Freshwater Fish - Species

Yellow bullhead - Click to enlarge photo

Species Specific Regulations

Yellow bullhead

Freshwater Fishing License required.

Complete fishing regulations

Guide to Freshwater Fishes

Guide to Freshwater Fishes
(Adobe PDF - 3MB)

Yellow bullhead (Ameirus natalis) - Native

Description: (Anatomy of a Fish)

The yellow bullhead has a body that fades from olive to yellow to bright yellow on the sides to a white belly.  The chin barbells, commonly known as whiskers, are distinctly white to yellow in color.  The yellow bullhead also has a distinctly long anal fin and a rounded or nearly straight caudal fin. 

Range:  Statewide

Average Length:  6-10 inches

Average Size:  1 pound

South Carolina State Record: 6 pounds, 6.3 ounces (2009)

Life Expectancy: Approximately 7 years

Preferred Habitat

Yellow bullheads can be found in a variety of habitat types but they typically are found in pools with soft bottom of silt or accumulated leaves in small - and medium-sized rivers. 

Food Habits

  • Crayfish, mussels, insects, fish and fish eggs. 


  • Yellow bullhead spawning occurs from May through June when water temperatures reach 75-80° F. 
  • Both the male and female participate in nest construction, but only the male guards the nest.  The nests may be located under logs, rocks or in open areas. 
  • Approximately 2,000-4,000 eggs are deposited in a mass by one female. 
  • The eggs hatch in 5-7 days. 


Like most catfish, the yellow bullhead feeds mainly in the early evening and at night.  Although edible, it is the least prized of the catfishes.  Its prolific reproductive nature most often causes stunting of sunfish populations in farm ponds by competing for available food. 

Commonly Mistaken Species

Some species of fish that are commonly mistaken for this species are

  • Black bullheads
  • Brown bullheads  

Literature Cited

Rohde, Fred C, Arndt, Rudolf G., Foltz, Jeffery W., Quattro, Joseph M. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 2009. South Carolina Guide to Freshwater Fishes.

Fish Illustration by Duane Raver.