Black Bullhead
Typical Size
6-10" (3-6 oz.)
Decent Size
11-14" (8 oz.- 1 lb.)
Nice Size
15-17" (1-2 lbs.)
Record
25.8" (8 lbs. 0 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

1 lb. 12 oz.
Genus/Species Ameiurus melas
Common Names horned pout, bullhead, catfish,
Hot Spots Furnace Pond, Jacobs Pond, Scituate Main Reservoir
Best Time June - September
Best Baits nightcrawler, chicken liver, dead shiner
Best Method Bottom fishing at night with bait
 
DESCRIPTION :

Black Bullhead vary in color from yellowish-green, dark greenish/olive, to dark brown or black on the back. It often is bronze or greenish/gray on the sides with a bright yellow or white underbelly. The entire body is smooth and possesses a lustrous sheen. Only the young and spawning males are actually black, which brings me to a confession. I find little discerning difference between black, brown, and yellow bullheads - supposedly three unique species. I've been told that here on the south shore of Massachusetts, it is predominantly brown bullheads, not black. However, when I cross reference the fish I catch with photos in a book, they always look more like black bullheads, than brown. Since all bullheads are roughly the same size, shape, and color; exhibit the same habits; and live in the same basic habitats, for the purpose of this website, it really doesn't matter.

Black Bullhead
Night time is the best time for numbers of bullheads.
HABITS & HABITAT :
Black Bullhead live in a variety of habitats but generally are found in slow-moving rivers and ponds with murky water and mud bottoms. They can tolerate polluted waters better than any other catfish, prefer water temperatures above 70 degrees, and are most active at night. Mostly bottom feeding scavengers, black bullheads will eat just about anything that smells strong. Their diet consists of both dead and live fish, snails, crayfish, insects, and plant material but are known to munch on just about anything that falls to the bottom. Although not known to eat the eggs of other fish, they have a reputation of eating the young fry of other species.

Black Bullhead range throughout the United States due mainly to re-distribution and stocking efforts. They are not a native species to the south shore of Massachusetts but can be found in just about every body of water with the exception of some clear lakes, streams, and reservoirs. Bullheads, be they black, brown, or otherwise, do not like clean, clear water.

Spawning takes place in the late spring in weedy areas or areas of heavy structure. Bullheads guard the nest and young fry. Young bullhead fry are easily mistaken for tadpoles as they look just like little black polliwogs when they hatch. They travel about in concentrated schools, not venturing far from the nest until they are about an inch long.

FISHING FOR BLACK BULLHEAD :
You can fish for bullheads with many different kinds of bait. Worms and nightcrawlers are probably the most popular, but dead shiners, chicken livers, and various pre-packaged stink baits can be just as effective. A simple bottom rig with a 3/8-1/2 ounce sinker is usually sufficient for bottom fishing with bait.

Rarely are black bulleads taken on artificial lures, since they use their keen sense of smell for feeding. However, I have personally had bullheads swallow my live shiner when bass fishing so I see no reason why it couldn't happen. The best fishing for bullheads occurs from dusk throughout the night where they move along the shoreline to feed. However, they can be caught at any time of the day, especially in murky water.

Fishing for Black Bullhead is not an important recreational fishery, and most reported catches are incidental to fishing for other species. A commercial fishery exists, albeit mostly farm-raised, and is quite important in some parts of the country. Here on the south shore of Massachusetts, they are rarely consumed. The bullhead supposedly has a pinkish white meat, that is firm and sweet. Considered excellent table fare that is commonly fried, broiled, and smoked.