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Bullhead Fishing: Best Tips and Bait

Bullhead Fishing: Best Tips and Bait

Most of us love fishing for bullheads. Are you one of them?  Although the big ones reach just a couple of pounds in weight, note that these little catfish can eat almost anything, fight tenaciously, strike hard and are delicious when you roll them in cornmeal and fried golden-brown.

Although many well-to-do anglers tend to go after tarpon or bonefish on the amazing Florida flats, or the scrumptious Atlantic salmon in Iceland, Canada and Norway, many bullhead fishermen, usually enjoy low-cost sport in ponds and lakes.

The good news is that almost anyone with a handful of worms and a rod can catch bullheads. This is because you don’t need much real skill to catch them. However, you can improve your results and score more fish by using some tried-and-true techniques.

What is a Bullhead?

Bullhead fish is one of the relatives of the channel catfish. They have barbels around their mouths, which is their primary common feature. It is also known as "horned pout" as is one of the several freshwater catfish found in North America. They belong to the genus Ameiurus. Bullheads have squared, instead of forked, tails and they are typically less than thirty centimeters long. Bullheads are often valued as both food and sport fishes. 

Best Tips to Catch Bullheads

Here are some amazing tips and tricks that will help you squeeze the most fun and enjoyment out of your next bullhead fishing trip.

Know the Best Bait

Do you know that bullheads usually use their nose in order to help find food in dark and muddy water? This is why catfishermen often use smelly and nasty bait to lure them. So, you can opt for some fragrant bait, such as hearts, chicken livers, hot dog pieces, and even cornmeal to get their attention. While it might not smell appealing to you, remember that in a dark river bottom, you can use it to draw in bullheads from several acres away.

Also, you have some other choices. Worms and doughbait are often hard to beat when it comes to bullhead bait. However, a trip to a local grocery store will also turn up several other superb enticements that can work. Bacon, for example, works great, particularly hickory-smoked. It is also worth noting that bullhead relish cheese and hot dog chunks, too. Moreover, fresh bloody chicken livers are often top-notch cat catchers. 

In many parts of the world, leeches and worms are a popular choice of anglers. And bread and even gum can work in a pinch where bullheads are plentiful. This is because they are not picky eaters. As bullheads are voracious feeders, they can eat virtually anything. 

To help you out, here are a few other common types of bait that you can use in order to catch bullheads:

  • grain

  • fruit

  • hotdogs

While bullheads will eat nearly any creature that can fit in their mouth, note that a wiggly night crawler is one of the best bait as they find them irresistible. This is especially true when you use a "worm blower" or hypodermic syringe to inflate the bait. Just make sure that you bring something that you can wash your hands with when you are done.

It is Best to Avoid Shadows

Bullheads often scurry for cover when a shadow passes overhead. This is because they fear it could be an eagle, a heron, or some other fishing-loving bird. They perceive shadows as a sign that predatory birds are near and try to hide in order to avoid being eaten. This is why when fishing in clear water you will not be able to catch a fish while fishing under your fishing boat or in water on which you are casting a shadow. 

And this is one reason most cat fishermen are more effective at night with no shadows. So, if you are fishing during daylight hours in crystal clear water, you will be more successful if you position yourself in a way that the sun does not cast your shadow on the area where you are bullhead fishing.

Use Circle Hooks

There are many reasons why circle hooks are perfect for bullhead fishing. For example, you are less likely to encounter hook swallow for one. When you have circle hooks, you do not have to carry a sharp hookset, which is very convenient. Under modest pressure, the circle hook will easily catch on the edge of a bullhead's mouth. And here is another benefit to using circle hooks. 

The specific nature of bullhead bites combined with their perchance to slowly swim away  after biting means that the fish will set your circle hooks for you neatly and snug in the corner of their mouth. This is why we think most bullhead fishermen must consider at least trying out a circle hook.

Fish in Winter

You can catch bullheads throughout the year, but some of the best months to fish for bullheads are January and February. Bullheads tend to congregate in deep water when the water temperature is from 40 to 55 degrees. You can drop a rig baited with a night crawler, chicken liver or even fruits to the bottom of a hole, and then gradually crank your bait up one foot above the substrate. In most cases, they will strike quickly. It is not unusual to catch 10 to 20 in a couple of hours. 

Also, note that many small lakes and ponds in some areas are stocked with bullheads. When the water temperature is in the range of 40 degrees and 55 degrees, these fish like to move to the deepest water and gather in huge schools. While you may find it hard to catch bullheads through the ice, note that in open water it is an excellent way to liven up your dreary winter day. Also, bullheads taste yummy when freshly-caught from cold water.

Exercise Caution

Keep in mind that bullheads have very sharp spines both on their pectoral and dorsal fins. These spines can puncture your skin easily if you hold the fish wrong. It is always a good idea to grab the bullhead behind the gills when removing a hook. And make sure you compress the dorsal and pectoral fins against the body. Then use your pliers for removing the hook with your other hand.