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The color of the yellow bullhead is light olive-brown to yellow on top, with white or cream belly. It can be immediately distinguished from other bullheads by the white or cream-colored barbels or whiskers on the chin. The tail is convexly rounded. There are 24 to 27, usually 25 or 26, rays in the anal fin.
Primarily a species of lakes and ponds, the yellow bullhead is abundant nowhere in the state. It is taken occasionally in the flowing water of major interior rivers and the Mississippi River but tends to favor clear water. It is occasionally found in the man-made lakes, farm ponds and oxbow lakes.
Yellow bullheads appear to be somewhat more selective in their feeding than other bullheads, but the principal foods include insects and larvae, crustaceans, small mollusks, crayfish, and small fishes.
1.62 pounds, 13.5 inches - Twelve Mile Creek Lake, Union County, April 16, 2016 - Xavier Jones, Ankeny, Iowa
Try to catch this fish with a nightcrawler fished on the bottom.
The yellow bullhead is found in clear streams, rivers, overflow pools, lakes and reservoirs. It prefers streams with permanent flow, but avoids strong currents. In Missouri, yellow bullheads in the Ozark and Mississippi Alluvial Basin Aquatic Subregions tend to inhabit quiet backwaters or ditches with heavy vegetation. Yellow bullheads in the Plains and Eastern Broadleaf Aquatic Subregion occupy clear streams with high gradients over sand, mud and gravel, often in open pools of the stream channel. In Ohio the yellow bullhead is most common in shallow portions of lakes, ponds, or streams with low or basic gradients, over diverse bottoms from sand to peat muck. In Arkansas and Kansas, however, it is most common over gravelly or rocky bottoms.
The yellow bullhead is widely distributed over the entire state, except for the northwest region of the Central Plains Aquatic Subregion. Nowhere in the state is it abundant. The yellow bullhead is occasionally collected in the interior streams and the Mississippi and Missouri rivers but it reaches its greatest abundance in man-made lakes, natural lakes, farm ponds and oxbows.
Spawning activity takes place in May and early June in water from 1 1/2 to 4 feet in depth. Nests are constructed by the male and the female deposits 2,000 to 7,000 eggs. Eggs hatch in 5 to 10 days, and the fry are guarded by the parent fish until late July or August. They reach a length of about 3 inches at the end of the first year and mature in the third year of life. Individuals weighing as much as 2 pounds are taken from the Mississippi River.
Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.
Harlan, J.R., E.B. Speaker, and J. Mayhew. 1987. Iowa fish and fishing. Iowa Conservation Commission, Des Moines, Iowa. 323pp.
Loan-Wilsey, A. K., C. L. Pierce, K. L. Kane, P. D. Brown and R. L. McNeely. 2005. The Iowa Aquatic Gap Analysis Project Final Report. Iowa Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Iowa State University, Ames.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Fish and Wildlife Information System.