Black bullhead (Ameiurus)
Black bullhead are short, chubby catfish completely devoid of scales. The back ranges in color from black to greenish black, with little or no mottling of colors. The belly is white to grayish yellow. However, when the black bullhead inhabits muddy water, the back may be yellowish brown. The eight barbells or whiskers about the mouth are gray or black, never white. The anal fin has 17 to 20 rays and the tail fin is slightly notched.
The weight of an adult black bullhead ranges from 6 ounces to over 3 pounds with an average length of 6 to 10 inches.
Black bullhead are scavengers and predators. Adults feed primarily at night on clams, snails, plant material and fish. Juveniles feed mostly at dawn and dusk on immature aquatic insects, leeches, and crustaceans.
Black bullhead are native to all areas of the United States between the Appalachian Mountains in the east and the Rocky Mountian in the west. They have been introduced outside that range so much that now 46 of the 48 continental United States have black bullhead, as do Canada and Mexico regions.
Black bullhead are common in oxbow lakes and quiet, soft mud-bottomed streams and murky waters. These conditions are favored by bullhead because their dark coloration is used as camouflage in the dark waters.
- Black bullhead tend to swallow the bait making it difficult to unhook.
- Handle black bullheads carefully as their fin-spines can inflict cuts and a painful sting.