Post date: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - 16:32
Updated date: 2/8/17
Yellow Bullhead Ameiurus natalis


The Yellow Bullhead is a small species of catfish that thrives in clear, weedy waters. It tends to be fatter and deeper-bodied than the other species of bullheads. They are tenacious fighters on light tackle and will aggressively engulf anything that smells good to them. Yellow bullheads of over a pound are fairly common, but they don't grow as large as the brown. This is a highly underutilized sportfish, and a fun target for anglers of all ages.


Other Names: Butter Cat, Greaser, Yellow Catfish, White-whiskered Bullhead, Horned Pout, Creek Cat, Polliwog, Northern Yellow Bullhead, Mississippi Bullhead.


Barbels and Spiny Fins: All bullheads have eight barbels around the mouth - which are used for tasting and smelling the water. The barbels are harmless. However, bullheads also have three sharp spines one at the front of each pectoral and the dorsal fin. Watch out for those spines! The spines can deliver a painful sting - they are coated in an irritant toxin that can cause pain and swelling around the wound. Immersing the wound in water that is as hot as the wounded person can tolerate will detoxify the irritant and relieve the pain. 






Yellow bullheads are small, compact catfish with large heads. The tail fin is large and distinctly rounded. They can easily be distinguished from the other bullheads in the midwest by their chin whiskers - which are light-coloured: white, buff, yellowish, or tan all the way to the tip, not black, brown, or gray. In the south, yellows could possibly be confused with flat and snail bullheads, but these fish have a dark spot at the base of the dorsal fin. Stonecats (a type of madtom) also have white barbels beneath their mouths, but these can be eliminated by noting that they are always very small and have an adipose fin that is continuous with the tail fin.




Yellow bullheads prefer a habitat full of healthy aquatic vegetation. Clear, weed-choked lakes and sloughs are their preferred domain, although the backwaters of large rivers are excellent greaser habitat as well, provided the water is clear enough for aquatic plants to grow. Yellow bullheads like to hide in cover as well, particularly woody debris and sunken logs in thick stands of coontail, water lilies, or other substantial water plants. 





Like the other bullheads, butter cats prefer to feed at night, but can occasionally be caught at all hours of the day. Dawn and dusk are prime time when it comes to all bullhead fishing, and yellows are no exception. Good baits include worms, chunks of fish meat, liver, and shrimp. Perhaps because of the clearer water conditions they tend to prefer, yellows seem a bit more eager to feed by sight than other bullheads, making them a more common catch with artificials than black or brown bullheads. Yellow bullheads have been known to take a heavily-weighted woolly bugger when fished slowly along the deep weed edges. A drop or two of fish scent will definitely improve your odds when attempting this. Yellows use that big, round tail to good advantage when hooked, and can put up quite a struggle on light tackle.


Range Map

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