Warming water temperatures and inflow from spring rains and melting snow trigger bullheads to move toward shore and start feeding. The best time to catch bullheads is when the water temperature is between 55 and 70 degrees. They can be caught in colder water, but the bite is less aggressive.
Start in shallow water which warm faster. On a sunny day, there can be a 10 to 20 degree difference between the shallows and the main lake basin. The windward side warms faster than the lee side of lakes on sunny, windy days, attracting bullheads.
Areas of in-flowing water are key early spring bullhead spots with warmer water and large amounts of food. Daytime is best to catch bullheads in early spring. They start to move off shore during the day in late spring encouraging anglers to fish after dark as the bullheads come back in the evenings to eat.
Bullheads move toward shore to start spawning in May and early June. Fish look for nest sites in shallow water, near rocks and stumps. Spawning lasts about two weeks depending on water temperature and weather. Bullheads are easy to catch during spawning.
Most deep man-made lakes and reservoirs stratify and develop a thermocline (a thermal water temperature barrier that forms in deeper lakes) in July and August. Little or no dissolved oxygen or fish are below the thermocline. Cast out as far as you can in late spring and early summer for excellent catches of bullheads. Avoid fishing below 15 feet in June, July and August. Search out areas where the water is about 12 to 15 feet deep. Bullheads rest and eat in this cooler, well-oxygenated water. Night fishing is a must when fishing the warm waters of summer in lakes and ponds. Bullheads eat almost nonstop in warm water and are as easily caught in August as in May.
Fall bullhead fishing can provide a lot of action that will last until the water temperature drops below 60 degrees. Bullheads go on a fall feeding frenzy to prepare for the long cold winter. As water temperatures cool, they once again move toward shore and become vulnerable in the shallows. After the fall turnover, the thermocline dissolves and the deep water will once again have dissolved oxygen and fish. In autumn, find bullheads on shallow water points near deep water.
Bullhead fishing opportunities in Iowa are greatly reduced when water temperatures fall below 60 degrees. Their metabolism slows and their need for food decreases.
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