A member of the same family as catfish, the yellow bullhead has whisker-like barbels, no scales, and sharp spines that can stab unwary anglers. This species is found in warm, murky lakes and streams in central and eastern Minnesota.
General description: Yellow bullheads are small, light-colored fish with light-colored barbels on their face, a rounded tail fin, and no scales.
Size: This is a mid-sized bullhead that rarely gets larger than two pounds. The Minnesota record yellow bullhead, which weighed 3 pounds 10 ounces, was caught in Osakis Lake in Todd County.
Color: True to their name, yellow bullheads are yellowish brown. They have pale barbels and light-colored undersides.
Bullheads spawn in May or June. The female lays 300 to 700 eggs in a hole or burrow she scoops out on the bottom of the lake. The male cares for the eggs. After the young hatch, both parents guard them.
Yellow bullheads eat just about anything. Insects, snails, minnows, and clams are among their most common foods.
Walleyes, northern pike and other predatory fish eat bullheads up to four inches long. Many people eat larger bullheads.
Habitat and range
These bullheads are found mainly in eastern and central Minnesota, in clear, weedy lakes and slow streams. Like other bullheads, they can tolerate water with low oxygen levels. They are not found in the northern third of the state.
Population and management
Yellow bullheads are less common than black and brown bullheads. Scientists expect that bullhead populations may grow as lakes age and water quality declines, since these fish are better than many other native species at living in warm water that has little oxygen.
Some people dread catching bullheads because they are afraid they will get "stung" by their spiny fins. The trick to holding a bullhead safely is to grip it where you are out of the way of its dorsal or pectoral fins. Put your palm on the belly and slide your fingers along the sharp side fins.