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Bullhead Freshwater Native Of The United States

Bullhead - Catfish Relative

There are various Bullhead (Ameiurus) catfish in the Ictaluridae family. While, these catfish can be distinguished from Channel Catfish and Blue Catfish by their squared tailfins. Meanwhile, native to North America. Some species are extant while, others may be extinct.

Distribution, Habitat, Diet and Feeding Habits

Ameiurus Catfish are native to the east of the North American continental divide from the western most point in central Montana south to Texas. Including streams of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Coast north to New Brunswick and Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchenwan.

Extant Species

Currently there are seven extant species of bullhead native in the United States. These include Black Bullhead (Ameiurus melas), Brown Bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus), Flat Bullhead (Ameiurus platycephalus), Snail Bullhead (Ameiurus brunneus), Spotted Bullhead (Ameiurus serracanthus), White Bullhead (Ameiurus catus) and Yellow Bullhead (Ameiurus natalis).

Black Bullhead

Black Bullhead

The Black Bullhead (Ameiurus melas) is a freshwater species of bullhead catfish. A well-adapted bottom dweller. Native to central United States and farther introduced throughout the United States and Europe.

Has barbels located near their mouths with a broad head, spiny fins and lacks scales. Generally, they have dorsoventrally flattened bodies which are black or dark brown on the dorsal side with yellow or white bellies.

Meanwhile, they have a slightly humped back. Further, their barbels are black and their tail has a tan crescent. While, the caudal fin is squared off at the corners. Moreover, adults range between 1 to 2 pounds. However, some specimens may reach up to four pounds. Generally, reach lengths between 8 and 14 inches. While, some specimens may reach up to 24 inches. Therefore, making them the largest of the bullheads.

Further, the black bullhead’s lower lip does not protrude past the upper lip. Winter finds bullheads burying themselves in debris, leaving only their gills exposed. Generally, entering a state of hibernation allowing them to survive conditions of low oxygen and low temperature.

Inhabit stagnant or slow-moving waters with soft bottoms. May thrive in low oxygenated waters, brackish or turbid to very warm waters. While, they congregate in confined spaces such as lake outlets or under dams. Generally, nocturnal feeders. Omnivores feeding on grains, plant matter, insects, dead or living fish and crustaceans.

Generally, spawn from April through June. A rough fish that is not as popular as their larger relatives, the Channel Catfish, Blue Catfish or Flathead Catfish. Generally, have a pale flesh that makes for excellent table fare. Generally, caught using similar techniques as for channel or blue catfish. However, due to their smaller size, they require smaller bait and hooks. Meanwhile, they respond well to earthworms.

However, feel free to click and read more on our site about the Black Bullhead.

Brown Bullhead

The Brown Bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) is a fish of the Ictaluridae family. While, common names include Mud Pout, Horned Pout, Hornpout or Mud Cat. Brown Bullheads reach approximately 21 inches in length and weigh from 0.5 to 3.6kg.

Dark Brown Green dorsally growing lighter green and yellow towards the ventral surface. While, the belly is white or cream. Furthermore, darker brown black speckles adorn the length of the entire surface of the fish. While, the fish has no scales.

The tail is slightly notched with dorsal and ventral lobes angling inward. The mouth of the bullhead is slightly subterminal with the upper jaw extending slightly past the lower jaw. Features yellow brown barbels around the mouth and on the pelvic spine.

Ectothermic, heterothermic and bilaterally symmetrical social fish living most of their lives in schools. Thrives in lakes, ponds, slow-moving streams with low oxygen, muddy conditions and drainage ditches.

Omnivorous benthic bottom feeders, feeding at night with their diet consisting of algae, molluscs, crustaceans, insects, crayfish, leeches, clams, smaller fish, plants and corn. In short, this fish will eat anything that fits in their mouths. Spawning commonly occurs between April and June.

Native to North America in the Atlantic and Gulf Slope Drainages from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in Canada to Mobile Bay in Alabama in USA. As well as, St Lawrence-Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and Mississippi River Basins from Quebec west to South Eastern Saskatchewan in Canada, and south to Louisiana.

Currently, the Brown Bullhead occurs in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska and Nevada.

As well as, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Strong fighters easily caught on worms and chicken livers.

However, feel free to click and read more on our site about the Brown Bullhead.

Brown Bullhead

Flat Bullhead

Flat Bullhead

The Flat Bullhead (Ameiurus platycephalus) is a species of freshwater bullhead native to south eastern United States from Virginia to Georgia. Ranging from the upper parts of the James River and Roanoke River in Virginia to the Altamaha River in Georgia.

However, widespread throughout South Carolina. The body is gold-yellow to dark brown above and a cream to white belly. While, the sides are mottled and speckled with dark brown and the fins are dusky black. Meanwhile, a large dark blotch is present at the base of the dorsal fin.

Further, has a flat head as the name suggests with the rear edge of the pectoral spine lacking saw-like teeth. Furthermore, has a round snout and a shorter anal fin with 17 – 20 rays and 14 – 17 gill rakers. Generally, the species grows to a maximum length of 11 inches.

While, inhabiting slow-moving, quiet stretches of rivers over mud or sandy bottoms or over rock when it is covered with organic debris. Further, occurs in lakes, ponds and dams. Generally, feed on aquatic insects, molluscs and small fish. As well as, vegetation and detritus.

While, breeding occurs in summer from the age of three. Generally, not caught for food but threatened by the predatory flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) and Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus). Meanwhile, other threats include water pollution, sedimentation, impoundment and water quality changes.

Snail Bullhead

The Snail Bullhead (Ameiurus brunneus) is a freshwater bullhead catfish with a flat head and a decidedly rounded snout. Generally, the Snail Bullhead reaches lengths of up to 11 and a half inches.

While, the body is yellow-brown or olive with a blue white to white belly. Meanwhile, some populations are strongly mottled. Further, the fins are dusky olive brown and there is a large dark blotch at the base of the dorsal fin.

Meanwhile, all fins except the pectoral fin have narrow black edges. Further, the pectoral spines lack saw like teeth and the anal fin is short and rounded with 17 – 20 rays. While, the first gill arch has 14 – 17 rakers.

Omnivores feeding on snails, fish, aquatic invertebrates and plant material. However, they are social fish feeding on almost anything they can swallow as long as it is half their size.

Furthermore, the Snail Bullhead ranges across the Atlantic Slope Drainages from Virginia to Georgia, Alabama and Florida. Generally, found in rocky riffles, runs, backwaters and flowing pools of swift streams.

While, preferring sandy substrates with some stones and other large pieces of material such as driftwood to hide under during the day. Generally, spawn in spring.

Snail Bullhead

Spotted Bullhead

Spotted Bullhead

The Spotted Bullhead (Ameiurus serracanthus) is a freshwater bullhead catfish. The only species marked with small grey white spots on a dark grey or tan body.

Endemic to the Gulf Coast Plains in Suwannee, St Marks, Ochlockonee, Apalachicola, St Andrews and Chattahoochee River Systems in Florida, Georgia and Alabama.

Further, the fins have prominent black margins along the edges. While, the anal fin is rounded and contains 19 – 23 rays. Meanwhile, the caudal fin margins are straight or slightly notched and the pectoral spine has 15 – 18 large teeth on the posterior edge.

Generally, range in length from 7 to 9 inches. Further, prefer slow to moderate currents with sand, clay and rock substrates in large streams and rivers. While, preferring deep waters.

Meanwhile, they feed on various molluscs and vegetation. While, spawning extends through spring and early summer, ranging from late June through November. However, a very uncommon fish with limited information available.

White Bullhead

The White Bullhead (Ameiurus catus) is a freshwater catfish belonging to the Ictaluridae family, part of the Siluriformes order. Native to the coastal river systems of the Eastern United States. However, the species has spread to other parts of the United States.

While, eight barbels occur on the head. Two are located on the nasal region, two on the maxillary area and four white chin barbels. Meanwhile, this scale less fish has spines on the anterior edge of the dorsal and pectoral fins. While, having six soft dorsal rays and no palatine teeth.

The tail is slightly forked, while the head is broad with a squat body. Further, looks like a cross between the channel catfish and a bullhead. Generally, range in color from olive grey to slate grey on the head and bluish grey or slate grey back and sides, tapering to a white belly.

Generally, weighs between 0.5 and 2 pounds. However, rare specimens may reach in excess of 10 pounds. Inhabit sluggish, mud-bottom pools and backwaters of rivers and streams. As well as, lakes and large impediments.

Generally, prefer nocturnal feeding. While, their diets include aquatic insects, worms, amphipoda, crayfish, clams, snails, mussels, fish eggs, small fish, small invertebrates and aquatic plants.

Meanwhile, spawning occurs from April to July when water temperatures range between 65°F and 75°F with gelatinous masses of eggs being deposited in hollow logs or undercut banks. Generally, males guard the nests of eggs while they incubate, continually fanning them.

White Bullhead

Yellow Bullhead

Yellow Bullhead

The Yellow Bullhead (Ameiurus natalis) is a highly social species of bullhead catfish. A ray-finned fish that lacks scales. Other names include Mudcat, Polliwog and Chucklehead Cat.

A medium sized fish with a yellow olive to slate black and even mottled back. While, the sides are light and more yellow. With the underside of the head and body being bright yellow, yellow white or bright white.

Further, has a rounded and notched caudal fin and a large anal fin. Easily distinguished from their cousins, the Brown Bullhead and Black Bullhead by their white barbels. Furthermore, they rarely grow larger than 2 pounds. Generally, ranging around 14-inches in length.

Bottom dwellers inhabiting muck, rock, sand or clay substrates of river pools and backwaters. As well as, sluggish currents over soft or mildly rocky substrates in creeks, small or large rivers and shallow parts of lakes and ponds. Generally, inhabit areas with aquatic vegetation.

A voracious scavenger and omnivore, feeding on almost anything. Feed at night on a variety of plant and animal matter, both dead and alive. While, prey consists of insects, snails, minnows, clams, crayfish, aquatic organisms, plant matter and decaying animal matter.

Spawning occurs in late spring and early summer in vegetated areas. Not a highly prized game fish but sought after as a food source. While, they may inflict a sting to humans with their pectoral spines causing pain often lasting for a week or more. However, dabbing ammonia on the wound may dull the pain.

Range throughout central and eastern United States from central Texas north into North Dakota and east through the Great Lakes region to the East Coast. Considered a minor game fish with a sweet good flavored meat. Generally, baits include worms, crickets and chicken livers.

However, feel free to click and read more on our site about the Yellow Bullhead.

Difference between the Black, Brown and Yellow Bullheads

The Black Bullhead and Brown Bullhead are very similar. However, the main distinguishing factor is the nearly smooth pectoral spine on the black bullhead. While, the Brown Bullhead has a strongly barbed pectoral spine. Moreover, the anal fin of the Black Bullhead has a grey base and a pale bar on the tail.

Meanwhile, both the Black and Brown Bullheads are easily distinguished from the Yellow Bullhead as the Yellow Bullhead has white barbels under their mouths. Furthermore, other distinguishing factors exist between the black and brown bullhead in that the anal fin of the black bullhead has 17 – 21 soft rays and that brown has 21 – 24 soft rays. While, the brown bullhead has a mottled brown to green body and the black bullhead is black.

Extinct species

Meanwhile, there were other subspecies in the group which has subsequently become extinct, this list includes.

Ameiurus hazenensis
Ameiurus lavetti
Ameiurus leidyi
Ameiurus macgrewi
Ameiurus pectinatus
Ameiurus retculatus
Ameiurus sawrockensis
Ameiurus vespertinus


Generally, accidentally caught while targeting other species. However, should you target bullheads, use similar bait to other catfish, including cut bait, chicken livers, blood-soaked meal or pungent baits.

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