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Becker, George C. / Fishes of Wisconsin

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

Page 700

700    Bullhead Catfish Family-Ictaluridae 
of, and the range of, vibrations from 16 to 13,000 
cycles per sec (Lagler et al. 1977). 
  Subadult black bullheads avoided the effluent-out- 
fall area of a power plant on Lake Monona (Dane 
County), where the maximum temperatures ap- 
proached 35°C in summer and 14'C in winter (Neill 
and Magnuson 1974). When acclimated at 23°C 
(73.4°F), the upper lethal temperature for the black 
bullhead was 35°C (95°F) (Black 1953). At summer 
temperatures of 22-23°C (71.6-73.4°F), black bull- 
heads survived for 24 hr at oxygen thresholds as low 
as 3.4 ppm (Moore 1942). In Michigan, this species 
was reported to survive winterkill oxygen concentra- 
tions of less than 0.2-0.3 ppm (Cooper and Wash- 
burn 1949). 
  Black bullheads are gregarious and travel in large 
schools. Adults apparently remain inactive in weed 
beds during the daylight hours, but they move 
around extensively at night. Trapping evidence sug- 
gests that the adults tend to forsake pools during the 
early hours of darkness, and return shortly before 
dawn (Darnell and Meierotto 1965). Carlander and 
Cleary (1949) noted that black bullheads came into 
shallow water more frequently between 0200 and 
0600 hr than at other times. According to Darnell and 
Meierotto, feeding behavior is associated with pe- 
riods of dim light, whereas schooling takes place dur- 
ing periods of bright light. 
  During late April and early May following a heavy 
rain, more than 2,500 sexually mature black bull- 
heads engaged in a nocturnal movement from an Il- 
linois reservoir, over the spillway, and into the 
stream below (Lewis et al. 1968). 
  In Cedar Creek (Ozaukee County), 50 black bull- 
heads were associated with the following species: 
white sucker (4), central stoneroller (15), creek chub 
(10+), bluntnose minnow (1), fathead minnow (6), 
common shiner (20), sand shiner (1), tadpole mad- 
tom (15 +), and green sunfish (1). 
Black bullheads are eaten by white bass (MacKay 
1963), but predation by other fishes, even on young 
black bullheads, is apparently very low (Scott and 
Crossman 1973). This may be a result, in part, of the 
protection afforded by the bullhead's spines and its 
nocturnal habits. Turtles have purportedly preyed on 
bullheads, and there is a report of a 150-mm (6-in) 
bullhead being caught by a 0.6-m (2-ft) snake. 
  The black bullhead is a host to the glochidial stage 
of the mollusks Megalonaias gigantea and Quadrula 
pustulosa; it is one of several fish species responsible 
for the distribution and perpetuation of those clam 
  In Wisconsin, the black bullhead is used as setline 
bait for taking large catfishes, such as the flathead 
catfish. Fishing for the black bullhead is a sport val- 
ued by many fishermen; it bites readily on worms, 
liver, or almost any kind of meat. G. W Peck, a for- 
mer governor of Wisconsin and a noted humorist of 
his day, immortalized the bullhead (Peck 1943:17) 
... There is a species of fish that never looks at the clothes 
of man who throws in the bait, a fish that takes whatever 
is thrown to it; and when once it has hold of the hook never 
tries to shake a friend, but submits to the inevitable .... It 
is a fish that is a friend of the poor and one that will sacri- 
fice itself in the interest of humanity. That is the fish that 
the state should adopt as its trade-mark and cultivate 
friendly relations with and stand by. 
According to Wisconsin Fishing Regulations (1980), 
all bullheads are by definition game or sport fish. At 
present there are no restrictions on bullhead fishing- 
no closed season, no daily bag limit, and no mini- 
mum length. 
  The flesh of the black bullhead is firm, reddish or 
pink, and well flavored when taken from clean water. 
Connoisseurs compare the flavor to that of chicken. 
The flavor of bullheads from muddy waters can be 
improved by keeping them alive in clean water for a 
week or more. 
  Man has used the black bullhead extensively as a 
test fish. It adjusts readily to laboratory conditions, 
and does not jump from containers, although it does 
foul the water in holding tanks (Ward and Irwin 
1961). Its desirability as a test animal for toxic chemi- 
cals stems from its ability to resist larger doses of tox- 
ins than most fishes (McCoy 1972, Ferguson and 
Goodyear 1967). As a test fish, the black bullhead has 
contributed to our knowledge of the function of the 
pituitary gland (Chidambaram et al. 1972). 
  In the Wisconsin waters of the Mississippi River, 
commercial fishermen take bullheads (all species) 
most effectively by setlines, which account for 64% of 
the total catch (Finke 1967). Next in effectiveness are 
bait nets and slat nets. During 1960-1965, a total of 
123,000 kg (272,000 lb) of bullheads was taken; the 
best catches occurred in Pools 8 and 9 of the Missis- 
sippi River. During 1976 (Fernholz and Crawley 
1977), 13,989 kg (30,841 lb) were taken; this catch was 
valued at $4,626, and the black bullhead probably 
constituted a large part of the catch. 
  During 1970, contract fishermen removed 30,800 
kg (67,900 Ib) of bullheads (all species) from inland 
waters of Wisconsin (N. J. Miller 1971). In 1974, the 
commercial harvest from fyke nets in southern Green 
Bay produced 15,085 kg (33,257 lb) of bullheads, 
which was valued at $4,165 (Wis. Dep. Nat. Resour. 

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