The Best Rig for Bullhead Catfish is an Old School “Slip Rig”

An Almost Three Pound Black Bullhead Taken On a Slip Rig, Note How Torn Up This Fish is from Life with Turtles in a Small Park Pond

Recently we have been working to acquire quite a few bullheads for our aquaponics systems.   We really think bullheads could be a great sustainable and even regenerative solution for modern aquaculture and aquaponics.

Despite their maligned reputation they are great eating fish, and grown out in a clean water system they would be even better.  They grow fast, reproduce faster than rats popping Viagra and there are generally no limits on harvest due to those factors.  Hence angler can keep a large portion of them without doing any harm to the ecosystem.  In fact, in many small bodies of water bullheads are heavily under harvested leading to huge numbers of very small fish.

These small fish are a perfect target for back yard aquatic and aquaponics enthusiasts.  Bullheads are a great harvesting size at about 10-14 inches and generally you can catch all you want at the 6-8 inch size in small ponds, creeks and back waters.  This means one only need grow out the fish for about 12 months or less if well fed to reach a harvesting size.

My issues as of late have been too many of them swallowing the hook.  Recently I reported on a method of using jig heads to minimize this.  That seemed to have promise but this weekend I used a very old school method and it worked flawlessly.

In Florida as a kid I often used this method for larger fish with bait casters.  In those instances the line was set with a light drag so the fish could run with the bait.  In this instance I instead went to a tight line with normal drag set.  With the rod set at a high angle the tension of the rod itself hooks the fish as soon as it takes the bait and attempts to move away with it.

The results are not scientifically conclusive or anything, I got out pretty late in the day so I only caught 8 bullheads before the heat put a stop to the action.  Of those 8 however, 7 were pretty small fish, about 5-8 inches in length, and zero were gut hooked.  So I will be trying this method more and keep a running tally.  I would say if you got into one gut hook in 20 with these fish you would be doing about as well as you could expect especially if you are not holding onto the rod at all times.

I have also been using hot dogs (Oscar Meyer Beef is best) because it is an old child hood favorite.  However it was leading to a lot of stolen bait and the pond I have found has such an over population of perch that they were picking it off even in deep water.

The problem was the solution!  I filleted a few of the small perch (in the south this is a generic name for sunfish like bluegill, green sunfish, pumpkin seeds, etc).  The cut bait with skin on held up a lot better, coupled with the tight line rig it was very effective in getting hook ups and reduced stolen bait to almost zero.

The video below shows how to use this rig.  The best part was getting to land an almost three pound black bullhead out of a small park pond that I would estimate to only be about a half acre of water.  So give this method a try and try those small ponds and back waters for bullheads, you might be surprised what you find.

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Just In Case You Thought Bullheads Were Only Scavangers

Those of us who respect the bullhead hear people bash them in ignorance all the time.

“Bottom feeding scavengers that eat nothing but mud and poop.”

In a word absolute nonsense, yes bulls are opportunistic and will hit your stink bait or cut bait but in the wild the bullhead is primarily a predator.  Their most common prey are crayfish, minnows and small fish like sunfish.

Check out “Bob the Bullhead” when his keeper gifts him with some lively minnows.

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The Fast Easy Way to Clean a Bullhead – (AKA Shucking Bullheads)

I have found three videos on this technique, each guy does it a little differently but the end result is the same.  I figured that I would post all three so that you could develop your own best practices.

Recently I put about 10 bullheads into my aquaponics system and I gave this method a try with one because it was so gut hooked I know it would not survive, the photo below was the result of this method, yep bullhead and duck egg for breakfast.

I actually didn’t do it right, if you note in these videos one important thing is do not cut into the side skins.  I had watched one of these videos over a month ago and didn’t refresh my memory before trying it.  I did cut into the skin, when I pulled the skin broke.  Even with that it was perhaps 10 seconds of work to grab it and pull it off with pliers.

I think the best practice here may be to put the fish on ice until they are cold and stiff, if you notice all the guys fiddle a bit with the first cut and the moving slimy fish.  I will try that next time and report back.  So check out this method and develop your own best practices for using it.  Be careful though I can see a guy trying to prove how fast he can do this and ending up with a nasty cut here!

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Do you love the pursuit of Americas “little catfish”? If so join our Facebook Community and connect with others that feel the same way. And while your here, take a minute to find out what we are all about.

Preventing Gut Hooked Bullheads

When it comes to avoiding gut hooking bullheads up until now the best I was always able to do is keep the rod in hand, strike fast and use long shanked hooks and that doesn’t always work, plus a man just has to drink a beer now and again while fishing.

It never fails the bite has gone down, you set the rod in a holder or on a bucket and wham, you either have stolen bait or that cats got the dang hook down his gullet.

It is just how they eat mind you, they suck in bait and swallow it.  I think we forget that bullheads are not just scavengers, they are predators.  You know that little pond with thousands of bulls in it?  Yea if they we all scavengers they would all starve to death.

They eat a lot of minnows and a lot of small sunfish as we reported in this article here.  And such critters don’t sit around waiting to be eaten like that piece of hotdog, cut bait or night crawler you have sitting there on the bottom.  There is also almost never one bullhead in one place by himself or herself, they are shoaling fish.  Translation not only does prey escape, your buddy is gonna eat your find if you don’t get it first.

Today I came across this video, the concept is to use a lead head jig hook when fishing for bullheads.  As this will let you easily tight line and keep a very sensitive feel it should be dang useful for that alone.  I have never tried this but hope to give it a shot this weekend and I will report back on it.  It does seem to make a lot of sense though.  Bulls are far from hook or even thick line shy and it should at least discourage very deep hook sets.

Check out this fellows video and if you have tried this or any other method to reduce deep hookups with bullheads, please tell us about it in the comments below.

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Bullheads Added To an Aquaponics System

Today I finally found a true local bullhead hole, now that I know where it is I will be going back better prepared and I will bring chum with me.  Just got to keep the stupid turtles off the dang line in this place.  I caught half as many turtles as bullheads.

Long term I am currently constructing a 1400 gallon tank and I am planning to make bullheads the species of choice in it.  This tank will be isolated from my other three systems ensuing if we have captive breeding they are contained.

Bullhead have a bad rep with some but they are very good eating especially in clean water with a controlled environment, they grow fast, they are extremely tough and given the right conditions spawn readily.

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Do you love the pursuit of Americas “little catfish”?  If so join our Facebook Community and connect with others that feel the same way.   And while your here, take a minute to find out what we are all about