Catfish and Bullheads

young boy holding a catfishThough not as highly prized in Michigan as elsewhere in the country, catfish and bullheads provide fine angling opportunity and table fare across the state. Typically thought of as scavengers, catfish are highly evolved predators with barbells that serve as sensory organs, Catfish are often attracted by scent.

Channel cats, easily distinguished from the others bewhiskered members of the family by its deeply forked tail, are the most popular of the catfish. Found nearly statewide, channel cats inhabit both lakes and streams. They are typically pursued by anglers using live, dead or cut bait, though anglers have long used all manner of bait -- cheese, shrimp, liver, spawn -- or commercially prepared blood or scent baits. Though occasionally taken on artificial lures by anglers pursuing other species, channel cats are traditionally fished with bait presented on the bottom.

Flathead catfish, sometimes called yellow cats, are thought of as more predatory than channel cats. Typically found in the deep, sluggish pools of larger rivers, they are often pursued at night by anglers who fish with live bait (such as small sunfish) or cut bait. Anglers sometimes anchor on the flats above pools, often near log jams or other cover, and fish for flatheads that move up the flats at night to feed. three young kids fishing for catfish

Michigan has three species of bullheads: brown, yellow and black. They are usually small with a 3-pound bullhead an exceptional fish, they are willing biters. Often fished at night when they move into the shallows to feed, bullheads typically inhabit quiet, often weedy waters. Anglers generally fish on the bottom with worms or nightcrawlers. A word of warning; Bullheads have sharp spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins and should be handled with care.

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For more information on identifying characteristics for channel catfish see our fish ID page.

For more information on identifying characteristics for brown bullheads see our fish ID page.