Bullhead Catfish, Yellow -- Ictalurus natalis

Bullhead Catfish, Brown -- Ictalurus nebulosus

Bullhead Catfish, Black Ictalurus nelas  

History:  Both yellow and brown bullheads were introduced into Oregon.  Yellow bullheads are abundant in the Willamette Valley; brown bullheads are now common throughout the State.  Bullheads are native to the east of the Continental Divide, ranging from central Montana south to Texas, in streams of the Gulf of Mexico, and the Atlantic Coast north to New Brunswick.

Physiology:  Bullhead catfish are members of the Ictaluridae Family of catfish.  Yellow bullheads have mental barbels that are usually white; anal rays number 24-27.  The mental barbells on brown bullheads are usually light colored at the base, graduating to gray or black at the tips; anal rays number 17-24.  The lower sides are generally clouded or mottled in color. They have a non-forked tail.  The life expectancy of bullhead is around six to seven years, although some live as long as 12 years. 

Habitat:  Bullheads feed primarily on insect larvae, live and dead fish, worms and crustaceans on or in the pond bottom. 

Reproduction:  Like channel catfish, bullheads prefer holes to spawn in.  Baby bullheads are shepherd about in a dense crowd by one or both parents for the first couple of weeks after birth.

Growth:  Yellow bullheads grow to 16" or more; brown bullheads reach up to 18" in length.

Special Considerations:  Too many bullheads can cause a pond to become roiled (muddy) because the fish continually stir up mud while searching for food.  On the positive side, a high density of bullheads will reduce aquatic weeds by reducing light penetration. Bullhead have the reputation for patching holes in leaky ponds.


Brown bullhead with black barbels.

Yellow  bullhead with white barbels.

Brown bullhead.

Brown bullhead.