Wels Catfish - (Siluris glanis)
Wels catfish look extremely different to any other coarse fish found within the UK, their elongated body, large head, small eyes and six whiskers are a sure sign of a catfish. Wels have a mottled creamy colouring of olive and bronze which covers most of the fish except for its underside which is pale yellow or white.
The large wide mouth of the Wels Catfish contains hundreds of small teeth that feel like Velcro to the touch, these are used to move food and prey to the rear of the throat, where crushing pads crush the food prior to swallowing. Surrounding their mouths catfish have six whiskers, two on the upper jaw which are used for detecting prey and four whiskers on the lower jaw.
A catfish's sex can be identified by looking at its genitals, two openings are present on the belly of the catfish, the anus and the genital opening. The opening towards the head is the anus, while the opening towards the tail is the genital opening. Male catfish have a genital opening that is raised and pointed in appearance, whilst the female catfish have a genital opening that is rounder and shorter.
Wels catfish reach sexual maturity between 3 & 5 years of age and tend to spawn when water temperatures reach a consistent 18-20 degrees, normally between May & July. As soon as the water is warm enough, the male catfish will find a quiet area where he can pack and smooth down the lake bed in order to build a nest, once built he will wait for a female to visit.
Once at the nest the female will begin to lay her eggs (as much as 30,000 eggs per kilo of body weight) and the male will fertilises them. After spawning the male drives the female away and assumes a position over the eggs providing protection until they hatch.
Depending on local weather conditions the eggs usually hatch within four - ten days and begin feeding immediately. These small catfish develop very quickly and can easily attain 1 or 2lbs in their first year.
Natural Diet & Common Baits
Whilst catfish do feed during the day (especially in coloured water) it is at night that they feed most confidently. Relying on their fantastic sense of smell and sound, they scavenge the whole water they inhabit in search of a meal.
A Wels natural diet consists of crayfish, frogs, fish, small mammals and ducklings.
Baits most commonly used when targeting catfish consist of dead baits, live baits, boilies, pellets, huge chunks of luncheon meat and the ever faithful lob worm.
When not actively feeding, catfish are often found in areas that provide cover, these tend to be areas of dense weed growth, lilly beds, overhanging branches or underwater features like deep holes, undercuts and snags.
During nocturnal feeding, catfish will often come into marginal areas in pursuit of food - this is certainly worth bearing in mind whilst fishing through the night.
Tackle & Tips
- A very strong rod is required when in pursuit of wels catfish, a rod with a 3lb test curve or above is highly recommended, although a heavy duty carp rod of 2 3/4 lb would be sufficient for small cats.
- A minimum mainline to use for cats below 20lb would be a good branded 15lb monofilament, however if the cats are larger than 20lb, then a much stronger mainline of around 20-30lb would be needed.
- A reel with a freespool capacity is certainly needed whilst cat fishing, as is an electronic bite alarm and drop back indicator.
- It is advisable to purchase specialist catfish hooks from your local tackle shop, as these have been specifically designed to target catfish, the sizes most commonly used range in the following sizes from large to small 2/0, 1/0, 1, 2, 4, & 6 - If specialist hooks cannot be obtained then large gape carp hooks will work.
- A very large landing net and unhooking mat will be required when cat fishing.
- Catfish have excellent hearing and anglers sometimes use a clonk on large waters (a clonk is a wooden stick used to hit the water) as the sound vibrations can be effective in luring catfish into an area.
- Fishmeal based baits like boilies and pellets work very well with cats.
- Catfish can become very tired after a lengthy battle, always ensure that the catfish is fully rested before its release. To do this, suspend the catfish in the water until it has recovered enough to swim away under its own steam. Never release a fish which hasn't fully recovered.