Brown bullhead (Ameiurus)
The color of the brown bullhead is not always brown, often ranging from a yellowish, olive-colored brown to dark brown with dark mottlings on the side. Regardless of the dominant color, it always fades to a white, yellow or cream color on the belly. Its head is relatively large for the slender, round body, along with a fairly large mouth that features whisker-like barbels above, below and to the side. Like all members of the catfish family, the brown bullhead has no scales, only a slick, slimy skin.
It can be easily distinguished from the black bullhead by the lack of a light-colored bar at the base of the tail fin and black coloration in the membrane between the rays of the fin. Brown bullhead also have darker barbels than the yellow and has a square, somewhat notched tail compared to the yellow’s more rounded tail. Distinguishing between the brown and black bullhead is often more difficult, especially when they take on similar color. The pectoral spine on the pectoral fin of the brown bullhead has sharp, toothlike serrations, but the black bullhead shows very weak serrations or none at all.
The brown bullhead lives largely on insect larvae, crustaceans, snails, small crayfish, worms and small minnows. Like other bullheads, it has a ravenous appetite and feeds eagerly on just about anything available. They travel in schools, generally feeding on or near the bottom. A large part of the diet consists of midgefly larvae, called bloodworms because of their red color, which the brown bullhead picks up from the soft, muddy bottom. Though they are known to feed at any time, the brown bullhead is most generally a nocturnal feeder.
Brown bullhead are native to the eastern United States and southern Canada but have been widely introduced and now thrive well beyond their native range. In North America, the northern range extends from Nova Scotia in the east to Saskatchewan in the west. The southern boundary ranges from Louisiana in the west to northern Florida in the east. The greatest concentrations occur in the Great Lakes area and Mississippi River basins.
Brown bullhead are typically found in warm, stagnant waters of farm ponds, small and large creeks, pools of large and small rivers, as well as many natural lakes and reservoirs. They prefer soft bottoms, and unlike other bullhead, the brown bullhead is found in several large, deep bodies of water. It is able to withstand low oxygen levels, and is known to bury itself in the mud to survive such conditions. The brown bullhead can adapt to a wide range in water temperatures, anywhere from 32 to 90 F.
� The largest brown bullhead caught on rod and reel weighed 5 pounds, 11ounces, caught in Alabama.
� Sharp spines on the pectoral and dorsal fins can cause pain and swelling if a brown bullhead is handled carelessly. When handling a hooked fish, the hand should grip the fish from the head down while folding the spines downward against the fish�s body.
�Commonly referred to as a "Horned Pout" in the New Hampshire area.