Bullhead Catfish

Brown bullhead catfish chin Barbels

Lctaluridae family

Other Names: Brown Bullhead fish is widely known as the horned pout, hornpout, mud cat, and mud pout


Brown Bullhead Ameiurus Nebulosus

The Brown Bullhead Catfish (Brown Bullhead) is a fish species widely distributed across North America. They belong to the catfish family Lctaluridae, along with other catfish bullhead species like the black bullhead, white catfish, and yellow bullhead.

The Brown Bullhead fish is widely known as the horned pout, hornpout, mud cat, and mud pout. 

Its scientific name is Ameiurus nebulosus brown, and they are known to tolerate low water quality with low oxygen conditions. Therefore, they live in the shallows containing low oxygen levels, usually the mud-bottomed lakes, ponds, streams, reservoirs, and rivers’ backwaters. 

The hornpout is the most common member of the catfish family. Its dark whiskers or barbels distinguish it from its close relative, the yellow bullhead, which has yellowish whiskers.

Fishing for Bullhead Catfish has become increasingly popular over the years among both sport and food anglers.


The Bullhead Brown is a smooth and slimy-skinned fish species. They grow to be about one foot in length on average but can grow up to 20 inches long. They have a yellowish brown-colored body that tends to be more yellow around the belly and dark olive on top. The horned pout has a broad and flat head, which is one of the characteristic appearances of catfishes. In addition, they have a squared-off tail fin, a pectoral spine with saw-like teeth, and dark chin barbels similar to a Snakehead. Its pectoral spines with strong barbs and pigmented chin barbels are key distinguishes of the brown bullhead fish. The squared-off tail fin is only slightly notched, with the ventral and dorsal lobes angling inward.

One of the most apparent features is the presence of long and mildly thick whiskers around its mouth. In addition, there are sharp spines on their fins that play a significant role in protecting the fish from predators and helping them catch prey. 

Its mouth is subterminal; the upper jaw extends slightly past the lower jaw and curves around it. This anatomical design makes it possible for bottom feeding. The Brown Bullhead is considered heavy and can weigh up to 5.0-7.9 lbs.

The brown bullhead can be distinguished from similar species of fish by the absence of a tooth patch on the upper jaw.


The Brown Bullhead are native to freshwater habitats in the United States and Canada. These fish usually live in slow-moving water bodies with a lot of vegetation at the bottom.

The mud pout fish were most abundant in regions including Alabama, New Hampshire, New Brunswick, Vermont, Anacostia River in Maryland, and in some areas of Texas. As a result of stocking them for food, they now live in most waters across the United States.

This fish species can withstand a wide range of temperatures, both low and high. They can also thrive with even deficient oxygen levels and in heavily polluted waters with low water quality. As a result of these three factors, Brown Bullheads are considered survivors and can survive in waters where other fishes will struggle.

Eating and Feeding Habits

The Brown Bullheads are omnivores and bottom feeders, often scouting for food at the bottom of lakes, ponds, and rivers. They are generally not picky eaters. The hornpout will eat worms, leeches, vegetation, snails, smaller fishes, and corn. This knowledge has been used repeatedly by anglers who use corn as bait to catch Bullhead species easily. They will generally eat any smaller baits that will fit into their mouths.

They usually remain hidden for the better part of the day but come out to feed at night. Their poor eyesight relies heavily on their barbels to feel for movement in the water. Depending on the movement intensity, they can decide whether what’s coming at them is smaller than their body size or not. This is very similar to other species of fish like Grass Carp.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

A Brown Bullhead fish can live for up to 7 years and grow through different stages before reaching full maturity. 

Spawning is the process through which fishes reproduce. In summary, the fishes expel mature gonads from their bodies into specific and conducive parts of the surrounding waters, and this action results in reproduction. 

Before these catfish start to spawn, the parents build a formidable nest in a dark and protected area of the water. This strategy ensures that their fertilized eggs are safe from the water’s harshness, including predators and extreme weather conditions. 

Then, the female lays her eggs in the nest, and both parents guard the eggs while they hatch into fingerlings. Usually, spawning in Brown Bullheads only occurs from April to June every year when the water temperature exceeds 65°F.

Fishing for Brown Bullhead Catfish

Finding and Catching Brown Bullheads

They are relatively predictable and easy to locate. Look for slow-moving water with vegetation. The best time to fish is in the evening when the bullheads are most active. Brown Bullheads will eat anything that fits comfortably into their mouths, including vegetation, corn, and smaller aquatic animals. 


The most successful lures tend to be slow bottom presentations, including weighted night crawlers, chicken livers, minnows, jigs, and cut bait at night. They will sometimes strike at spinnerbaits and crankbaits too.

The use of worms or corn as baits has proven to be the most effective. If you use worms, you should use ones gathered off a compost pile. These worms come with a more pungent smell and will get more attention since Bullhead Catfish do not see a lot with their eyes. Also, try to get the fishing line as close to the bottom as possible.


  • Many agencies do not have a creel limit for Bullheads.
  • It is easier to catch Brown Bullhead in the evenings when they look for food in the cooler water temperatures. 
  • A Brown Bullhead can inject poison into its prey from the barbs in its fins. It turns out that those barbs do not only hurt, but they are weapons of protection for the fishes you should avoid coming in contact with.
  • One easy way to soothe the pain from a Brown Bullhead’s powerful bite is to rub some of the slimes from the belly on the bite’s place. Although this doesn’t promise instant relief, it can shorten the time you would have dealt with the pain from the bite.

Florida State Record

The brown bullhead fish state record in Florida weighed 7.02 pounds.

How to Clean and Cook Bullhead Catfish

During the summer, bullheads will most likely taste muddy and lose their firmness, so you might want to do against cooking bullheads caught during those seasons. Bullhead Catfishes tastes best during the cool-down season or right before fall compared to warm seasons. 

Before cleaning, bullheads should be killed quickly and painlessly. You can do so by preparing a bucket of cold water before cutting from behind the head to the gills with a sharp knife while holding their mouth open with pliers. Then, you let it bleed out in cold water and start cleaning once it’s dead.

Cut off its fins first to avoid getting stung, then you pop the backbone and pull the fish apart. Filleting is a suitable method for cleaning bullheads as well. Do remember to retrieve any swallowed hooks. 

Deep-fried battered bullheads are delicious, and since the fillets are often small, about 3 to 4 bullheads would satisfy one grown adult. Of course, you can also grill it with any flavoring you would like.