Brown Bullhead, Ameiurus nebulosus
Identifying characteristics: (Native Fish) Two dorsal fins including one adipose fin, tail only slightly notched, barbels around mouth. Can be distinguished from other bullhead species by the black to yellowish-brown chin barbels, regular saw-like barbs on the pelvic spines, and the presence of 21 to 24 rays in the anal fin.
Brown Bullheads live in lakes, ponds and slow-moving rivers. They are most common in shallow water, on or near a soft bottom with lots of vegetation, but they have been found as deep as 40 feet. Brown Bullheads 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. Their diet varies depending on food availability and includes algae, plants, mollusks, insects, fish eggs and fish. They may compete for food with other bottom-feeding fish. Bullheads, especially when young, are eaten by Muskellunge, Northern Pike, Walleyes, Flathead Catfish and other predatory fish.
Brown Bullheads spawn in the late spring or early summer, in nests or cavities prepared in mud, sand or gravel. These nests are usually located near a log, vegetation 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 usually reach sexual maturity at three years of age, and their life span rarely exceeds six to eight years. The average adult Brown Bullhead is only eight to 14 inches long and weighs about one pound. The current state record Brown Bullhead weighed 3.8 pounds.
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.
Brown Bullhead courtesy of Joseph R. Tomelleri and copyrighted.