Why fish for bullhead?
- In Minnesota, the limit for bullhead is 100 and the season never closes.
- Bullhead can provide fast and plentiful fishing action for kids
- Fishing bullhead helps take pressure off of more desirable species
- You can eat them and they are fairly easy to clean (in our muddy lake, they do not taste very good. If you're going to eat them, catch them out of a clear lake with a sandy bottom or a clear stream).
- Thinning the lake of bullhead helps other forager species by reducing competition, such as a walleye and rock bass.
- You can toss them in the garbage without having to feel guilty
- In many states you can cut them up and use them as bait for other fish
- They can thrive in very low oxygen conditions, and can be stocked where other fish can't survive, such as small ponds and ditches.
- Since so few people actually fish for bullhead, maybe you'll get lucky set a new state record! It is very unlikely that big one's are "fished out."
In our lake, it seems we are always hooking bullhead when we don't want to. I've caught them on lures, and have even seen them try to stuff large sucker minnows down their small bodies. They can be very aggressive when there is something to eat, even when its twice their size.
Yet, set out to intentionally catch bullhead and you will find there is some technique to catching these buggers. The biggest problem we have is getting the bait past the sunfish in our lake, down to the bottom where most of the bullhead are. To accomplish this, but sure to use a heavy weight that will take your hook right down to the bottom. Bullhead can out-muscle other fish on the lake bottom.
What kind of bait to use when catching bullhead?
Bullhead will eat anything and everything. Generally, the smellier the bait, the better. Worms make great bait for bullhead, but sunfish will also aggressively fight for worms. I've found that leeches work well. If you bunch a leech on a hook, it is more difficult for the sunfish to eat, yet bullhead and their larger mouths can take them in quite easily. The other advantage of a leech is that the skin is much tougher than a worm and it is more difficult for sunfish to tear a leech off the hook.
Tip: bullhead have a sense of smell that is better than a bloodhound. Plant some bait in a container at the bottom of the lake and you can bring in a swarm of bullhead. I like to use plastic strawberry or blueberry containers that have many slits to drain water; just fill it with worms or even cut up bullhead, and drop it into the water at the end of your dock. Soon you will have bullhead sniffing around. Be sure to retrieve the container when you are done fishing.
The special equipment we use for catching bullhead includes a standard rod and reel, a medium size weighted hook (to send it to the bottom quickly), a thick workmans glove for handling the bullhead (they are slippery, and they have nasty spines that can be painful if you are stuck), and a five gallon bucket for containing our catch. Leeches, worms or any other kind of bait will work.
Our "family record" for catching bullhead stands at 42 black bullhead. Generally we quit for lack of endurance, rather than lack of bullhead action. To encourage the kids interest in fishing, I pay them a bounty of 10 cents per bullhead. It keeps my kids busy all afternoon and only sets me back about $2.
Interesting facts about bullhead
They are a North American native species of fish
They are found in the fossil record going back at least 300 million years
They have an incredible sense of smell, better than any dog
They can "smell" with most of their body
There are three main species: black, yellow and brown
They can survive very low oxygen conditions