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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