Native to eastern and central North America from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to the Great Lakes region and south to Alabama, brown bullhead have also been introduced throughout the United States.
Brown bullheads prefer still or slowly-flowing warm waters in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, large rivers and sluggish streams with lots of vegetation. These catfish thrive in warm water, are tolerate of pollution, and lower oxygen levels than most fish. They are able to survive low-oxygen conditions by absorbing oxygen through their skin and gulping air into their air bladder. During the winter bullheads bury in the mud and remain inactive over the winter.
Coloration can be various shades of brown often with darker colored mottling or speckles over much of the body. The belly is typically yellowish or white. The four chin barbels may be black or brown. They have square tails. Brown bullheads reach sexual maturity in three years and rarely live more than six to eight years. Adult brown bullheads are eight to fourteen inches. Few exceed a pound in weight, but occasionally will exceed five pounds.
Spawning occurs in the late spring or early summer. They build nests in mud, sand or aquatic vegetation, frequently near some form of protection such as a log. The parents fan and care for the eggs until they hatch in a week or so. After that they guard the fry until they reach a couple inches.
Primarily nocturnal bottom feeders, they use their sensitive barbels to smell and locate items such as insects, plant material, carrion, small fish, snails, crayfish, worms and leeches.
Brown Bullhead in Florida
The following is courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:
Appearance: Chin barbels on browns are pigmented, not whitish as with yellow bullheads. The sides of brown bullheads have a distinct, irregular brownish mottling over a light background. The belly is creamy white. They have square tails.
Habitat: Browns generally inhabit still or slowly-flowing warm waters in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, large rivers and sluggish streams.
Behavior: They are primarily bottom feeders, feeding mostly at night. Highly sensitive barbels enable them to smell a wide variety of food such as insects, plant material, carrion, small fish, snails, crayfish, worms and leeches.
State Record: 5.72 lbs. Big Catch: 16 inches or 2 lbs.