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Becker, George C. / Fishes of Wisconsin

Bullhead catfish family - ictaluridae,   pp. 693-732 PDF (19.6 MB)

Page 694

694   Bullhead Catfish Family-Ictaluridae 
species, there may be considerable variation of the spine pattern in pop-
ulations from different parts of its range. A useful key to the identifi-
cation of Illinois bullhead catfishes through spines was prepared by 
Paloumpis (1963). The supraethmoid-ethmoid complex is also used for 
separating the larger members of the family (Calovich and Branson 1964, 
Paloumpis 1964). 
  Wisconsin catfishes can be divided into two groups: the small, secre- 
tive madtoms, and the large species which include the bullheads and the 
trophy-sized fishes. The bullheads and large catfishes provide consider-
able quantities of food for man. The most valuable commercial species in
the Mississippi River is the channel catfish, which brings the highest 
price per kilogram and generally has the total highest value year after 
  All of the larger catfishes and bullheads provide excellent food, and in
many restaurants along the Mississippi River catfish dinners are a spe- 
cialty. The meat is white or beef colored. It is not necessary to skin the
smaller catfishes before cooking them; skinning is a difficult task, which
has discouraged many people from preparing these abundant fish for 
the table. 
  Bullheads are typical inhabitants of glacial lakes in central North 
America which are nearing extinction. They are adapted to lakes of low 
oxygen content, high carbon dioxide content, abundant vegetation, 
abundant food, low transparency, and increasing acidity. As the lakes of
Wisconsin age, conditions generally will favor the warmwater fishes, and
the bullheads in particular. 
  As a lake becomes silted in and weed-choked, bullheads explode nu- 
merically and dominate the waters, whereas the former sport and pan- 
fish disappear. This trend is inevitable, and the public should be aware
that in such lakes the fishing has not "deteriorated," but shifted
to an- 
other group of fishes, just as tasty as, if not more tasty than, the former
inhabitants. Lakes reaching this stage are winterkill lakes. Bullheads are
hardy, and among the last survivors before the lake is filled in and be-
comes extinct. 
  Bullheads often withstand domestic pollutants better than most fish. 
Also, along with the bowfins and the gars, they are best able to endure 
high concentrations of poisons, including 20 ppb of antimycin-a con- 
centration at which other species are killed. 
  Because bullhead catfish require a minimum of attention and will eat 
any kind of food presented to them, including dog food, members of 
this family make interesting aquarium pets. Since they are hardy, they 
are able to survive aquarium conditions that would eliminate most other 
  The blue catfish, Ictalurus furcatus, was formerly included with the 
fishes of Wisconsin, based on two collections reported by Greene (1935) 
for lower Lake Pepin (Pepin County) and the Mississippi River near Lan- 
sing, Iowa (opposite Crawford County). Unfortunately, the specimens 
for these reports were not saved. R. Bailey suggested to me and to Dr. 
Greene that these probably were misidentified channel catfish, Ictalurus

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