Sunday, 30 March 2014

A North West Catfish


As far as carp fishing goes 2013 wasn’t a particularly good year for me, apart from a hatrick of twenties on our annual Sandhurst trip I didn’t catch any 20lb carp from the Cheshire area. Sometimes you get those periods in your fishing when you don’t feel like going or you just want a change or a few bites without having to work too hard. I pottered round a few waters last spring and whilst pondering which water to target next I had a good think about the things I’d like to do in my fishing, a bucket list if you like?. One thing I’ve never done is catch a wels catfish and one of my tickets gave me access to a water that had quite a few of them, in fact a few of my mates complained about them being a pest when fishing overnight. I’m really a day only angler so that was the challenge I set myself last summer, to catch my first ever wels catfish whilst only fishing days.

The tactics for catching my catfish were simple, ignore them and fish for the lakes carp instead!. So many anglers had hooked catfish on boilies I figured I could have the best of both worlds and enjoy catching small carp regularly until a catfish turned up. This turned out to be easier said than done, a few cats did indeed turn up but none of them made it to the landing net and I got smashed up in heavy pads on more than one occasion, by the end of the summer I’d upped my main line to 22lb Big Game Line in order to give myself a chance but I still got snapped even going that heavy.

I enjoyed last summer a lot, whilst waiting for my catfish to come along I spent the long hot summer refining my zig rig fishing with the other rod, the carp loved floaters on this lake but nobody really bothered fishing for them this way which left me with a nice little niche that I thoroughly exploited. By the end of the summer I’d caught enough carp and felt comfortable enough to write about the zig rig and I published this piece last year (click and watch the youtube floater footage on full screen!). That wels catfish never did come my way and as the water temperature cooled I shelved the idea of catching a cat and moved onto my winter carp fishing.

11lb 8oz Common, a typical zig caught fish from last summer

Fast forward to March 2014, I wrapped up my winter fishing and moved back to the catfish lake, it was still cold but the water has a good track record for throwing up carp in winter and the plan was to fish right through until May and possibly pick up an accidental cat as the water warmed up. The pads wouldn’t be fully grown either so I’d have a better chance of landing one. One end of the lake was known as catfish alley and it was an area that is normally choked with pads. The carp like this area too and when I turned up for my first session I arrived to an empty lake and a carp crashing out in catfish alley. That was my mind made up, I was straight on the showing carp. I was still using my winter carp rigs so two 10mm Scopex Squid popups with small PVA Mesh bags of scopex boilies went to the middle of the dead pads where the carp were showing along with a scattering of 20-30 baits just to get them interested.

A 10mm Scopex Squid pop up on a kd rig, a very flexible winter carp rig

I was still on winter time for my fishing so I was there midday until dark, by 2.45pm I’d had nothing and more importantly I’d seen no more carp either and I wondered if a couple of rigs and some bait landing on them had pushed them out?. With no shows I was sat wondering where a run was going to come from when the left hand Delkim suddenly burst into life. I was on it quickly and the strike was met with a solid resistance. For a few minutes I thought my line was snagged on the old pad stems and I held the rod high and pumped to try and get the fish moving. Eventually it dawned on me that I wasn’t snagged in the pads at all as the fish started slowly moving!. What followed could best be described as an epic scrap as the fish made me fight for every inch of line. Half way in it rolled on top and I caught a quick glimpse of mottled green and a bright white belly, that didn’t look very carpy at all and the realisation sank in, I was attached to a catfish!. Although the fish didn’t go on any particularly long runs it was dogged and the fight dragged on for about 20 minutes before my prize hit the spreader block, the fish was so long I had to lead it right into the net then kind of flip the tail half of its body into my 42” Landing Net!.

I secured the net and sorted out my Camera and Scales, on the Unhooking Mat I looked at my catfish and estimated it to be the best part of 5ft long!, I had no idea how heavy it was as I’d never caught one before so I got on with the weighing and photographing. The scales gave me 27lb 12oz, not bad for my first north west catfish. The pictures were fun, wels catfish are slippery to say the least and trying to hold something straight when its nearly 5ft long is just impossible, I did the best I could then returned my prize to the lake.

27lb 12oz, my first north west catfish

I fished on after this but no carp came my way, a surprise given they are usually very obliging and I wondered if it was the catfish being active that pushed them out of the area and not my rigs and bait going in, usually the carp come to the sound of bait on this lake?, I’ll never really know the answer to that but it would explain why the carp suddenly became so scarce!.

So there we have it, after a summer spent trying and failing to catch a north west catfish I managed to nail one first time back on the lake in early march and on my own terms without doing a night. This left me with a problem, do I carry on fishing for pasty carp and the chance of another cat or move back to chasing bigger carp on a more challenging venue?. Although catfish fight hard they are pretty ugly creatures I’m sure you’ll agree!, I enjoyed catching my first ever cat but it hasn’t turned me into a catfish angler by any means and I feel the time is right to take on a more tricky carp water with bigger than average sized fish again. Tackling tricky waters for bigger fish whilst doing days requires a bit of a siege mentality, I've actually enjoyed not having to 'stick with it' through thick and thin to grind out results but I can't stay away from the big carp scene forever so it's time to go looking for those 20's again.

Tight Lines

Mark.