Archive for April 23rd, 2009


On the most recent fine afternoon, three fishermen enjoyed the afternoon sun sitting on the bridge over South Branch Creek with their fishing poles. They had a bucket between them and kindly allowed me to photograph their catch. The fish are Brown Bullheads (Ameiurus nebulosus), a kind of catfish. These ones were about 8 to 10 inches long. The fishermen assured me they are good eating, lightly floured and fried in butter. I was content to take their word for it.

The brown bullhead is native to the freshwaters of eastern and central North America. It is a warm-water species, usually found on or near the bottom of ponds, shallow lakes or slow-moving larger streams with aquatic vegetation and a muddy or sandy bottom. In the spring, the fish begin staging, coming together preparatory for spawning. The adults move from larger waterways upstream towards headwater areas. They spawn in late spring, May or June. The parents clear a shallow nest in the bottom sand or vegetation, usually near a protecting stump or rock. The water may be as shallow as 6 inches or several feet deep. After spawning, the eggs are cared for by one or both parents, who fan and manipulate the eggs with their whisker-like barbels. After 6 to 9 days, the young hatch and lie in the nest for about 7 days. The juveniles are then guarded by their parents for a couple of weeks until they disperse. The adults return downstream to deeper waters.

Bullheads are omnivores, eating a variety of insects, crustaceans and plant items. They use their barbels to locate food and feed mostly at night. Brown bullheads are very tolerant of low-oxygen conditions and turbid water, and are also more pollution resistant than most other fish, sometimes surviving in polluted streams where they are the only fish species present.

The brown bullhead pool.

The brown bullhead pool.

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