Bullheads: Dad's Little Secret

Jody WagnerContributor IAugust 22, 2009

Imagine a bright sunny day outside with blue skies.  It's 80 degrees and there is no wind.  It's quite possibly the most beautiful day of the year.  You are taking a walk through your yard but notice that the kids are not outside playing.

Inside, the Playstation 3 is on and the eyes of your children are locked on the tv screen.  One of the 2 playing is so intensly into it that he doesn't even realize his tongue is slightly sticking out the side of his mouth.

This situation is unacceptable, but happens many times throughout the summer.  We live in Minnesota and you just don't get this many beautiful days.  You can't waste them when they come.  I do have a solution for this problem.

Go out to the shed and get the fishing rods and the tackle box.  Bring them into the living room right in front of where the kids are playing their video games.  Don't say anything to them.  You won't have to.  Just start working on your rod, getting ready to go.

If they see it, they will come!

Kids nowadays are action junkies.  They are on the internet, doing homework, listening to music, chatting with their friends and probably playing a game all at the same time.  When they aren't on the Internet, they usually have schedules that constantly keep them going.  Sitting still and being patient is as foreign to them as being dropped off on an alien planet is to you.

So, when you take the kids fishing, you have to be careful you don't ruin the activity for them.  You can't just have them sitting on the lake with a bobber, going for that big lunker.  Sometimes it takes days to get that lunker to bite.  The kids won't last an hour.

My solution is simple.  You have to get them on a breed of fish that will bite consistantly and keep the action going.  Some dads will put the kids on a bunch of sunfish while others will choose perch.  They can work for younger kids, but not always for the older ones.  Those fish are too small.

The fish I choose to go after many times is probably one of the most discriminated against fish.  It's the kinda fish that you even mention it's name and people look away in disgust.  You just mention the name of this fish and people will respond with, "I hate those things."  The fish I choose quite often to go after with the kids is the bullhead.

Why do people hate them so much? 

"They're ugly." 

I don't catch fish to take out on a date.  I catch them to have fun and eat.

"You can't eat them."

Oh yes you can.  They are very tasty.

"They bite!"

So do northerns, walleyes and 2-year-olds if you put your fingers in their mouths.

"They poke you."

They can't poke you if you handle them right.

Fishing for bullheads is one of my favorite things do it with the kids because of the ease of it.  Sure, a hole of walleyes is fun to get on but you need a boat for that.  You can get on a hole of bullheads from the shoreline or dock.  There is no hauling the boat around, getting it in the water and loading it up with gas.

You don't really have to outsmart bullheads with fancy lures either.  Take the kids out one rainy day/night and collect nightcrawlers/worms.  That's a fun activity in itself and it's all you really need to catch them.  You can't get any cheaper than nightcrawlers from the backyard.  Bullheads will bite on most baits, but nightcrawlers work just as good as anything.

When fishing for bullheads I use a simple set-up.  All you need is a floater and a sinker.  That's it.  I usually put the sinker about 9 inches to a foot up the line.  You are going to want to experiment when you get to your bullhead hole on how big of a hook and how far up your sinker will go.  Obviously the bigger hooks will be better if there are bigger bullheads around.

Ok, as for technique, you are going to simply want to just cast your line out and leave it alone.  The sinkers will take it to the bottom and the floater will keep it up off the bottom slightly.  The bullheads usually won't hit it hard.  You will just notice your line slowly starting to swim around.  YOU GOT ONE! Now set the hook and enjoy the kids' faces when you pull up that big monster.

Usually, where there is one bullhead, there are many.  Once you catch one, you know you are on them, but as a dad, you have to be prepared.  You aren't going to get to fish much yourself.  The bullheads will be biting left and right and the younger kids aren't going to be able to handle the bullheads.

I have had many friends (adults) that can't handle bullheads.  I've seen full grown men scream like little school girls when they catch one.  I've seen many others step on them and break the fish a little bit and then throw them back. This is all unnecessary. 

Handling bullheads is actually pretty easy.  You will want to grab the bullhead by it's belly and slide your thumb and last two fingers up holding the "pokies" (as my daughter likes to call them) out.  Then take your first two fingers and rap them around the head of the bullhead.  If you can grab the floater with your fingers it's easy.  If you can't, you will want a needle nose pliers to get your hook out.  Don't go sticking your fingers in the bullheads mouth or you will be screaming like a school girl too.

Cleaning bullheads is easy, which is another reason why I love catching them.  Before you start catching them, have a board you can use to clean them, ready to go.  Pound a nail through the bottom end of it so that the sharp point comes out quite a ways through the top.  Do it at an angle so that when you put the fish on the nail it won't come off so easily.

Once you are ready to start cleaning the bullhead and you have your board ready, cut the skin right below the bullheads head all the way around.  Slam the bullheads head on the nail.  Take your pliers and rip the skin right off of it.  It should come off quick and easy.  Then cut the head off.  Cut out the "pokies" next and gut the fish.  Some people leave the tail fin on.  I cut that out too.  Then it's ready to cook!

Yesterday the kids, a friend of the kids and I all went bullhead fishing.  It was a day of no fighting amongst the kids and many laughs and smiles.  Today for lunch, we eat the fish.

In the, "who caught the most fishing contest", my 11 year old son bested me by catching 43 fish while I only caught 40.  I was ok losing because yesterday, for 3 hours, my kids were outside in the sun, away from the computer and video games, spending time with dad fishing.