Yellow bullhead (Ameiurus)
Yellow bullhead are members of the catfish family. They are comparatively slim fish with leathery skin devoid of scales. They are generally small fish, though they can grow to 18 inches and 3 pounds under the right circumstances.
In general, yellow bullhead are a light yellow to olive-green or olive-brown color with a white, cream, or yellowish belly. Fins have an olive to dusky color. However, body color varies and is not always a dependable indicator of the species. In fact, juvenile yellow bullhead are often dark brown or jet black and it can be difficult to distinguish them from the offspring of the black or brown bullhead.
The yellow tail may be slightly notched and is generally rounded, though not dramatically. The anal fin is moderately long with a straight margin and 23 to 27 rays. The rear edge of the pectoral fin has a serrated spine.
The head of the yellow bullhead is broad and flat. The most visible characteristic of the head are the four pairs of barbels. The chin barbels are lighter, generally a yellow, white, or buff color. The upper barbels are darker, usually light to dark brown. The lower jaw of the yellow bullhead does not stick out conspicuously.
Yellow bullhead are considered to be scavengers that will feed on whatever plant and animal life is available. Their preferred selections include small fish such as minnows, snails, shrimp and crayfish. However, they will also feed on insect larvae or aquatic plants. They will even scour the bottom for decaying organic matter if necessary.
In general, yellow bullhead are nocturnal (night) feeders. Scent and taste play an important role in their feeding. They rely heavily on their barbels and sense of smell to locate their prey and other food sources. While they seem willing to eat a large variety of food, they are actually more selective than other species of bullhead.
Although yellow bullhead have been introduced in many areas outside their native range, in general they remain limited to their original territory. This native territory encompasses areas of the eastern and central United States running from the St. Lawrence River of Canada and the Hudson River of New York south and east through the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and into North Dakota then south to Texas, the Gulf of Mexico and Florida. Essentially, they can be found in waters between the Great Plains and the Atlantic Coast and from Canada to the gulf coast
Habitat can vary greatly, in part because the yellow bullhead is more tolerant of polluted and low-oxygen environments than other types of bullhead. However, they thrive most in shallow lakes, reservoirs, and ponds and slow-moving streams with clear, sluggish water, gravel or rock bottoms and heavy vegetation. They can be found in greatest number in heavily vegetated areas with water temperatures between 75 and 80 F.
- In some areas, populations have declined over the last 50 years as a result of degraded water quality, silt accumulation and habitat destruction.
- The world-record yellow bullhead is 4 pounds, 4 ounces.