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Catfish Capers

I’ve targeted catfish, that is Siluris glanis, the European Wels freshwater catfish, just twice prior to August, 2016. The first was in Mequinenza on the River Ebro back around 2004. It was late March, the fishing was hard and I had a few small cats to 30lbs. The morning we were travelling back it snowed heavily there for the first time in over 30-years. The cats knew the snow was coming, and they don’t like it cold!

My never flinching quest to target new species in UK and Ireland meant that I needed a catfish. I tried at Shatterford Lakes a couple of years back, but as before a cold front moved in and what should have been a mild May, proved cold with the wind often swinging southeast. The cats melted in to the depths, and I blanked, apart from a nice mirror carp of 12lbs, but learnt a lot.

Since 2014, I’d been giving UK catfish a lot of thought. I heard there were cats in the Llyn-y-Gors complex on Anglesey, and decided to make this my next venue as its relatively close to me. As luck has it, my lad lives not far from the lake and being an all-round angler himself, he suggested we have a couple of days/nights at Llyn-y-Gors for him to target carp, and me to try for my cat.

Having paid our dues, we took a casual stroll around the Old Carp Lake to pick out a swim. We found a double swim with small islands within easy casting range, and I especially liked the look of one island where the bushes and branches reached right in to the water. Perfect cat country!

The lair of the catfish

It seems par for the course, but we set up in fine weather, but the forecast was for increasing and swinging winds and a drop in temperature. Three days previously I’d heard that four cats had been caught over three nights, so I was in with a chance.

I set up with a simple short sliding ledger with a safety release clip to the lead. The hook was a micro barbed size 2, and the hook link an abrasion resistant carp braid. I’d fish a back lead too, to keep the main line tight to the lake bed and avoid spooking any fish that passed between me and the island.

Bait wise, it seemed the top baits were luncheon meat, 24mm halibut pellets, and chicken livers. The first day, I couldn’t get any chicken livers, so fished hair-rigged luncheon meat on both hooks, but half way through the first night switched one rod on to a fish based boilie.

The weather forecast was its usual reliable self and we had our evening meal in flat calm conditions, but there was the first sign of an autumnal chill in the air. We were both without bites that first day and night.

Mike Jr had been baiting up tight to an island and putting an 18mm boilie with a PVA bag of pellet in to a tiny bay. We were chatting over our lack of success when the alarm screeched and line poured off the reel. This proved to be a near 10lb carp, really dark in colour, but a pretty looking fish.

We had a steady walk-through of other anglers passing by who also seemed to be struggling for bites, with the odd weather being blamed by most. We heard an alarm go off the far side of the lake, but didn’t hear what the result was. One of the anglers passing by, Jack Ashurst, a Llyn-y-Gors regular and catfish specialist, was kind enough to offer to try and get me some fresh chicken livers, as he was heading to the shops that morning. Bless him, and many thanks, Jack, he found a pack, and I started to plan my night catfish caper.

Just as the light started to fade, I baited up with the chicken liver adding a 24mm halibut pellet for added scent on one rod, with luncheon meat on the other. I had a feeling any cat would either be patrolling the edge of the island, or be tight in along the margin pretty much right under my feet. I put the livers right in under an island bush along with a bag of halibut pellet, and set the alarm. I sprayed a little loose pellet along the edge of the island to form a pathway to lead any patrolling cat in to the bait. The second rod, with the meat on, I cast down to my right and about 4-feet out from the shoreline margin. We settled in, had a rather tasty beef jalfrezi, drank coffee, then beer, and chatted the evening away. By midnight I was tired, so elected to get some sleep. My final act was to add a little more loose pellet near where the cat bait was.

Catfish bait, chicken livers and a halibut pellet

I woke twice, briefly, when I had a half-hearted line bite on the inside rod. I woke again about 1.30. Why I have no idea. I glanced out of the bivvy at the rods and all seemed fine. I sank back into the sleeping bag and dozed off.

Ten minutes later the alarm screamed, I shot bolt upright, and in a second gathered my wits, gave up looking for my shoes, and ran out in stocking feet to grab the rod with the chicken livers on. Line was pouring off the spool, and when I set the hook I felt a good weight shake its head and turn for the bushes. I couldn’t afford to give it line as I knew there were tree roots there. The fish pulled one way, me the other, but all held. Mike was up now and alongside me, finding my shoes for me as I was stood on sharp gravel. He said, “It’s your cat, isn’t it?” I can’t remember what I said, plus I was shaking with excitement.

The fish made several short runs under heavy pressure, each time going for the tree roots, but eventually I got the fish in to the mid channel and slowly brought it to me. We saw it swirl on the surface, then Mike sank the net and I drew the cat in to it.

Putting the cat on the carp matt, I reckoned it might make 20lbs, and when we weighed it it showed 21lbs. I’d have been happy with a 5lb kitten just to get my species, but a 21lber was a nice way to break my UK duck. Some people say they’re ugly, but frankly I think they’re a stunning fish and one I could target on a regular basis. I’d like to get a 40lber from this fishery, and that will be a future target for me, along with a 20lb carp, though I’ve already had bigger carp in the UK, but would really like a 20 from this particular venue. I really enjoyed the bivvying out experience again too, the cooking, and living outdoors. Boys own stuff!

My first Catfish in the UK and species 114!

The cat brought my UK/Ireland species tally up to 114, but I’d already got my next target in mind. A brook trout!


Llyn-y-Gors, Llandegfan, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, LL59 5PN. Tel: 01248 713410.



There is also a fully stocked tackle shop at Llyn-y-Gors carrying leading brands such as JRC, Chub, Fox, Nash, Korda, and more, also bait.

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