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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