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May 25, 2013

Cross Column: Bullheads may be rough fish, but they're good eats

Yesterday, Minnesota's second-biggest fishing season _ for bass _ opened.

A half-century ago, bass fishing was a more subdued affair as anglers in simple fishing boats cast tried-and-true baits like Jitterbugs or Hula-Poppers as they drifted along a shoreline.

A good share of the fish caught would wind up on a stringer, destined for the frying pan.

Fast forward to Opening Day, 2013.

Likely as not, bass anglers yesterday cruised to their fishing spots at highway speeds in glittery bass boats bristling with electronic fish-finding gadgets and powered by a high-performance 200 horsepower outboards

And to actually keep and and eat a bass? Perish the thought!

So today, let's pay homage instead to a fish that people actually intend to eat after catching them.

No, not a walleye, bluegill or crappie, but the lowly bullhead.

Officially, the smooth-skinned, be-whiskered fellow is classified in Minnesota as "rough" fish. A DNR fish biologist once described bullheads as rocks with fins.

Anglers weary of getting picked clean of their expensive live baits typically describe the fish even less charitably and in terms that can't be printed here.

No one would argue that a bullhead is a very sporting fish to catch.

There are no fancy aerial bass antics, no walleye head shakes, no sizzling pike runs. Except for an occasionally tail flop, a bullhead just sort of spins at the end of the line as dead weight.

Indeed, the only reason anglers target the fish is that when taken from cold water, they can make for fitting table fare.

In our neighborhood in southwest Minnesota, we always viewed bullheads in a positive light. They were plentiful and easy to catch.

Thus, on most Memorial Day weekends, several families on our street would load up the sedans and travel to one of the wind-swept, shallow prairie lakes that dotted the countryside.

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