Are Bullheads Dangerous? Should You Worry About Them?

Bullheads are one of the most popular species of catfish and they’re fun to catch. However, holding them can be tricky because they’re famous for having sharp barbs in their pectoral fins and dorsal fin.

So, are bullheads dangerous? Bullheads can be dangerous. That is because Bullheads have barbs in their pectoral and dorsal fins that can puncture your skin and these contain a poison that can cause you severe pain. So, it’s very important to be careful when handling bullheads.

Keep reading to learn more about bullhead catfish and how to handle them without getting exposed to their poison.

What You Need to Know About Bullhead Catfish

brown bullhead to answer are bullheads dangerous

Bullheads are also known as mudcats, river cats, horned pout, pollywogs, and pollies.

They’re smaller in size than other catfish species and can typically be found in coastal rivers, ponds, and reservoirs.

There are three common types of bullheads:

The most common type is the black bullhead. They are the smallest type and they tend to prefer muddy and weedy areas.

Yellow bullheads are slightly larger in size. They prefer areas with vegetation and they can often be found in areas of water where other catfish species do not live.

Brown bullheads (like in the image) are the largest type. They prefer deeper lakes with rocky or relatively clean bottoms.

In order to understand why bullheads can be dangerous, you need to learn about their anatomy.

Bullheads have whiskers coming out of the area around their mouth. They also have barbs located in the dorsal and pectoral fins behind their heads on each side and also on the top of their head.

Their whiskers are not really dangerous. They’re soft, pliable and touching them is a lot similar to touching dog whiskers. So, there’s no need to worry about getting stung by them.

Their barbs, on the other hand, are what you need to be worried about. That is because these barbs have sharp pointed tips and they can contain a kind of poison that is unique to catfish species. So, it can be very dangerous if these barbs puncture your skin.

Do Bullheads Sting?

No, bullheads do not actually sting. However, they can inject you with poison if one of the barbs located in their pectoral and dorsal fins accidentally punctured your skin. This poison can be just as painful as an actual sting, so it’s important to be very careful when handling bullheads.

Are Bullheads Poisonous?

Bullheads have a kind of poison contained in the barbs located in their fins. This poison can cause severe pain that lasts for hours. It can also cause swelling and a rapid increase of blood flow in the area of the injury. So, it’s important to contact emergency services if one of the barbs punctures your skin to avoid risking any infections or severe blood loss

Are Bullhead Catfish Aggressive?

No, bullhead catfish are not typically aggressive. However, if they feel threatened, they will release the poison contained in their fins to defend themselves against their enemies. This poison has severe effects on humans and can be lethal to other fish species.

How to Correctly Handle Bullheads?

Bullheads do not have scales like other fish species. So, handling them can be tricky because of how slippery they are.

You need to be very careful with the barbs in their fins, especially because bullheads are a small kind of catfish which means their barbs will be sharper. As the catfish get bigger in size, their barbs get much duller and the chances of getting injured from them will be reduced.

The best method to hold bullheads is to grip them from the top and keep your hand positioned behind their pectoral and dorsal fins. This method is ideal because bullhead fish are small enough for you to get your hand around them and keep a firm grip.

However, this method will become more difficult with bigger bullhead fish as you won’t be able to get your hand around them. So, you can position your other hand on the tail section for more support.

Holding bullheads with two hands will also allow you more control if they begin to thrash around. Just keep in mind to position both your support hands far away from the sharp barbs.

There are some precautions you can take to reduce the risk of getting injured such as wearing gloves to act as a barrier between the barbs and your skin. You can also use a lip grip tool that will allow you to safely lift the fish by its lip without even putting your hands directly on it.

You can check this quick video that illustrates how to correctly hold and handle a fish without getting spined:

If you are going fishing for Catfish anytime soon, you should definitely check out this guide to the best Catfish Rods and Reels that will never fail you.

How to Release Bullheads Back into The Water?

When you’re releasing the bullheads back into the water, you need to be very careful not to let your hands brush along their back and make sure to always keep your hands positioned behind their fins.

You need to lower the bullhead as close to the water surface as possible then slowly loosen your grip. Do toss the bullhead fish away from you, instead, try to let it slip out of your grip on its own so it can swim away underneath the surface of the water

What Do You Do If You Get Stung by A Bullhead?

Here are some useful tips you can follow if you get stung by a bullhead:

  • It wouldn’t be safe to remain in the water because bullhead’s poison may cause nausea or make you feel lightheaded. So, it’s best to get out of the water immediately and head to the shore.
  • Rinse the wound with fresh water. You can also clean it using hydrogen peroxide if you are worried that any bacteria might have gotten in.
  • Do not use ice on the area of the wound because the cold temperature will only make the poison more powerful and increase the pain.
  • Immerse the wound in hot water (as hot as you can stand) to reduce the pain. Hot water will also help flush out the poison and germs from the wound.
  • You need to remove any broken-off barbs remaining in the wound using tweezers as they can lead to an infection.
  • Make sure to dress the wound with clean bandages and keep it firmly wrapped until it fully heals.
  • Monitor the wound closely and look out for any signs of infection. If you notice any swelling, redness, or tenderness around the area of the wound, it’s recommended to immediately seek medical attention.

Outdoorskilled’s Recommended Gear for Superb Catfishing

I’ve tested dozens of reels, rods, and lines for Catfishing, and after years of testing, here are my quick picks that will definitely improve your current setup and results!

My recommended reel is the Abu Garcia Ambassadeur Reel C3-7000 which is ideally suited for catfish.

The rod I always recommend is the KastKing Perigee II Fishing Rod. It’s lightweight, durable, and affordable. Furthermore, you’d have a wide selection of models to choose from, whether you’re looking for a spinning or casting rod. Lastly, it comes in twin-tips models, which means you’ll be getting two rods rather than one.

What I use is the Berkley Trilene Big Game Monofilament Fishing Line as it’s the strongest, toughest mono I’ve ever tested and because it has exceptional shock strength, great knot integrity, tremendous abrasion resistance, and a high-visibility color option, you really can’t find better options

Related Questions

Are Bullhead Catfish Good to Eat?

Yes, bullhead catfish are good to eat because they have a delectable mild flavor and a firm texture which add to its appeal. You can cook them in many different ways, either by pan-frying or grilling them

What Do Bullhead Catfish Feed On?

Bullheads will eat almost anything they can swallow. They tend to prefer live and dead minnows, angle worms, and nightcrawlers. You can also use pieces of leftover chicken, beef, and hotdogs as bait to get them to bite.

Helpful Resources 

Fishing for Catfish: The Complete Guide for Catching Big Channells, Blues and Flatheads

Resources for Catching Catfish Faster and More Easily

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