Yellow Bullhead Could Blow Existing World
Record Out Of The Water
June 9, 2006
DREXEL, Mo.-Pity the lowly bullhead. Beloved by young anglers and
bucket-sitting, cane pole-toting worm-dunkers, these unpretty little
catfish get no respect*unless they are twice the size that fishing
encyclopedias say they should be. Then they are world records.
|John Irvin of Drexel
caught this 6-pound, 6-ounce yellow bullhead catfish at Old
Drexel Lake in Bates County May 27. (Missouri Dept. of
That is the case with a tremendous yellow bullhead caught south of
Kansas City over the Memorial Day weekend. John Irvin, his 8- and
11-year-old daughters and a nephew, who is 12, were crappie fishing
at Old Drexel Lake late in the afternoon on May 27. They were taking
turns with their only rod and reel. Irvin, 42, happened to be
holding the rod when something big bit. That was no surprise. The 2-
or 3-acre lake, which once was Drexel's municipal water supply, has
channel and flathead catfish in it.
"My cork went down and I set the hook and pulled that thing up
through the moss and I said, 'That has to be a bullhead.' I got to
looking at him and I said 'That's a bullhead alright.'"
In spite of being certain that the fish was a yellow bullhead,
Ameiurus natalis, Irvin was a little confused. He had never seen one
that large. In fact, as far as record books show, no one has.
Missouri's previous pole-line-and-lure record for yellow bullhead
was a 5-pound, 13-ounce specimen taken from a farm pond near Blue
Springs in 1986. The International Game Fish Association in Diana
Beach, Fla., counts a 4-pound, 4-ounce fish caught in Arizona as its
all-tackle record, and the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame
in Hayward, Wisc., recognizes a 4-pound, 15-ounce fish from Georgia
as the high-water mark for yellow bullheads.
The Fishes of Missouri puts the maximum weight of yellow bullheads
in Missouri streams at about 2 pounds. McClane's New Standard
Fishing Encyclopedia is more optimistic, saying they may attain a
weight of 3 pounds. Those books may need revision. When Conservation
Agent Phil Needham put Irvin's fish on his own certified scales, he
watched the weight level off at 6 pounds, 6 ounces.
Here is where the story gets really interesting for other bullhead
anglers. Irvin fished the same lake again for the next two days and
landed two more yellow bullheads that dragged his pocket fish scales
down to the 6-pound mark. He didn't bother having them officially
weighed, since they fell short of his first catch. He also had his
line broken by three fish. "There's no telling what they were," he
Irvin knew some people wouldn't believe his fish story, so he kept
all three big bullheads in a wire fish basket suspended in a cistern
at his home. One of the smaller fish has died, but the other two
remain swimming proof of the bullhead-producing prowess of Old
Needham notes that three years ago he weighed another yellow
bullhead from Old Drexel Lake that fell 3 ounces short of the state
"I don't know what it is about that lake," said Needham. "It is an
older lake with lots of sediment. Maybe conditions there just favor
bullheads, or maybe it is genetics."
Irvin thinks the lack of attention the lake gets from anglers might
have something to do with the quality of fishing there.
"This old lake has been there for ages, and it's pretty well growed
up with cattails and stuff. You can't hardly get in to it to fish
it. It's pretty rough fishing. A lot of people don't fish it
Irvin's catch marks the second time in a little over a month that a
Missouri fish has eclipsed national records. Callaway County
resident John Horstman was fishing at a private lake near his home
April 21 when he boated a 5-pound black crappie.
For more information about Missouri fishing records and how to apply
for a record, visit
www.mdc.mo.gov/fish/ and click on "Fishing." Next, click on
"Fish and Fishing," and then click on "Fishing records - pole and
Irvin was fishing with minnows and a cork when he caught the big
bullheads. His spincasting reel was spooled with 6-pound-test line.
"Everybody told me I had too light a tackle, but I was still
catching fish," he observed.