The yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis) is a species of bullhead catfish that is a ray-finned fish that lacks scales.
The yellow bullhead is a medium-sized member of the catfish family. It is typically yellow-olive to slatey-black on the back and sometimes mottled depending on habitat. The sides are lighter and more yellowish, while the underside of the head and body are bright yellow, yellow white, or bright white. The rear edge of its caudal fin is rounded. The anal fin is much larger than many fish having anywhere between 24 and 27 rays. The yellow bullhead, though less common, can be easily distinguished from the brown bullhead and black bullhead by its white barbels or "whiskers". Yellow bullheads are medium-sized bullheads rarely getting larger than 2 lb (0.91 kg) but can reach up to four pounds. This species is often misidentified on social media and the Internet. Yellow bullheads range in size from six to 14 inches, and can live up to 12 years.
The yellow bullhead is a voracious scavenger that will almost eat anything. It locates prey by brushing the stream bottom with its barbels. Taste buds on the barbels tell the yellow bullhead whether or not contact is made with edible prey. They typically feed at night on a variety of plant and animal material, both live and dead, most commonly consisting of insects, snails, minnows, clams, crayfish, other small aquatic organisms, plant matter, and decaying animal matter.
Yellow bullhead are bottom dwellers, living in areas with muck, rock, sand, or clay substrates. Its habitat includes river pools, backwaters, and sluggish current over soft or mildly rocky substrate in creeks, small to larger rivers, and shallow portions of lakes and ponds. Their habitat can vary from a slow current with poorly oxygenated, highly silted, and highly polluted water to a more swift current with clean and clear water that has aquatic vegetation. Fishermen often find them in sluggish creeks and rivers with a gravel bottom.
Bullheads have a monogamous relationship with spawning beginning in mid-May or early-June, with both sexes participating in nest-building. Bullheads usually use a natural cavities or make saucer shaped depressions near submerged cover, such as a trees roots or a sunken log. The female will lay anywhere from 300 to 7,000 eggs in a gelatinous mass, and after fertilization the male protects and continually fans the nest of eggs. The eggs hatch within five to 10 days and young fry are herded into tight schools by the male and protected by both parents until they are approximately two inches long. They grow to about three inches by one year of age. Sexual maturity is reached between the ages of two and three years, when the fish are at least 140 mm in length.
Yellow bullhead range throughout the central and eastern US from central Texas, north into North Dakota, and east through the Great Lakes region to the East Coast.. They have also been introduced to the West.
Yellow bullheads are considered a minor game fish, and their meat is considered sweet and has a good flavor, but the meat can become soft in summer. They are not as sought after as other catfish. They can be caught on natural baits such as worms, crickets or chicken liver fished on the bottom at night.
Named both Ictalurus natalis and Ameiurus natalis. Ictalurus, Greek, meaning "fish cat"; Ameiurus, Greek, meaning "privative curtailed," in reference to the caudal fin lacking a notch; natalis, Latin, meaning "having large buttocks"[dubious ]