Posts Tagged ‘Ameiurus nebulosus’

The fishermen have returned along with the spring weather. They began showing up on the bridge over the little river last weekend. I stopped and talked to a fellow who was there yesterday afternoon. They are fishing for Brown Bullheads (Ameiurus nebulosus), a kind of catfish. I wrote about the bullheads last year on April 23rd, so the fishing season has gotten underway a bit earlier this year. You can follow the link to last year’s post to learn a bit about bullhead biology. They are a native species that can tolerate low-oxygen conditions and higher levels of pollution than other fish. I asked the man how his fishing was going and he allowed that it was a bit slow. Friends had been out earlier and had caught 50 fish in under 10 minutes.

I noticed last year that each fisherman, or group of fishers would take what seemed to me to be a substantial number of fish. The bullheads move into the area as the breeding season arrives and congregate before spawning in pools in the headwaters of the river. Is this a good idea, removing fish from the breeding stock by the bucketful before they have a chance to reproduce?

Last year, I contacted the local conservation authority to ask whether there are any catch limits for bullheads. The man I spoke to informed me, rather defensively, I thought, that catch limits were nothing to do with them. They are set by the appropriate provincial regulator. It would seem that the conservation authority has no authority over the conservation of bullheads.

I looked in the bucket at the bullheads. The bullheads looked back as they gasp for air. For fish, they have strangely expressive faces. They looked sad.

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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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