Hit the Culverts, Bridges, Over Passes and Shade Lines for Summer Bullheads

As you watch the short video below think about the fact that most fishermen know the true golden rule of fishing, even if they don’t call it that, frankly they tend to follow it.  The golden rule of fishing is simply…

All fish relate to structure and edge.

This is why you will see a guy in a boat that could fish anywhere on a huge lake cruising the shore, or a kid with a cane pole dropping a bobber just on the edge of a weed line, etc.

We all know this intuitively, we as fisherman naturally seek cover and the edges they provide, though often we ignore structure that is not actually in the water.  In this video it is sort of both, but simply put the fish are inside the culvert because of not only the in water structure but the above cover creating shade when water temperatures are high.

When hunting bullheads we are often in smaller bodies of water, they warm up faster and this is good early on, when it is still cold and the bullheads are moving slow or still hiding in the mud burrows.  But when the heat really climbs these same bodies of water get like a warm bath and fish will retreat to cooler locations.

So when you are having trouble finding bullheads (and frankly many other fish) look for anything creating shade, especially in the hottest part of the day.  Such as this guys culvert honey hole.  Other options are bridges and over passes, docks and even over hanging trees that create cooler micro climates.

The video below by Isaac’s Fishing Corner is a perfect example of this concept.  Small pond, right in the middle of town and he is pulling them out left and right.

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The Verdict Is In – Lead Head Jigs Do Prevent Gut Hooking

A Small Bullhead Perfectly Hooked by a Small Jig Head

Just a quick update today.  As I have written about a few times we have been catching bullhead cats for use in our aquaponics and aquatic systems along with a small stock pond on my property.

The chief problem has been gut hooking, even quite small bullheads with even quite large hooks.  At one location I was able to use a slip rig with fairly heavy weight and a tight line set up.  This worked really well reducing gut hooks significantly.

I have also written on a method using lead head jigs instead of standard hooks that is reported to cut down gut hookings to almost zero.  Recently I found a great little bullhead hole at a small creek near my home.  So far I have explored about 500 yards of this creek and there is only one deep hole in that stretch.  As you might imagine the bullheads really pile up in that spot.

Recently rain totally altered the creek, so that hole is now only accessible, when using rod and reel, from a small sand bar, with a massive tree overhang.  This results in a very short cast to the area with the fish, I am talking 10 feet or there about.  Using a tight line rig with slip weight in such a situation is simply not practical.  So I decided to test the jig head theory.

The results?  In 2 trips I have caught 19 bullheads, mostly about 7-10 inches in length.  Of the 19, 17 were lip hooked, one was hooked on the outside of his face (ouch) and one was gut hooked.  And frankly the gut hooked one was my fault.

Action had slowed so I decided to grab some perch for more cut bait.  I laid the rod on the ground and the fish had a lot of time to much on the bait.  Even though he swallowed it, it was less so than in other similar situations.  It was also a bit bigger than the other fish, if I were catching them steadily of his size I would have gone up to a bigger sized jig head.  Anyway, I simply “shucked him” and had him as an appetizer with steak that night.

In the end though, lead head jigs seem remarkably effective at reducing gut hookings, they also didn’t appear to make the fish hook shy or reduce hook up percentages in any meaningful way.  I will admit 19 fish is not a big sample size, but until I tried this I was guthooking about 65% of the fish I hooked up, I was also missing many because of trying to hit them fast (too fast) before they inhaled the bait.  So next time you are out for bullheads, give the jig head method a try.

Final note, I did get a few on night crawlers, however the most effective bait proved to be cut up perch (sunnies, brim, bluegill, etc).  Hot dog also worked but were very easily stripped off with this method.  So I would recommend cut bait as your first choice. In any event I would say with confidence that if you monitor your rod well, lead heads do seem to as claimed, cut down gut hooking to almost zero.

If you need some jig heads, just get some at any local tackle or big box store, or check out this great little assortment on Amazon.

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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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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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How I Discovered the Joy of Bullhead Fishing

I have friends who sometimes ask me why at 45 I still chase bullhead catfish.  The simple answer is they are fun to catch and good to eat but in reality the answer is deeper than that.  Like many my story of bullhead fishing goes back to being a kid.

When I was 7 years old we moved to an apartment complex that at the time was called “Fountain Lakes”, in reality there was one lake but that was enough.  I had parents that didn’t want to fish and this is before the internet, so I leaned mostly by watching people around me and reading magazines like Sports Afield and Outdoor Life.  My first bullheads were caught in this lake, generally on Green Giant nibblets corn.   I spent most of my time on this lake (a big pond really) catching bluegills and giant golden shiners.  I was too young to cook so spent most of my time doing catch and release.

We moved to a new apartment complex a few years later when I was 10, by then I was very self sufficient for a 10 year old.  The 80s were a different time and kids at that time were not constantly looked after and fussed over.  So when I found out that an apartment complex up the road (about 3/4th of a mile) had a place to fish, no one batted an eye about me going there.

By now I was learning to cook fish, mostly on the grill (because fish stink or so said my mother) and starting to keep some fish.  At this new place everyone called the water a canal, it was really a long pond with a cool layout.  You can see it here, I rapidly figured out a method to catch really big bluegills at this place and soon was catching quite a few large mouth bass.

Then one day I met a woman there, I would guess she was in her early 20s.  She simply had a cane pole with a float and was using hot dogs for bait, and was catching black bullheads like crazy.  The fish were nice say 11-13 inches on average.  She was a nice lady and showed me what she was doing but would not give me any hot dogs.

Again this was the 80s, kids were self starters so I hiked about another half mile to a convenience store, bought some hot dogs and made a bobber out of a stick because I didn’t have any with me.

That night I came home with a bucket of about a dozen fat bullheads.  But I really didn’t know how to clean them.  While my dad was a work-a-holic and didn’t fish much he came from a fishing family.  When he came home he was impressed and simply showed me how to head and gut them.  He said, just grill them in foil and peel the skin off with a fork when you eat them.

I was hooked!  I now could go get fish whenever I wanted except say in the depths of winter.  Later a friend showed me how you can simply filet bullheads like any fish and just cut the skin off the filet.  Then I learned to deep fry them!

For a few years we lived there and I fished all the time.  In that apartment, at a golf course we finagled our way into by picking up balls, in the St. John’s River, at the beach and in local creeks.  The fish though that I most kept and ate was the humble bullhead.

When I was almost 14 we moved to Pennsylvania where my family was from.  My dad retired, my uncle hunted and fished all the time.  Soon I was shooting deer with a bow, wading for trout, catching small mouths in the Susquehanna river and hiking into the back woods for native brookies.  Occasionally I would find a bullhead or two but like most as I got older my idea of catfish turned to channel cats.  In 1989 I joined the Army, served until 1993 and after coming home I eventually moved to Texas in late 93.

At that point I was broke, I put the shoulder to the grindstone and focused on career and fished very little.  By the time I was 24 I met my wife who I am still with after over 20 years now.  As I went from dead broke to doing okay to doing well, I started fishing again.  My first appoach was “vacation fishing”, hiring guides, taking trips to surf fish the Texas Coast, etc.

One day I went to a small pond just a few miles from our home.  A simple city park and caught the biggest yellow bullhead I have ever caught on of all things a beetle spin lure.  Soon I was back there with hot dogs and a bobber.  There was some part of my childhood, a good part that came back that day.  All of the sudden I remembered why we fish in the first place.  Because it is plain simple fun and because it can help put food on the table.

So the bullhead will always be a special fish to me, I will pursue all species and I will say I sure get more excited about a big channel catfish or a black tip shark then a bullhead, but I still love catching the little catfish and I damn sure like them fried up.

To me they are all you could want in a fish.  They breed in a way that makes a rat look like a slacker, so you don’t worry about over fishing them if you are at all responsible anyway.  They are quick to bite if you put the right bait in the right place.  They really do great in small bodies of water making them easy to find and accessible to most people.

So how did you come to enjoy bullhead fishing, what parts of the country did you first catch them in?  Tell me about your view of the bullhead.


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Indiana Researchers find a Bullhead Catfish with a Belly Full of Bluegills

Click the Image to See the Original Source Article Reviewed in this Post

Wanted to do a quick write up on this one for a variety of reasons.  First the jist of the article,

Biologists were assessing fish populations on Loomis as they do every year on various lakes. The bullhead catfish pictured was discovered in a net along with dozens of other fish.Capturing bullheads is not that unusual. But this one was.

“The fish’s stomach was bulging and twitching,” said Bacula. “It was the fattest and most unusual bullhead I had ever seen. I wanted to see what was in there.”

“We were shocked,” said Bacula. “We counted remains of 18 bluegill in that 13-incher’s stomach. From what we could tell, those ‘gills were 3 to 5 inches long at the time they were eaten.”

Read the Full Article Here

Okay so here are a few of my thoughts.  First the researchers seem to find this unusual because they say “bullheads are bottom feeders”, I want to dispel that half myth today.  It would be more accurate to say that bullheads often feed on the bottom but they are not exclusively bottom feeders.

At one point in time I kept about a dozen bullheads in a 37 gallon fish tank.  Little guys about 4-7 inches long.  Just to learn more about them.  There was a pond about a mile from my home, in summer it teemed with fat head minnows.  About twice a week I went down to it and dip netted a bunch of them.  Took them home and put them in the tank, this was dinner.

I would sit back with a beer and listen to the sound of plunk, ploop, plop over and over as they would devour the minnows off the surface.  One of the largest yellow bullheads I ever caught was over 2 pounds (keep in mind the Texas state record is only 3.2 lbs.)  I was fishing in a city park pond with a beetle spin and the fish hit it running only about 1 foot deep in about 8 feet of water.

One of my favorite things is kicking back and just catching a bunch of bullheads with either hot dogs or night crawlers.  I usually use two rods, one on the bottom and the other with a float, I usually set the float to suspend the bait about 12-18 inches off the bottom.  Some days the bottom rig produces best, other days the suspended one does.

The point is bullheads are fish and fish move in patterns and at times due to temperature, season or food availability they feed at various depths, they don’t exclusively bottom feed.  Hence we should not limit ourselves to only fishing on the bottom.

Next the fact that a 13 inch bullhead was eating 4 inch bluegill should make us think about using shiners or bluegills (where legal) as bait at times, not just stink bait, crawlers, cut bait etc.  My grandfather always said the bigger the bait the bigger the fish, so next time you are being overrun with 3 inchers, consider trying some live bait a bit too big for the ones you are catching.

In any event this is a pretty cool story, do take time to check out the original article at South Bend Tribune.


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