The Naked Bullhead Catfish ( Ameiurus nebulosus ) is a North American species of bullhead catfish. It is also known as Common Bullhead Catfish and was formerly known as the Hornyhead Chub.
It is found in the Mississippi River basin from Ohio to Minnesota, as well as in the Great Lakes. It prefers gravel and rocky runs in small to large rivers and creeks. It prefers a water temperature of about 8°C (46°F).
The Naked Bullhead Catfish is easily distinguished from the Yellow Bullhead Catfish (Ameiurus natalis) in that the Naked Bullhead Catfish do not have barbels. Another distinguishing characteristic is the lack of spines on its pectoral and pelvic fins, whereas there are spines in these fins on the Yellow Bullhead Catfish. The dorsal and adipose fins also possess spines in the Yellow Bullhead, as opposed to rays. The Naked Bullhead Catfish also has a rounded caudal fin as opposed to a forked or squared caudal fin on the Yellow Bullhead Catfish. These two species were once thought to be closely related because of similar coloration and a wedge-shaped head, but they are now considered very different.
The Naked Bullhead Catfish is also similar in appearance to the Flathead Catfish (Pylodictis olivaris), but can be distinguished from it by its lack of barbels and forked tail. It does not grow as large as the flathead, maxing out at about 12" in length, but is much easier to catch. It is a popular sport fish due to the challenge of removing them from their holes and crevices.
In 2000, The International Union for Conservation of Nature ranked this species as being a least-concern species. However, some local populations have been affected by habitat degradation.
The Naked Bullhead Catfish feeds primarily on crustaceans, aquatic insects, and sometimes small fishes. It is preyed upon by larger predatory fish such as Northern Pike (Esox lucius) and Large-mouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides). It has also been known to feed on debris-containing seeds on the bottom of rivers.
The Naked Bullhead Catfish is often fished for as a panfish. It is usually caught on trotlines, limb lines, and artificial lures such as jigs or spoons. Since it lives at the bottom of streams and creeks, anglers use lead split-shot sinkers to keep their bait near the bottom where the fish are found. The Naked Bullhead Catfish is not considered a threatened species and can be caught year-round in most areas of North America.
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