• Family: Ictaluridae (North American Catfishes)
• Other Names: Bullhead, mudcat
• Ohio Status: Sport fish
• Adult Size: Typically 8-16 inches, can reach 19 inches. Usually weighs 1-2 pounds can reach over 4 pounds.
• Typical Foods: Will eat a wide variety of items including fish, crayfish, and aquatic insects. They will often scavenge for dead fish and other animals.
The brown bullhead has a deeply serrated back edge to the pectoral spines and a square tail. Their body can be various shades of brown and they often have darker colored mottling or speckles over much of the body. They have a lighter colored belly that is often white or a yellow colored. Their anal fin is intermediate in length (22-24 rays) between the yellow and black bullhead. The base of their four chin barbels is black or brown and can be entirely black or brown.
Habitat and Habits
The brown bullhead prefers deep clear waters compared too black or yellow bullheads with moderate amounts of vegetation. Historically they were found in Lake Erie, primarily the Western basin, and in other natural lakes in Ohio. During the early history of the U.S. extensive canal systems were built connecting Lake Erie to the Ohio River drainage. This and intentional introductions have allowed the brown bullhead to become well distributed in the Ohio River drainage. As a result brown and black bullheads, which historically would not have encountered one another, have hybridized so often that it is difficult to find pure strain fish of either species in much of the state.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Bullheads build nests in natural cavities or make saucer shaped depressions near submerged cover, such as tree roots or sunken logs. Females usually deposit between 300 to 10,000 eggs in the nest. At least one of the parents remains to continually fan and guard the nest. After hatching, the young swim around in a dense ball and are guarded by the male for several weeks.