Freshwater Fish Species
The Catfish family species
Saltwater Fish Species
Brown Bullhead Fish Identification, its habitats, characteristics, fishing methods.
Bullheads are small cousins of catfish with no scales and sets of wormlike feelers, called barbels, on the front of their face. The brown bullhead lives in lakes and streams. Known for its delicious taste, its reputation among food lovers prompted the export of live bullheads from the US to Europe, though it never grew as large or as tasty there. They are easy and fun to catch, and their flesh is delicious especially when smoked.
A combination of understanding the fish and the techniques used to catch them will help you to hook more fish to the end of your line. Better knowing and understanding of the fish that you are trying to catch will make you a more successful angler, whether you are fishing for trout on a river or surfing on the beach or trolling on the open water.
The Brown Bullhead, Ameiurus nebulosus, is a freshwater fish of the Ictaluridae family that is widely distributed in North America. It is a species of bullhead catfish and is similar to the
Black Bullhead and
Yellow Bullhead. Also known as Brown Catfish, Bullhead, Catfish, Common Bullhead, Common Catfish, Horned Pout, Marbled Bullhead, Minister, Mudcat, Northern Brown Bullhead, Red Cat, and Speckled Bullhead.
The Brown Bullhead have a thick and rounded, heaviest toward the front body with a large, wide head, a wide, terminal mouth with 4 pairs of dark brown to black barbells. Their back, top of the head and sides are yellow-brown, olive, grey to almost blue-black. The lower sides are dirty white and the underside is pale yellow to white. The fins are the same color as the body but paler and there is some darker pigment on ray membranes.
The Brown Bullhead has sharp spines at the base of the dorsal and pectoral fins which can be locked in an erect position to protect the bullhead against predators by making it much harder to swallow. They have numerous strong barbs form a serrated back side of the pectoral fin spines. Their head broad, large, somewhat flattened with teeth in pads on both jaws, used largely for tearing and pulling off pieces of food. The upper jaw juts out slightly farther than the lower lip.
They lives for 6 to 8 years and reach length from 8 to 14 inches and weight to about 2 lbs with an average less than 1 lb. Their anal fin has 22 - 23 rays. Color is olive to brown with dark mottling on sides, fading to white or cream belly. Two dorsal fins including one adipose fin, tail only slightly notched barbels around mouth.
Habitat and Habits
They prefer shallow, weedy, muddy areas of lakes; also impoundments, in ponds, small lakes, shallow bays of larger lakes, and larger slow-moving
streams with abundant aquatic vegetation, and sand to mud bottoms. Brown bullheads live in shallow bays, on or near a soft bottom with lots of vegetation. They are found as deep as 40 feet. They thrive in warm water but also can tolerate higher water temperatures and carbon dioxide levels, and lower oxygen concentrations than many other fish species. They are very resistant to pollution; in areas of heavy pollution can be the only fish species present.
Like many other catfish, feeds near the bottom of ponds and lakes rich in submerged plants and moss. They use four pair of whisker-like barbells around its mouth to smell the water in search of food. Regular diet consists of mollusks, insects, leeches, crayfish and plankton, worms, algae, plant material, and fishes. Also could feed on eggs of Cisco and Lake Trout. Juveniles feed mostly on larvae insects, amphipods, bugs, and mayflies.
Brown Bullheads are nocturnal bottom feeders. They consume algae, plants, mollusks, insects, fish eggs and fish, although they probably do not prey heavily on fish eggs. They also feed on bottom-feeding fish. Bullheads, especially when young, are eaten by muskies, northern pike, walleyes, and other predatory fish. Bullheads freely eat dead fish or other small animals while Flatheads mostly eat only live things. Bullheads are found in the most brackish areas while the flathead is found at the bottom of dams or in gravel pits. The average adult Brown Bullhead is around 1 pound while flatheads can reach weights excess of 100 pounds.
Brown Bullheads reach sexual maturity at 3 years of age, and their life span does not exceed 6 to 8 years. Brown bullheads, like channel catfish, spawn in the late spring or early summer after the temperature of the water has reached 80 °F (27 °C) in June and July. They spawn in nests prepared in mud, sand, or among aquatic vegetation. These nests are usually located near a log or some other form of protection.
One or both sexes clear a shallow nest in a bottom of mud or sand or among the roots of aquatic vegetation, usually near the protection of a stump, rock or tree. They will also nest under boards, in hollow stumps, and even inside automobile tires nailed on docks. The water over these nesting sites can be as shallow as 6 inches (15 cm) or as deep as several feet. Males fan out a saucer-shaped nest in the mud or nest in natural cavities where the female deposits eggs, ranging from 2,000 to 10,000, or more. After spawning, the eggs are cared for by one or both parents. They fan and manipulate them with their barbels and this is necessary for the eggs to hatch.
One or both parents care for the eggs, since they must be diligently fanned and stirred. In a week or so, the eggs hatch and young emerge, looking very much like tadpoles. Their parents accompany them until they reach about two inches in length. After about 6 - 9 days, the eggs hatch and the young lie on their sides in the nest until about the seventh day. The juveniles are guarded by one or both parents in a school for several weeks, after which time they disperse. The fry are herded about in schools for several weeks until they are about 2" long. At the end of their first year they reach a length of about 2˝ to 4 inches and mature in 3 years.
Because of their limited use as food or sport, they are usually caught while trying to catch other fish, and few anglers pursue them specifically. Persons looking to catch bullheads will use the same baits as they would for channel catfish. Like all catfish, bullheads have a sense of smell that is more developed than the best canine. Because they rely heavily on their sense of smell when feeding, most anglers use bait with a strong odor. Bullheads are feeding primarily from the bottom and will take a wide variety of bait and are not particular about whether the bait is alive or dead.
General live baits include large nightcrawlers, minnows, crayfish. Other popular baits include cut bait, "stink" baits, small crayfish, worms and leeches, “stink” bait and other baits with extremely strong, pungent odors. Adults stay hidden under the cover of vegetation beds during the day but will come out to scour the bottom for food after dark. They are an omnivorous species that will eat nearly anything they can find. This includes aquatic insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and even earthworms and terrestrial insects when water levels have risen over previously dry land.
All the baits can be used as fresh cut baits with good success. To catch Brown bullheads in rivers the more current the better usually, although fishing along current edges and breaks is often a good option. Like most catfish, they are most active during the night and tend to be less active and bed under piers or in shady shore areas during the day. It is considered excellent as a food fish.
Great rods for Brown Bullhead fishing are:
11 ft Light Casting Rod
13 ft Tele Casting Rod
12ft Casting Fishing Rod
15 ft Telescopic Fishing Surf Casting Rod
18ft Telescopic Surf Casting Rod
4.5m Telescopic Surf Casting Rod
15 ft Telescopic Surf Casting Rod 98% Carbon