How to cook a bullhead catfish?

Bullhead catfish are a popular freshwater fish found in lakes and rivers across North America. They are a member of the Ictalurus genus and are closely related to channel catfish. Bullheads tend to be small to medium sized, usually less than 15 inches long. They have a stocky body shape with a large head and smooth skin. Their color can range from yellowish brown to olive green.

Bullheads are a tasty, mild flavored fish that can be prepared in a variety of ways. They have an excellent meat yield because of their thick fillets. Many anglers and cooks consider bullheads to be one of the best tasting catfish. This article will provide step-by-step instructions on how to cook a bullhead catfish.

Catching and Cleaning Bullhead Catfish

The first step is catching your bullhead catfish. They can be found in many freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and streams across North America. Bullheads tend to prefer slow moving waters with soft bottoms. They are most active at night and can be caught using typical catfish baits like nightcrawlers, shrimp, cut bait, corn, dough bait and prepared catfish baits. Look for them in areas with structure like fallen trees, rocks, docks or weed beds.

Once you’ve caught your bullhead, you’ll need to clean it before cooking. Start by using a sharp knife to cut off the head just behind the pectoral fins. Then make an incision along the belly from head to tail and remove all the internal organs. Rinse out the body cavity thoroughly. Use pliers to peel off the tough outer skin. Lastly, cut and remove the dorsal and pectoral fins. Rinse the fish again and pat dry. Now you’re ready to cook your bullhead catfish fillets.

Bullhead Catfish Filleting

To get fillets from your bullhead catfish, you’ll need to complete a few simple steps:

1. Use a sharp fillet knife to cut down behind the head until you reach the spine. Carefully slice along the spine towards the tail, keeping the blade flush against the bones.

2. Once you reach the tail, lift the fillet up and cut it away from the body. Flip the fish over and repeat on the other side to get the second fillet.

3. Trim away any rib bones or dark red meat from the fillets. Rinse under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.

4. You can leave the skin on for pan frying or deep frying. For other cooking methods, skinning is recommended. To remove the skin, hold the tail end of the fillet firmly and slice between the skin and flesh.

5. Portion the fillets as desired. Bullhead catfish fillets are now ready for your favorite recipes. Most fillets are 4-6 ounces.

Bullhead Catfish Cooking Methods

There are many great options for cooking bullhead catfish fillets:

Pan Frying

Pan frying is a quick and easy method that leaves the fillets with a crispy outer coating.

– Bullhead catfish fillets
– 1/2 cup flour, cornmeal, breadcrumbs or fish fry
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 teaspoon pepper
– 1/4 teaspoon paprika
– Vegetable oil for frying

1. Rinse fillets and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides with salt, pepper and paprika.
2. Place flour or breading in shallow dish. Dredge fillets through flour or breading press to adhere coating.
3. Heat 1/4 inch oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
4. Fry fillets 2-3 minutes per side until golden brown and fish flakes easily with a fork. Drain on paper towel lined plate.

Baked Bullhead Catfish

Baking is a healthy method that produces tender, flaky fillets.

– Bullhead catfish fillets
– 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
– 1/4 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 teaspoon pepper
– 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
– 1/4 teaspoon paprika
– Lemon wedges

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Place fillets skin side down in baking dish. Brush with olive oil or butter.
3. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
4. Bake for 10-12 minutes until fish flakes easily and is opaque.
5. Serve with lemon wedges.

Bullhead Catfish Tacos

The mild flavor of bullhead catfish pairs perfectly with tacos and Mexican-style toppings.

– 6 bullhead catfish fillets
– 1 cup flour
– 2 teaspoons chili powder
– 2 teaspoons cumin
– 1 teaspoon salt
– Vegetable oil for frying
– 12 small corn or flour tortillas
– Toppings like shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, avocado, cotija cheese, cilantro, lime wedges

1. Mix flour, chili powder, cumin and salt. Dredge catfish fillets in flour mixture.
2. Fry fillets in 1/2 inch vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes per side.
3. Warm tortillas according to package directions.
4. Place fried fillets in tortillas and top with desired taco toppings.

Blackened Bullhead Catfish

Spicy blackened seasoning gives the mild catfish a flavor boost.

– 2 tablespoons butter, melted
– 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
– 1 teaspoon oregano
– 1 teaspoon garlic powder
– 1 teaspoon onion powder
– 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1/4 teaspoon pepper
– 4 bullhead catfish fillets

1. Combine butter, thyme, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne, salt and pepper.
2. Brush mixture evenly on both sides of catfish fillets.
3. Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat. Cook fillets 2-3 minutes per side until blackened and fish flakes easily.

Serving Suggestions

Bullhead catfish fillets pair nicely with a variety of vegetables, grains and starches. Here are some serving ideas:

– Rice pilaf or quinoa
– Roasted potatoes
– Southern-style collard greens
– Corn on the cob
– Coleslaw
– Baked beans
– Hushpuppies
– Jalapeno hushpuppies
– Cornbread

Bullheads are small to medium sized catfish, so plan for 1-2 fillets per person depending on appetite. Adjust recipe ingredients accordingly for larger servings.

Bullhead Catfish Soup

Bullhead catfish can also be used in hearty fisherman’s soups and chowders. Here is a recipe for a flavorful bullhead catfish soup.

– 1 tablespoon oil
– 1 onion, diced
– 2 stalks celery, diced
– 1 green bell pepper, diced
– 3 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
– 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
– 4 cups chicken or fish stock
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 teaspoon thyme
– 1 pound bullhead catfish fillets, cut into chunks
– Salt and pepper to taste
– 1/4 cup parsley, chopped

1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic and Cajun seasoning. Cook 5 minutes until vegetables soften.
2. Add tomatoes, stock, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer 20 minutes.
3. Add catfish chunks and simmer gently 5-7 minutes until fish is cooked through and flakes easily.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Remove bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley. Enjoy!

Storing and Freezing Bullhead Catfish

Fresh bullhead catfish has a refrigerator shelf life of only 1-2 days. For longer term storage, consider these tips:

– Cooked bullhead catfish will keep 3-4 days refrigerated.
– Freeze raw fillets in a single layer on a parchment lined baking sheet until firm. Transfer to freezer bags or containers, removing as much air as possible. Properly frozen, raw fillets will last 4-6 months.
– Cooked bullhead catfish freezes well for 2-3 months. Allow to cool fully before transferring to freezer bags or containers. Reheat gently on the stovetop or by baking.

With proper storage, you can enjoy the catch of bullhead catfish year round.

Nutrition Information

Bullhead catfish are a lean, nutritious fish that provide these health benefits:

– High quality protein needed for muscle growth and maintenance. A 3 ounce serving of bullhead catfish contains 15-17g of protein.

– Rich in B vitamins like B12 and niacin that support energy production and nervous system function.

– Provides selenium, a trace mineral with antioxidant properties that protects cells from damage.

– Contains omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA that are beneficial for heart and brain health.

– Low in mercury and other contaminants compared to some saltwater fish. Can be part of a healthy, balanced diet.

So cook up some tasty bullhead catfish fillets soon to enjoy the great flavor and nutrition. Just be sure to thoroughly cook to an internal temperature of 145°F. Now go catch some “bullheads” and dig in.

Frequently Asked Questions

What size are bullheads usually?

Bullheads are one of the smaller catfish species. They rarely exceed 15 inches long and 2 pounds in weight. Most bullheads caught are between 8-12 inches long. Their small to medium size makes them perfect for individual fillet servings.

Do you have to skin bullhead catfish?

The skin on bullheads is edible but many anglers prefer removing it before cooking. The skin tends to be tougher with a strong fishy flavor. Skinning helps reduce the fishy taste and provides a nicer presentation. It’s optional and comes down to personal preference.

Can you eat bullhead catfish bones?

No, you should not eat the bones of bullhead catfish. Like other fish, the fine bones could pose a choking hazard or cause internal damage if consumed. Be sure to carefully remove all bones when filleting bullheads. Also check fillets again before cooking to remove any stray bones. Eat only the meat of the bullhead catfish.

What’s the best way to catch bullheads?

Bullheads are most active at night, so night fishing is usually most productive. Best baits include nightcrawlers, shrimp, cut bait, prepared catfish dough baits and stink baits. Look for bullheads in weedy areas, near submerged logs or fallen trees, and over soft lake bottoms. Light spinning tackle and a small hook (#6-10) floated off the bottom works well.

Can you substitute bullheads for other catfish?

Yes, bullhead catfish can substitute well for other catfish like channels and blues in recipes. Their texture and flavor are similar to other catfish. Adjust cooking times slightly shorter since bullheads are smaller. For pan frying, allow 2-3 minutes per side. Baked and grilled bullheads take about 8-12 minutes. Use your preferred catfish seasonings and pairings.


Bullhead catfish are a tasty, easy-to-cook fish that can be prepared using a variety of quick cooking methods. Their small size provides nice single serving fillets. Look for bullheads in lakes, rivers and streams in your area. After catching, fillet them by slicing along the backbone and removing the skin. Then pan fry, bake, or blacken the mild flavored fillets. Serving suggestions include rice, beans, coleslaw, and cornbread. Frozen fillets will keep several months for enjoying bullheads year-round. So catch some bullheads soon and cook up this fun and flavorful fish.

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