Class Project (Black Bullheads)

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NSSCSU
Class Project (Black Bullheads)
<p>Hello, so as part of an assignment for a biodiversity class that I'm currently taking, my professor wanted me to analyze a predetermined species of fish (I was assigned the Black Bullhead,) and to answer questions about it. As part of this assignment, I'm also required to talk to anglers who have experience with catching this type of fish (I don't personally have any such experience, and I'm admittedly not much of a fisherman myself,) and so I was wondering if anyone here would be able and willing to help provide me with some of the information I need, as follows:</p> <p>1. What do Black Bullheads typically eat?</p> <p>2. Where can Black Bullheads typically be found? (Including specific bodies of water and which kinds of bodies of water)</p> <p>3. When, where and how do Black Bullheads typically reproduce?</p> <p>4. Are there certain kinds of predators that tend to favor Black Bullheads or target them frequently?</p> <p>5. What are some notable physical traits of Black Bullheads, and how are they distinguished from other related catfish species?</p> <p>Any information like this that's applicable to Black Bullheads, as well as personal stories and details about Black Bullheads that any of you have caught previously would be of great help to me, so please don't hesitate to share if it's convenient for you!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>
tom
tom's picture
Species tab > catfishes> black bullhead

You, my friend are in luck! This site has an entire page dedicated to these cool little fish. http://roughfish.com/black-bullhead

This will answer most of your questions. 

As for personnal experience, I can say this was one of the first species I ever caught as a kid. Scappy little fighters. The seem to be more active at night, or during low light times. They'll eat pretty much anything. Oh, and they make these adorable little grunting noises too. 

Corey
Corey's picture
Black Bullheads

1. What do Black Bullheads typically eat?

Insects, crustaceans, snails, and small fish. They also eat frogs occasionally. They are attracted to almost anything they can smell, and feed by scent. The barbels (whiskers) near their mouth are very sensitive to taste, and they are able to find food by "tasting" their way through the water.

2. Where can Black Bullheads typically be found? (Including specific bodies of water and which kinds of bodies of water)

Black bullheads typically do best in shallow, muddy lakes and ponds. Bingham Lake near Waseca, Minnesota has a very large population of black bullheads. If you click the link above, you can see the CPUE for black bullheads compared to the other fish in the lake. CPUE stands for "Catch Per Unit of Effort" which scientists use to measure the number of fish in a sample. Black Bullheads can survive the low oxygen conditions that occur in shallow lakes (like Bingham) during cold winters, so they become very numerous in those conditions.

3. When, where and how do Black Bullheads typically reproduce?

This resource: Fishes of Wisconsin describes their spawning bevavior in detail. They begin spawning at at water temp of 69.8 degrees F, the female digs a saucer-shaped nest in 2-4 feet of water, both parents aerate, fan, and guard the nest, and the young bullheads swim in a compact school with the parents swimming around them and guarding them until they are 25mm long.

4. Are there certain kinds of predators that tend to favor Black Bullheads or target them frequently?

River Otters love to eat black bullheads and will devour a dozen or more per day. Flathead catfish also eat black bullheads whenever they can find them.

5. What are some notable physical traits of Black Bullheads, and how are they distinguished from other related catfish species?

Black bullheads have sharp, pointed spines at the base of their dorsal and pectoral fins. These spines are coated in an irritant that makes being poked by one of those fins very painful. This is a defense against predators. They can be distinguished from brown and yellow bullheads by looking at the barbels (whiskers) near their mouth. For the black bullhead, these barbels are all black. In the yellow bullhead, the 4 barbels on the chin are white with the rest being black. For the brown bullhead, the chin barbels are usually white at the base and black toward the tip. You can also count the anal fin rays, which number 17-21 in the black bullhead, 21-24 in the brown bullhead, and 24-27 in the yellow bullhead.

This chart helps illustrate the difference:

Species Tail Shape Chin Barbel Color Body Color Anal Fin Rays
Black Bullhead Forked All Black Solid 17-21
Brown Bullhead Forked White Base Black Tips Mottled 21-24
Yellow Bullhead Rounded All White Solid 24-27

 

I have most often caught black bullheads when fishing with worms for bait, just as the sun is going down when they come out to feed. I often use a float with a tiny led light in it to help me see when a fish is biting my bait. Bullheads are crepuscular (most active right around dawn and dusk) and it's common to catch a dozen or more per night.

 

Hope this helps, good luck with your class.

 

 

NSSCSU
Class Project

Thank you both very much, all of this will help me immensely!

Jason E.
Jason E.'s picture
Thanks to Corey and Tom for

Thanks to Corey and Tom for helping out!  I have enjoyed teaching this class and am always impressed by the willingness of roughfishers to help other learn about various species.