Ameiurus melas
Ameiurus melas
(Black Bullhead)
Native Transplant
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Ameiurus melas (Rafinesque, 1820)

Common name: Black Bullhead

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Becker (1983); Page and Burr (1991); Etnier and Starnes (1993); Jenkins and Burkhead (1994). Another commonly used name is Ictalurus melas.

Size: 46 cm.

Native Range: Great Lakes, Hudson Bay, and Mississippi River basins from New York to southern Saskatchewan and Montana, south to Gulf; Gulf Slope drainages from Mobile Bay, Georgia and Alabama, to northern Mexico. Apparently not native to Atlantic Slope (Page and Burr 1991).

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Native range data for this species provided in part by NatureServe NS logo
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: The Black Bullhead has been introduced into, or recorded from, rivers and reservoirs in the Salt, Gila, Verde, San Pedro, Santa Cruz, Colorado, and Little Colorado drainages and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Arizona (Miller and Lowe 1967; Minckley 1973; Hendrickson et al. 1980; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Tilmant 1999); the Klamath, Central Valley, Pajaro-Salinas, Lahontan, Colorado, San Joaquin, Tulare-Buena Vista, Lower Sacramento, Suisun Bay, and southern California drainages and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California (Moyle et al. 1976a; Bell 1978; Wydoski and Whitney 1979; Swift et al. 1993; Dill and Cordone 1997; Moyle and Randall 1999; Tilmant 1999; Sommer et al. 2001; Matern et al. 2002); the western slope (Colorado River drainage) in Colorado (Vanicek et al. 1970; Everhart and Seaman 1971; Beckman 1974; Tyus et al. 1982); the Connecticut River and Housatonic drainage, Connecticut (Behnke and Wetzel 1960; Whitworth et al. 1968; Schmidt 1986; Whitworth 1996); probably introduced into nonnative areas of Georgia (Dahlberg and Scott 1971b); the Spokane and middle Snake drainages in western Idaho (Linder 1963; Simpson and Wallace 1978; Idaho Fish and Game 1990); fee-fishing lakes in eastern Kansas (Cross 1967); upper Chesapeake drainage in Maryland (Lee et al. 1980 et seq.); Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge, Mill River in Hampden County, Massachusetts (Hartel 1992; Cardoza et al. 1993; USFWS 2005); the Kootenai, Clark Fork, Yellowstone, Belle Fourche, Big Horn, Musselshell, Powder, Tongue, Milk, and Missouri drainages and the Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana (Brown 1971; Cross et al. 1986; Holton 1990); in the Sand Hills lakes and other areas in Nebraska (Jones 1963); the Rio Grande, Pecos, San Juan, San Francisco, and Gila drainages in New Mexico (Koster 1957; Tyus et al. 1982; Sublette et al. 1990; Platania 1991); the Hudson River drainage in New York (Schmidt 1986); the Carson, Humboldt, Walker, and Reese rivers and the Colorado drainage, Lake Mohave, and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Nevada (Miller and Alcorn 1946; La Rivers 1962; Bradley and Deacon 1967; Hubbs et al. 1974; Deacon and Williams 1984; Tilmant 1999; Vinyard 2001); possibly into the Catawba, Pee Dee (Yadkin), and Roanoke drainages in North Carolina (Burkhead et al. 1980; Hocutt et al. 1986; Menhinick 1991); the Willamette (Smith 1896; Lampman 1946), Snake, Columbia, and Chewaucan rivers (Bond 1973, 1994), Benton County (Logan 1994), and Dunaway Pond, Malheur County (Anonymous 2001) Oregon; the Pee Dee drainage in South Carolina (Hocutt et al. 1986); the Trans-Pecos drainages, Texas (Hubbs et al. 1991); the Logan, Jordan, Bear (Sigler and Miller 1963), Colorado, Green, Duchesne, Strawberry, White (Vanicek et al. 1970; Tyus et al. 1982), Jordan, Bear, and Logan rivers (Sigler and Miller 1963), Utah Lake and Willard Bay Reservoir (Sigler and Sigler 1987), and Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and the White River in Utah (Lanigan et al. 1981; Tilmant 1999); the lower Dan River near Kerr Reservoir, Buffalo Creek at Kerr Reservoir, and the New River in Grayson County (1939), the Potomac drainage and Kanawha River in Virginia (Burkhead et al. 1980; Lee et al. 1980 et seq.; Hocutt et al. 1986; Jenkins and Burkhead 1994); the Hanford reach of the Columbia River, perhaps Lake Washington, and other non-specific localities in Washington (Gray and Dauble 1977; Wydoski and Whitney 1979; Fletcher, personal communication); Sherwood Lake in the Greenbrier River system, West Virginia (Burkhead et al. 1980); northern Wisconsin (Becker 1983).

Means of Introduction: Intentionally stocked for sport and as a food fish. In Idaho, it was probably accidentally stocked with brown bullhead A. nebulosus or with channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus (Linder 1963).

Status: Established in most locations where introduced. Apparently not established in Connecticut (Whitworth 1996). A single report from Massachusetts in the 1940s (Hartel 1992).

Impact of Introduction: Introduced Black Bullhead eat endangered humpback chubs Gila cypha in the Little Colorado River, and may exert a major negative effect on the population there (Marsh and Douglas 1997). Minckley (1973) reported that this species is generally considered a pest in Arizona as it forms large stunted populations that compete with more desirable fishes for space and food. Black Bullheads are voracious predators of newly hatched gamefish (Whitmore 1997). Introduced predatory fishes, including the Black Bullhead, are likely at least partially responsible for the decline of the Chiricahua leopard frog Rana chiricahuensis in southeastern Arizona (Rosen et al. 1995), and have been shown to reduce the abundance and diversity of native prey species in several Pacific Northwest rivers (Hughes and Herlihy 2012).

Remarks: Although the Black Bullhead has not been reported from South Carolina, it is probable that it has been introduced into the state. Tyus et al. (1982) gave a distribution map of the this species in the upper Colorado basin. Occurrence in Maryland is not listed by Lee et al. (1976, 1981) or Rohde et al. (1994). Becker (1983) states that in Wisconsin the Black Bullhead's distribution is much more extensive now than it was in the mid-1920s, especially in northern Wisconsin.

References: (click for full references)

Anonymous 2001. Oregon's Warm Water Fishing with Public Access. [online]. URL at

Becker, G. C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI.

Behnke, R. J., and R. M. Wetzel. 1960. A preliminary list of the fishes found in the fresh waters of Connecticut. Copeia 1960(2):141--143.

Bradley, W.G. and J.E. Deacon. 1967. The biotic communities of southern Nevada. Nevada State Museum Anthropological Papers No. 13, Part 4.  201-273.

Brown, C. J. D. 1971. Fishes of Montana. Montana State University, Bozeman, MT.

Burkhead, N. M., R. E. Jenkins, and E. G. Maurakis. 1980. New records, distribution and diagnostic characters of Virginia ictalurid catfishes with an adnexed adipose fin. Brimleyana 4:75--93.

Cross, F. B. 1967. Handbook of Fishes of Kansas. State Biological Survey and University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Miscellaneous Publication 45, Topeka, KS.

Dahlberg, M. D., and D. C. Scott. 1971b. Introductions of freshwater fishes in Georgia. Bulletin of the Georgia Academy of Science 29:245--252.

Deacon, J. E., and J. E. Williams. 1984. Annotated list of the fishes of Nevada. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 97(1):103--118.

Etnier, D. A., and W. C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, TN.

Everhart, W. H., and W. R. Seaman. 1971. Fishes of Colorado. Colorado Game, Fish and Parks Division, Denver, CO. 75 pp.

Fletcher, D. - Warmwater Fisheries Resource Manager, Washington Department of Wildlife, Olympia, WA. Response to NBS-G nonindigenous questionaire and other reports. 1992.

Hartel, K. E. 1992. Non-native fishes known from Massachusetts freshwaters. Occasional Reports of the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Fish Department, Cambridge, MA. 2. September. pp. 1--9. 

Hocutt, C.H., R.E. Jenkins, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1986. Zoogeography of the fishes of the central Appalachians and central Atlantic Coastal Plain. 161-212 in C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The zoogeography of North American freshwater fishes. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Holton, G. D. 1990. A field guide to Montana fishes. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Helena, MT. 104 pp.

Hubbs, C., R. J. Edwards, and G. P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of freshwater fishes of Texas, with key to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

Hughes, R.M. and A.T. Herlihy. 2012. Patterns in catch per unit effort of native prey fish and alien piscivorous fish in 7 Pacific Northwest USA rivers. Fisheries 37(5):201-211.

Idaho Fish and Game. 1990. Fisheries Management Plan 1991--1995. Appendix I -- A list of Idaho fishes and their distribution by drainage. Idaho Fish and Game.

Jenkins, R. E., and N. M. Burkhead. 1994. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society, Bethesda, MD.

Jones, D. J. 1963. A history of Nebraska's fisheries resources. Dingell-Hohnson Federal Aid in Fish Restoration Project F-4-R Publication. Nebraska Game, Forestation and Parks Commission.

Koster, W. J. 1957. Guide to the fishes of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM.

Lampman, B. H. 1946. The coming of the pond fishes. Binfords and Mort, Portland, OR.

Lanigan, S. H. and C. R. Berry Jr. 1981. Distribution of Fishes in the White River, Utah. The Southwestern Naturalist, 26(4): 389-393.

La Rivers, I. 1962. Fishes and fisheries of Nevada. Nevada State Print Office, Carson City, NV.

Lee, D. S., C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister, and J. R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980 et seq. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, NC.

Linder, A. D. 1963. Idaho's alien fishes. Tebiwa 6(2):12--15.

Marsh, P. C., and M. E. Douglas. 1997. Predation by introduced fishes on endangered humpback chub and other native species in the Little Colorado RIver, Arizona. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 126:343-346.

Matern, S.A., P.B. Moyle, and L.C. Pierce. 2002. Native and alien fishes in a California estuarine marsh: twenty-one years of changing assemblages. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society. 131: 797-816.

Menhinick, E. F. 1991. The freshwater fishes of North Carolina. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. 227 pp.

Miller, R. R., and J. R. Alcorn. 1946. The introduced fishes of Nevada, with a history of their introduction. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 73:173--193.

Miller, R.R. and C.H. Lowe. 1967. Part 2. Fishes of Arizona, p 133-151, In: C.H. Lowe, ed. The Vertebrates of Arizona. University of Arizona Press. Tucson.

Minckley, W. L. 1973. Fishes of Arizona. Arizona Fish and Game Department. Sims Printing Company, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.

Moyle, P.B. and J. Randall. 1999. Distribution maps of fishes in California. [on-line] Available URL at

Page, L. M., and B. M. Burr. 1991. A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico. The Peterson Field Guide Series, volume 42. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.

Platania, S. P. 1991. Fishes of the Rio Chama and upper Rio Grande, New Mexico, with preliminary comments on their longitudinal distribution. Southwestern Naturalist 36(2):186--193.

Rosen, P.C., C.R. Schwalbe, D.A. Parizek, Jr., P.A. Holm, and C.H. Lowe. 1995. Introduced aquatic vertebrates in the Chiricahua region: effects on declining native ranid frogs. Pages 251-261 in DeBano, L.H., P.H. Folliott, A. Ortega-Rubio, G.J. Gottfried, R.H. Hamre, and C.B. Edminster, eds. Biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago: the sky islands of southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. Fort Collins, CO.

Schmidt, R. E. 1986. Zoogeography of the Northern Appalachians. In C.H. Hocutt and E.O. Wiley, eds. The Zoogeography of North American Freshwater Fishes. 137-160.

Sigler, W. F., and R. R. Miller. 1963. Fishes of Utah. Utah Department of Fish and Game, Salt Lake City, UT. 203 pp.

Simpson, J., and R. Wallace. 1978. Fishes of Idaho. University of Idaho Press, Moscow, ID.

Sommer, T, B. Harrell, M. Nobriga, R. Brown, P. Moyle, W. Kimmerer, and L. Schemel. 2001. California's Yolo Bypass: Evidence that flood control can be compatible with fisheries, wetlands, wildlife, and agriculture. Fisheries. American Fisheries Society. 26 (8): 6-16.

Sublette, J. E., M. D. Hatch, and M. Sublette. 1990. The fishes of New Mexico. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, NM. 393 pp.

Swift, C. C., T. R. Haglund, M. Ruiz, and R. N. Fisher. 1993. The status and distribution of the freshwater fishes of southern California. Bulletin of the Southern California Academy of Science 92(3):101--167.

Tilmant, J.T. 1999. Management of nonindigenous aquatic fish in the U.S. National Park System. National Park Service. 50 pp.

Tyus, H. M., B. D. Burdick, R. A. Valdez, C. M. Haynes, T. A. Lytle, and C. R. Berry. 1982. Fishes of the upper Colorado River basin: distribution, abundance, and status. Pages 12--70 in W. H. Miller, H. M. Tyus, and C. A. Carlson, editors. Fishes of the upper Colorado River system: present and future, Western Division, American Fisheries Society.

Whitmore, S. 1997. Aquatic nuisance species in Region 6 of the Fish and Wildlife Service. US Fish and Wildlife Service, Great Plains Fish and Wildlife Mangement Assistance Office, Pierre, SD.

Wydoski, R. S., and R. R. Whitney. 1979. Inland fishes of Washington. University of Washington Press, Seattle, WA.

FishBase Summary

Author: Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson

Revision Date: 5/29/2012

Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016

Citation Information:
Pam Fuller, and Matt Neilson, 2018, Ameiurus melas (Rafinesque, 1820): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 5/29/2012, Peer Review Date: 4/1/2016, Access Date: 1/24/2018

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.

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Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2018]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [1/24/2018].

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