This enigmatic species can grow to epic proportions on the continent. In fact many hundreds of British anglers travel to the likes of the River Ebro in Spain to catch strains of catfish that weigh in excess of 100lb.
They are quite few and far between in Britain. They aren't an indigenous species so they are bought in and stocked into lakes where they thrive.
There are quite a few 'specimen-style' venues that stock catfish within their vast carp lakes. These would be the best venues to try for a chance of catching an impressive British catfish.
The catfish looks like no other British freshwater fish. It has a long body, tiny eyes and long tentacles protruding from its upper lip.
The body is smooth and scaleless. Colouration is mottled in cream, green, brown, olive and bronze, providing great camouflage for the young catfish, and for the more mature catfish for when they are hunting their prey.
Catfish are by far our longest and heaviest species and have an almost tadpole shape. The head tapers into an enormous tail that carries the enormous dorsal and anal fins. Their pectoral fin is also very large and paddle-like.
Wels catfish have six 'whiskers' protruding from their head. There are four short barbules located under the chin and a pair of very long barbules protruding from underneath each eye.
Catfish breed rather differently to the more haphazard approach favoured by most of our other freshwater species. Rather than find shallow, weedy and gravel areas, the male catfish waits until the really warm summer temperatures, heads off to a quiet area of the lake and builds a nest ready for the female.
The female lays her eggs within the nest, the male fertilises them and then remains alongside the nest until the eggs hatch.
Catfish have enormous wide mouths filled to the brim with hundreds of velcro-like rasping teeth that can grip their prey very well indeed.
In the wild catfish are both scavengers and opportunist killers. They will devoir any dead animal matter it smells, and it will hunt living creatures like fish, frogs, leeches and other amphibians. The feed mainly at night, but in coloured water the catfish will feed during the day.
To catch a large catfish requires substantial baits. Live and deadbaiting with coarse fish works a treat. Huge fishmeal-based boilies and large strings of fishmeal pellets also catch well, as do big bunches of whole lobworms set upon a large hook.
Fancy bagging a giant catfish? Mequinenza, on the river ebro in spain is a real hotspot!
Finding catfish in stillwaters is quite a difficult affair, particularly if you have never visited the water before. But there is one saving grace that can help catfish anglers enormously - catfish are quite territorial, so if they have been caught from one spot, there is a very large chance they will be caught again from the same area.
Look for steep marginal shelves - catfish love them - or areas that are extremely snaggy as these are prime zones for the catfish to hide, watch its prey and intercept it as it passes.
Look out for...
For best results, fish throughout the night.
Marginal snags are prime catfish hotspots.
Try fishing near lilies and weed for catfish success.
Best baits for catching a catfish...