a lot of these habitats are so degraded already and overfished that there’s nothing really like that,” Lackmann said.

In his research Lackmann says “there is a basis for considering Bigmouth Buffalo as an ecological asset” and goes on to say there is a concern for declining populations of Bigmouth Buffalo.

He said there are currently few regulations in Minnesota on Bigmouth Buffalo fish. He said he hopes his research draws people’s attention to an often forgotten about species of fish.

“There are a lot of things around us that we don’t know much about. Now, Bigmouth Buffalo serve as a prime example of management dilemmas and consequences that can arise from the neglect of underappreciated species,” Lackmann said.

For more information about Lackmann’s research check out his published report here.