Game Fishing > Bottom Freshwater Fish types > Bullhead or Catfish

Bullhead or Catfish

Bullhead or CatfishThe right name of this popular and well-known fish is the horned pout, and it is of a wide distribution, being found in ponds, lakes, and streams all over the United States and Canada. It multiplies so rapidly in any kind of water that it soon clears out all edible matter which would be useful food for better fish. This species reaches a maximum length of eighteen inches and a weight of four pounds, but the average size of market specimens is much smaller.

There are many species of this family, each rejoicing in a number of names, the largest kind being the lake catfish, which is sometimes caught in the Mississippi River weighing over one hundred pounds. In Lake Erie, specimens have been taken up to fifty pounds. The channel catfish, spotted cat, yellow cat, black cat, marbled cat, blue cat, black bull-head, and the pout are all dull, slow-moving fish, but when hooked are surprisingly lively.

The catfish are a hardy race, and are very tenacious of life, opening and shutting their mouths half an hour after their heads have been severed, and so prolific that, in some places, the water seems a living mass of fish. When the mature fish grow to a large size they feed on the young of their own species if their food is scarce. Many instances are recorded where a small fish having been hooked, a larger fish has taken it and swallowed it, and so got caught. The catfish retains its freshness much longer than any other fish, and it has comparatively few bones. Some writers consider it the most unattractive fish of our fresh waters, and to catch it represents the lowest depths of depravity in fishing with hook and line.

The catfish is a ready and voracious feeder, any kind of bait being greedily swallowed, and a large fish, when it feels the hook, goes for some distance at astonishing speed, pulling and tugging with bull-like strength. In angling for them, the worm is the most convenient bait. They will take minnows, grasshoppers, small frogs, a piece of salt mackerel or salt pork, as well as pieces of fresh fish cut from the under part of chub, perch, or sunfish; as the catfish always gorges the bait, the hook is easier to extract if it is a good size.

No. 5 or 6 Limerick hooks will do. Use a light ten-foot rod of native cane, with a line of twisted silk tied to the tip of the same length as the rod. No reel is required. A three-foot leader, like the one used for perch, makes the line stand up in the water, and a float is also an advantage; it keeps the line from floating toward the angler, and is easier to cast among the weeds. Two hooks can be tied, one touching the bottom, baited with dead fish or pork; the other, six inches above, on which is placed a worm; they soon go for the bait, if the fish are plentiful, and the float goes under surface. The fish is sure to be fast, and there is no need to hurry; when it is pulled ashore or in the boat, take care how it is handled, as the horns on its fins make nasty wounds.

Never lift the fish bodily from the water, for the reason, as often happens, that bass and trout may have taken the bait, and by that means get lost. There is no special time to fish, any time will do, though the hot months of July and August are best. To properly skin them, the head should be cut from below, leaving the skin attached to the shoulders. By placing a small pinch of salt on the fingers, a tighter grip on the skin will enable you easily to pull it from the body. The fish can then be cleaned and afterward placed in salt water-extra salt if the fish is taken from stagnant water; after being in salt water a few hours, they can be sharply and quickly fried in hot fat. If cooked without being skinned they are quite disagreeable in taste.