Fishing for the monster Wels catfish of the river Ebro is something I have always wanted to do, so when I got the chance I grabbed it with both hands. My anticipation was at an all-time high and I was desperate to get started, I had set myself the rather ambitious target of catching a fish bigger than myself in weight but realistically would have been ecstatic with anything over 100lb in weight.
We arrived at Barcelona airport on the Saturday but wasn’t due to head to our guide’s secret “big fish swim” till the Monday. But he could see how eager I was to get fishing so took me to his local swim for a short session on the Sunday. And it would be in this swim I would get my first taste of the Ebro catfishing experience.
Each rod was baited with a string of 5 Halibut pellets on the hair and a couple of handfuls of pellet scattered around each hook bait. And I sat back in the morning sun and waited for a bite. This was a stunning part of the river with a large island in the distance and lush green margins all around a great place to be whilst I waited and time passed quickly. It seemed like no time had passed before the rod tip started lunging down signifying a take.
After a short fight I soon had my first Ebro Catfish on the bank, at just over 28lb this was far from the monster I was after, but gave me a good chance to get a real good look at a Wels catfish close up. I had always over looked Wels catfish as being scavengers more than they are predators but I would soon realise during this trip this opinion couldn’t have been further from the truth. The Wels catfish truly is the apex predator in these waters and there is nothing they won’t take on.
We packed up during the heat of the day to go and do the shopping for the week ahead and returned for another short session that evening. This session resulted in another catfish for me, another kitten of 32lb but at least the fish were getting bigger.
The next day with a couple of bonus cats already under the belt we drove an hour and a half out into the mountains to the “big fish swim”. This swim was totally different from the one we had been fishing the lush greenery was replaced by rocks and mountains. This rugged and wild landscape was the perfect setting for me to do battle with a true monster.
My guide rowed the hook baits along with half a bucket of free offerings per rod to a distant under water snag and began to row back to the bank. When he got about half way back he shouted out that he could see a very big yellowy coloured cat swimming in the direction of my hook baits which just added to the anticipation.
We spent the next half hour or so with binoculars watching Eagles and other birds flying high above the mountains. Through the binoculars I was watching a goliath heron hunting in the far margins totally oblivious to the fact that it was also being hunted. A large Wels catfish was slowly approaching the bird along the bank and, when it felt it was close enough it struck, just missing the panicked bird as it took off. This was the first time I got to see the fearlessness and aggression of these predators.
As we sat talking about what we had just seen the bite alarm sounded and I was in. This was a clearly a big fish and it stripped my reel of line at an awesome rate, before I knew it I was down to my backing line and had to really clamp down to stop the fish from getting away. Trying to stop a big Wels catfish that doesn’t want to be stopped is no easy task and I soon found myself being pulled along the bank. Luckily I was able to turn the fish back in my direction and get some line back on the reel, but the fish was far from beaten. The big catfish take big power lunges stripping line from the reel with ease and this fish continued to fight hard.
When the fish surfaced the guide instantly called out that he was sure it was the big yellow cat he had spotted from the boat and when he pulled the fish onto the mat I was gob smacked by the sheer size of this fresh water monster. This was clearly a big fish but had I achieved my target of catching a fish bigger than me? I’m about 5ft 9 so the fish clearly dwarfed me when it came to length but what about weight, I’m 11st/154lb. As we hoisted the fish up on the scales I soon found that at 158lb it was a case of mission accomplished.
It wasn’t until I was holding the fish in the water while it recovered that I realised the pain in my, now blue, groin where I had been resting the butt of the rod during the fight and the aching arms from the battle but it was all definitely worth it.
As the week went on I received more water ski lessons courtesy of monster catfish as well as catching numerous carp and it was one of these that gave me another example of just how aggressive the Wels can be. This particular 26lb common had fresh wounds of a catfish attack running all the way round its body, where it had been unfortunate enough to find itself head first down the mouth of a catfish (but at the same time fortunate enough to have escaped).
So far on my fish adventures I have not experienced anything quite like doing battle with huge Wels catfish and I personally can’t wait to go back for another battle.
If you’re looking for a carp and catfish fishing holiday take a look at Morgane Lakes in France