As a rule, the simpler your fishing methods, the more you will enjoy bullhead fishing.
Your fishing strategy can be as unencumbered as using a cane pole and small hook to dunk a worm or piece of liver in late evening.
Fish on the bottom, using a split shot or a small slip sinker to carry your bait down. Or use a bobber to float the bait just slightly above the bottom. You need not fish deep or far from shore.
To ensure more bullheads landed, always use extra-sharp hooks, and let the fish start moving off before you set the hook.
Count to three
When tightlining, you should feel the bullhead yank at the bait before it swims off with it. When the fish starts moving away, count to three, then set the hook with a quick, upward snap.
When working baits beneath a bobber, wait until the float disappears or starts to move slowly across the water. That's usually when the fish has the bait in its mouth.
As Thoreau noted, bullheads are notorious hook swallowers, so keep plenty of hooks on hand. You can remove hooks with a disgorger or long-nosed pliers, but it's quicker to cut the line and retrieve the hooks when you clean the fish.
Take care to avoid the bullhead's sharp pectoral and dorsal fin spines. Contrary to popular folk beliefs, it's these spines, not the "whiskers," that bullheads use to "sting" unwary anglers.
One of the nicest things about bullhead fishing is that it calls for a maximum of sitting and socializing and a minimum of the frenetic foolishness that "fancier" fish demand.
Kids of all ages enjoy the thrills, the laughs, the delectable meals and, most of all, the companionship a bullhead junket provides. There are prettier fish and more challenging catches, but the bullhead remains a blue-ribbon choice for relaxing, good-times fishing.
A family affair
Not long ago, I sat on the bank of a friend's pond with my 8-year-old son, Zachary. We stayed only a couple of hours, but during that time, Zach caught nearly two dozen plump, yellow bullheads.
When he swung his cane pole around and plopped the first one on the bank, the polliwog flopped furiously for a few seconds then stopped and started croaking. Zach was enthralled. "It's talking!" he exclaimed. "And, boy, is it ugly!"
"What do you suppose it's saying?" I asked.
Zach thought a minute, then placed the fish on a stringer tied to the bank and tossed it in the water. "He's telling us not to eat him," he said. "I don't think I want to listen."
That night we feasted on deep-fried bullheads.
To contact Keith Sutton, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org