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Bullhead Catfish

Madhurjya Bhattacharyya
Bullhead catfish are similar to channel catfish. What makes them stand apart, is their ability to adapt to sluggish creeks and environment which does not have good oxygen supply.
Belonging to the Ameiurus genus of the Ictaluridae family, bullhead catfish are quite common in the United States. Basically, there are 3 types of bullheads: the Ameiurus natalis (commonly called the yellow bullhead), Ameiurus nebulosus (known as the brown bullhead), and the Ameiurus melas (called the black bullhead).


Compared to other fish, bullhead catfish can tolerate fish toxins and pollutants better. All 3 types of bullheads breed during the later half of the spring season and early summer. They rest in mud bottoms and sand where they lay their eggs. Being omnivores, they feed on vegetation and invertebrates besides some small fries.
One of the most popular species of bullhead catfish is the yellow bullhead, which is widely known for its taste and size. It is typically characterized by its round tail, long anal fin, and white lower barbels.
Bullhead catfish are different from other varieties, like blue catfish and channel catfish. Their tail fins, for instance, are squared―not forked as in case of blue catfish or channel catfish.
At times, yellow bullheads weigh more than 2 lbs. They have around 24 to 27 anal fin rays, which include the rudimentary fins. They are mostly found in deep and weedy ponds, and lakes harboring bass, panfish, etc. At times, they are also seen in streams.
Brown bullheads are somewhat similar to their yellow counterparts; the only difference being their dark lower barbels. They have around 21 to 24 anal fin rays. The mottled pattern of green and brown in brown bullheads is more stark when compared to black bullhead species.
In black bullheads, the barbels are more uniformly colored rather than mottled. There are around 15 to 21 anal fin rays. Moreover, at the base of the tail, there is a light bar in this bullhead species. They can tolerate an environment which is poor in oxygen. They are mostly found in warm and eutrophic water bodies.
Most black bullheads are about 6 - 10 inches in length. In rare cases though, they can reach a length of 15 inches. They are commonly found in muddy streams and shallow lakes. In southwestern Minnesota, they are found in the Rock river.


If you are thinking of introducing bullhead catfish in your home aquarium, there are a few things you should know, with regard to their care. Try using levels of filtering and aeration; it will help you handle the huge quantity of bio load that these fish produce.
Introduce a good number of Elodea plants; it will help in filtration. Also, use some locally gathered snails and insects like nymphs. Try creating a natural habitat for your pets; it will make them feel at home. You can use shale or limestone for this purpose. To feed your pet, you can buy live minnows. If they are unavailable, you can use feeder goldfish.


The most favored time for catching bullhead catfish is in the evening or night. In summer, they remain inactive in deep water during the daytime, as the temperature of water is high, only to become active when the water cools. In the evening, they come out in search of food, thereby making this an excellent time to catch them.
Bullhead catfish have very week eyesight, but their sense of smell is excellent. So, when you go out fishing, try to take advantage of this. Choose baits that would lure them. Stink bait, for instance, is an excellent option.
Another excellent option is to use crayfish or worms. The most important thing to remember while using a bait, is to use one which has a strong odor. Visual presentation would not work, as it is the sense of smell that bullheads rely on.