No doubt, bullheads are not the prettiest fish in the water, but, boy do they taste good. Seasons and limits on bullheads are very generous compared to other fish. Bullheads are aggressive feeders that put up one heck of a fight once hooked. They might not be known for pulling hard, but they will not give up easily. All of these put together make bullheads a great fish for fast and fun fishing action that keeps fisherman happy for hours.
Because of the bullheads aggressive feeding habits they are a pretty easy fish to catch. They will eat anything from bologna, hot dogs to dough balls. However, my favorite bait is a night crawler on a size 2 long-shank hook. Bullheads are known to swallow the hook more times than not. The long shank on the hook will makes it easier to get to with a pair of needle-nosed pliers. Another good hook is the circle hook that will likely hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, but not always.
There is not much involved with fishing tackle for the bullhead. A light-to-medium spinning rod and reel with 6-pound line is more than adequate. Add a splitshot sinker a foot above the hook and you are ready to fish. Bullheads feed on or near the bottom and the sinker will put your bait right where it needs to be.
Bullheads are relatively shallow during the springtime and throughout early summer, with the fishing be good during daylight hours as well as after dark. They can be found feeding aggressively in areas with muddy bottoms. All that has to be done is throw the night crawler out, let it sink, and then wait. There is no need to put any movement into the bait. If there are bullheads around, they will bite.
After the bullheads have spawned and we get more into the summer months, the fish will move to deeper water in the 12 – 16 foot range. During these warm summer months I recommend night fishing. Everything else is the same though: fishing the bottom with a night crawler.
Bullheads are nothing more than a catfish. They too, like a channel cat, has the dorsal and lateral spines that can “sting” you. Hold the fish by the fishing line and with your other hand, slide the fish up from the tail section until your palm comes to the back side of the dorsal spine. Next, grip the bullhead while keeping a watchful eye on the lateral spines. Before you know it, handling a bullhead will be second nature.
Some people like to fillet bullheads like any other fish. I like to clean bullheads the same as I do any catfish. Skinning a bullhead is very easy with a couple of cuts and a couple of pairs of pliers. That way the spines can be eliminated by simply snipping them off, which makes the fish easier to skin. Use one pair of pliers to grab the lower lip of the fish, cut a line in the skin around the head, grab this skin with the other pair of pliers, and pull. With a little practice, you will be able to peel the skin back in one piece.
The only thing that is left to do is enjoy the taste of the delectable fish. They are wonderful to eat with a texture unlike any other fish I have ate before.
Black Walnut-Crusted Bullheads
4 fresh or frozen bullhead fillets
Salt and pepper
¼ cup milk
2 cups cornflakes, finely crushed
¼ cup finely chopped black walnuts
1 Tablespoon butter
¼ cup pure maple syrup
¼ cup butter, softened
Thaw fish if frozen. Rinse fish; pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper. Measure thickness of fish fillets. In a shallow dish, beat together milk and egg with a fork. In another shallow dish, combine the cornflakes and walnuts. Dip fish fillets in milk mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Dip coated fish fillets in walnut mixture, turning to coat evenly. In a large skillet, melt the 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Cook fish, half at a time, in hot butter for 4 to 6 minutes per ½-thickness, or until golden brown and fish flakes easily with a fork, turning once. Reduce heat as necessary to prevent over browning. For maple sauce: In a small saucepan, bring syrup to boiling. Remove from heat and whisk in ¼ cup butter until well combined. Serve with fish.