How to Safely Remove a Bullhead From a Hook

How to Safely Remove a Bullhead From a Hook
Bullheads are a member of the catfish family and are widely distributed throughout the United States. Bullheads are easily caught using light fishing tackle baited with anything from chicken livers to night crawlers, and are a favorite target for young anglers. However, there is a catch, as bullheads are armed with three very sharp barbs that make getting them off the hook a dicey proposition.


Difficulty: Moderate

Step 1
Be aware of the pectoral and dorsal spines of the bullhead. These barbs are very sharp and capable of inflicting a nasty sting. An individual who has been stabbed with one while in the process of removing a bullhead from a hook will attest that the wound will continue to throb for some time after. One juts out from each pectoral fin on the side, and for good measure, there is another one on the top of the bullhead's upper back.
Step 2
Hold the bullhead from underneath, with your thumb and index finger around its sides. Grab it from the middle of its belly so your thumb and finger will slide up next to the pectoral barbs, which will then be unable to do any harm.
Step 3
Remove the hook gently if the bullhead is lightly hooked. Work the hook out, and release the fish. Do not be alarmed to hear the bullhead making squeaky, almost whiny, noises. The spines combined with the noises, which reminded old timers of a pouting child, give the fish the nickname "horned pout."
Step 4
Utilize pliers to remove a hook that is embedded in a bullhead's jaw. Bullheads possess a very hard jaw and it takes some doing to remove a hook once it is solidly in it. Be certain to avoid putting your fingers in a bullhead's mouth. While they do not have sharp teeth, they do have many teeth. This combined with powerful jaws will allow the bullhead to clamp down on a finger and not let go.
Step 5
Employ nail clippers to cut the line if the bullhead has swallowed the hook. Some bullheads will take the bait all the way down their gullet before being hooked. In such a case, ripping the hook out will kill the fish. Cut the line as close to the hook as possible and release the fish.

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