Post date: Saturday, March 3, 2012 - 16:11
Updated date: 2/8/17
Snail Bullhead, Ameiurus brunneus


The snail bullhead is a common species of bullhead found in the Southeastern United States. In the state of Georgia, it is very widespread, occurring in the Tennessee, Coosa, Chattahoochee, Flint, Satilla, Ocmulgee, Oconee, Altamaha, Ogeechee, and Savannah River basins. It also occurs in the Chattahoochee drainage in Alabama. It is also widespread in North and South Carolina, as well as the St. John's River and the lower Chattahoochee River in Florida. They feed primarily on small fishes, snails, aquatic insects, and crustaceans. Although a very common and resilient species, snail bullhead populations are threatened by the stocking of flathead catfish in their home waters; these voracious bullhead predators can quickly wipe out the native population. Snail bullheads are popular food fishes. According to Outdoor Alabama, anglers along the Chattahoochie River prefer the flavor of snail bullheads to either that of the white catfish or the channel cat.


Barbels and Spiny Fins: All bullheads have eight barbels around the mouth - which are used for tasting and smelling the water. The barbels are harmless. However, bullheads also have three sharp spines one at the front of each pectoral and the dorsal fin. Watch out for those spines! The spines can deliver a painful sting - they are coated in an irritant toxin that can cause pain and swelling around the wound. Immersing the wound in water that is as hot as the wounded person can tolerate will detoxify the irritant and relieve the pain. 



Snail bullheads can be distinguished from most other bullheads by the spot at the base of the dorsal fin, the lack of light spots, and the black margin on the edges of the fins. They can grow to nearly 18 inches in length, although fish over a foot long are quite rare. The snail bullhead has 20 or fewer rays on the anal fin, compared to 21 or more for the otherwise very similar flat bullhead. Coloration can vary widely; certain populations are more strongly mottled than others. The disjunct St. John's River population in northeastern Florida is one such population. I'd sure like to see a photo of one of those! 





The snail bullhead prefers deep, moving water with rock or wood structure during the day, but they frequently forage in riffles under the cover of darkness. Look for rocky riffles near deep, flowing pools or runs. Snail bullheads prefer higher gradient streams, with enough current to scour the rocks clear of silt, so you often need to get far enough inland to avoid the slower waters of the coastal lowlands.


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