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Brown Bullhead, Ameiurus nebulosus

Brown bullhead

Identifying characteristics: (Native Fish) Two dorsal fins including one adipose fin, tail only slightly notched, barbels around mouth.

Brown bullheads, like channel catfish, also spawn in the late spring or early summer, 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 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.

Brown bullheads reach sexual maturity at three years of age, and their life span does not exceed six to eight years. The average adult brown bullhead is only eight to 14 inches long and weighs about 1 pound, although bullheads weighing six to eight pounds have been known to occur.

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, and can tolerate higher pollution and carbon dioxide levels, and lower oxygen levels than most other fish species.

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 do, of course, compete for food with other bottom-feeding fish. Bullheads, especially when young, are eaten by muskies, northern pike, walleyes, and other predatory fish.

The public doesn't always hold brown bullheads in the highest regard, but nevertheless they have considerable market and recreation value. They are easy and fun to catch, and their flesh is delicious. It can be prepared in the kitchen in a number of ways, and is also good when smoked.

For more information on how and where to catch brown bullhead see our Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them and Better Fishing Waters.