Brown Bullhead - Ameiurus nebulosus

Brown Bullhead - Photo credit: Bill Byrne, MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

Habitat requirements and life history: The brown bullhead or "horned pout", is the only native catfish in Massachusetts. It inhabits warm, highly vegetated (eutrophic) rivers, impoundments, lakes and ponds. A typical omnivorous, bottom-feeding catfish, the bullhead consumes crustaceans, insects, worms, algae, snails and fishes. Catfish are scent-oriented animals. They find food using the scent-detecting cells imbedded in their skins, particularly in their barbels or "whiskers," and around their mouths. Bullheads feed most actively between dusk and midnight and near dawn. They spawn in spring and summer. A pair builds a round nest in sand, gravel or mud under the shelter of a log, rock or vegetation. After the eggs are laid and fertilized, the parents guard them until the larvae, which resemble small tadpoles, emerge from the eggs. The larvae are shepherded about in a tight school or "ball" by the parents. Fry that stray are taken up in the mouths or either parent and returned to the brood. When threatened, fry may even hide in the parent's mouths for protection. (Sources: Freshwater Fishes of the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, & Delaware, Massachusetts Wildlife, No. 2, 2000, Special Fishing Issue and AMC Guide to Freshwater Fishing in New England)

Total length: 8-14 inches
Pollution tolerance (US EPA): Tolerant
Classification: Macrohabitat generalist

Number of fish found during 1954 & 2001 fish surveys*:

Location No. of Fish 1954 No. of Fish 2001
Assabet River 126 19
Assabet Brook   3
Danforth Brook   10
Elizabeth Brook   3
Fort Meadow Brook   5
Great Brook 1  
Nashoba Brook 3  
North Brook 2 1
Stirrup Brook 2  
Total 134 41

DFW. 2001. Assabet Watershed Fish Survey. Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), Westborough, MA.

Schlotterbeck, L.C. and W.A. Tompkins. 1954. "A Fisheries Investigation of the Merrimack and Ipswich River Drainages." Bureau of Wildlife Research and Management, Mass. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough, MA.