Yellow Bullhead
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Side view adult.
  • Top view adult.
  • Bottom view adult.
  • Head-on view adult.
  • Close-up flank.
  • Close-up head.
  • Close-up mouth and snout.
  • Close-up tail.
  • Close-up dorsal fin.
  • Close-up anal fin.
  • Close-up pectoral fin.
  • Close-up pelvic fin.
  • There are 12-18 (usually 13-16) gill rakers.
  • Close-up pectoral fin: There is a lack of saw-like barbs; the membrane is separated from the spine for the top pectoral fin for clarity.
  • Close-up inside of mouth: Notice the absence of horn-like backward lateral extensions from the tooth patch on the roof of the mouth.
  • Close-up anal fin: There are 24-27 rays, including rudimentaries.
  • The sides show a solid color and there is no bar at the base of the tail. There is a "free" adipose fin and the tail is round/slightly forked.
  • Close-up head: The chin barbels are light-colored; the jaws are similar in length.
  • Side view of a yearling: Juveniles are similar to adults.
  • Alternative view of the caudal region.
  • Alternative view of the underside of the head.
DescriptionSimilar Species
Bullhead Catfishes (Ictaluridae)
Mouth and snout: Slightly subterminal or terminal, patches of numerous fine teeth on jaws. 8 obvious barbels (4 pairs; 2 pair on chin, 1 pair on side of upper jaw (near corner of mouth), 1 pair on top of snout). Body patterning, color, and scales: Solid color predominates, but may be somewhat mottled on lower flanks. Body usually black to yellowish brown, with a white or yellow belly. Fins darkly pigmented. No scales. Body shape and size: Body dorsal-ventrally flattened with a rounded head; in cross section approximately oval (with a long horizontal axis) to round with a flattened ventral surface. Typically 175-275 mm (7-11 in) TL; maximum in Wisconsin about 350 mm (14 in).
Tail, dorsal and other fins: Rounded, square, or slightly forked (shallow notch) tail. Single dorsal with 1 stout spine and 6 rays, attached by membrane. Pelvic fins abdominal. Adipose fin present. Anal fin with 24-27 rays (including rudimentary rays).
Distinguishing Characteristics
The yellow bullhead can be distinguished by its “free”, flaplike adipose fin, by its square or rounded or very slightly forked tail, by having its upper jaw extend slightly beyond the lower, by not having the tooth patch in the roof of their upper jaw with lateral backward extensions, and by having their anal fin base longer than their post-orbital distance. See also similar species information.
Breeding Adults
Similar to non-breeders.
Similar to adults, although less likely to have yellow hues (photos).
None reported from Wisconsin.
Compare Similar Species
Anal Fin Rays
Bullhead, Black15-21
Bullhead, Brown21-24
Bullhead, Yellow24-27
Color Pattern
Bullhead, BlackMainly solid and dark, with white or yellow belly; faint pale yellow vertical bar at base of tail
Bullhead, BrownUsually mottled, but may be solid, generally yellow brown or gayish, belly usually cream or tan; no bar at base of tail
Bullhead, YellowMainly solid, black to yellowish brown; belly white or yellow; no bar at base of tail
Pelvic Fin
Bullhead, BlackEdge rough or with irregular small barbs
Bullhead, BrownEdge with regular saw-like barbs
Bullhead, YellowEdge with regular saw-like barbs
Chin Barbels
Bullhead, BlackDark gray, brown or black
Bullhead, BrownBlack to yellowish brown
Bullhead, YellowWhitish or light gray
Gill Rakers, 1st Arch
Bullhead, Black15-21, usually 17-19
Bullhead, Brown12-16, usually 13-15
Bullhead, Yellow12-18, usually 13-16
Similarity Index
Bullhead, BlackVery similar
Bullhead, BrownVery similar
Bullhead, YellowN/A