By Ron Presley
Catching Catfish of Exceptional Size Depends on Where You Fish
Anglers in the USA often name places like Wheeler Lake in Alabama as a place they would like to fish, because of the abundance of huge catfish. In Europe, a favorite bucket list destination is the Ebro River in Spain.
“Spain, specifically the river Ebro, holds a special place in the hearts of European Catfish Anglers,” said Dave Mutton, a dedicated wels catfish angler and fishing guide. Mutton is owner/operator of Specimen Fishing UK, a tackle shop located in Coventry, England.
“The Ebro is a very wide river, in places more than a mile wide, and the home to some of the largest catfish in Europe,” continued Mutton. “Certainly, in terms of stock density, the largest amounts of catfish too. It is not unusual for an angler to catch a dozen fish or more in a day, with several being over 100 pounds. In some areas fish of more than 200 pounds are not uncommon.”
A few years ago the Spanish government banned the use of live bait in Spain. According to Mutton this totally changed the way cats are fished for over there. The cats he speaks of are the wels catfish. These cats excite European anglers because of their huge size.
When live bait was legal, anglers had two basic methods of catching the giant fish. One method was conducted from the shore and the other from a boat.
“The bank fishing method is called buoy fishing where a live carp is tied off to a floating buoy,” instructed Mutton. “The buoy is tied using a weak length of line and the rod is held vertically in a holder on the bank. The reel is wound to put the rig under tension and make the rod tip bend over. The idea is that when the catfish grabs the carp, it breaks the weak link to the buoy and you wind down to the fish and strike in to it.”
The other traditional method was to drift fish from a boat. “This involves a live carp suspended beneath a large float,” explained Mutton. “The water is then hit with a clonk. The clonk is a wooden baton with a specially shaped end that produces a very load popping noise. The catfish are attracted to the noise and come to investigate, find the carp and attack it. This is probably my favourite method of all for catfishing, but is sadly no longer allowed.”
The Modern Method
The modern method of catching catfish in Spain is to use a boat to carry a baited rig out to the angling location, often to a distance of 250 yards or more. “I use a fixed rig with a heavy lead of around 10 ounces,” explained Mutton. “The hook link is about 2 to 3 feet. The bait is usually halibut pellet.”
The rig is dropped over the side of the boat along with free offerings of bait. “It is not unusual to drop 5 or 6 pounds of bait as freebies along with the rig,” said Mutton. The rod is then fished vertically from the bank, reeled tightly to the weight. The bite is indicated by the tip lurching over. It is common to use up to 50 pounds of bait in a day when using this method with 2 rods.”
Mutton reports that fishing in Spain is very accessible with many English anglers offering guide services on the river. “It can get crowded in the hot spots,” revealed Mutton. “That congestion is why I rarely guide there now. I prefer the space of the lakes I fish in France.”
Mutton also reported on an exciting project at a new location. “I am just embarking on and testing the untapped potential of the Czech Republic. Initial reports are good. We have secured the rights to a lake where the fish seem to average 150 pounds and some fish reach weights of more than 250 pounds!”
CatfishNow (CFN) looks forward to Mutton’s report on the success he finds fishing the Czech Republic for big cats. CFN will eagerly await Mutton’s evaluation of the Czech Republic adventure. Readers will not have to wait long, however, for some more information on the mighty wels catfish. The January issue of CFN will feature a story on the wels catfish in the UK.