The only reason you go fishing in Mequinenza, Spain is to catch the big one, we broke the Ebro River. 241 lbs Catfish in the bag!

If you are not aware, the Wels Catfish is not native to Spain, they were introduced by a German angler, Rio Segre. He believed that the Ebro system which covers several lakes and rivers was the best ecosystem for the Wels Catfish to thrive and he was right. Today, the Wels Catfish in the Ebro is the biggest in the world and this draws anglers to come and test their skills against this prehistoric fish.

CatMaster Tours

Let’s set the scene…

A total of 4 fishermen and everyone except for myself had been fishing the year before in Riba-Roja which is downriver from Mequinenza where we were based. The year before, they did not have a great experience so this year they decided to use CatMaster Tours for many reasons but the main one was their success in catching big catfish. Colin, CatMaster Tours owner, suggested the end of the season is prime time for “big catfish”, he did stipulate that it would be slower fishing but this is when the final feeding takes place. Catch less but catch bigger. Week fishing trip was booked from 19th – 26th November 2017.

Catfish Fishing Guidelines

Each fisherman has a license for 2 fishing rods in the water at any given time. If you leave the banks of the Ebro river to do anything, your rods have to be reeled in until your return. As a team, we decided that it would be the fairest to draw straws and have an order, so each angler will be fishing with 8 rods and 3 cheerleaders. Thus eliminating one fisherman catching many catfish and the others catching nothing. #1 – Craig #2 – Quin #3 – Youngers (The Drunk One) #4 – Daniel Fishing hours on the Ebro are from 6 am to midnight every day, 18 hour fishing days and we were advised to use as much of that time as possible to ensure we catch as many fish as possible. Oh, and did I mention that it was getting cold. Let the fun begin…

Day 1

Being very excited about catching monster catfish, we all woke bright and early and we were picked up by our guide Dave at 6.30 am on Monday and taken to our first fishing spot. In this spot 2 weeks before, 17 catfish all over 100 lbs were caught. When we arrived, it was like out of a horror movie, the mist was so thick that you could not see more than 10 meters into the river. We set up camp, got our rods ready and got them positioned along the bank… This was our view 🙂

By 7.30 am we were all set up, rods in and had a coffee in hand. We were ready for the first line to start running, boy were we wrong. What many of you won’t know, is there is nothing to do along the Ebro river and once your rods were in all you can do is wait and wait and wait. Fishing for catfish is not a game that you can manipulate by changing your rigs or moving spots, all you can do is wait for the fish to bite. Get ready for the long waiting game…
During each day there would be 3 bait changes. The first is when you get your rods in the water in the mornings, this was normally around 7.30 am. The second change was at 1 pm and the final bait change was at 6 pm. Other than the bait changes at the specific time slots we never touched the rods until a fish was on the line. After a while, this became very mind numbing!

Keeping Ourselves Entertained

The goal of each day was to not get bored so we would create games for us to play:

  • Hit a tree with a stone
  • Throw stones into a bin
  • Skimming stones

Nightfall on Day 1

Our spirits are still high but after 12 hours of sitting on the bank we start to question if we are on the right fishing spot, are our baits set right, does Dave know what he is doing? These are the questions we are asking ourselves. 9.21 pm, I am having a snooze as nothing is happening until everyone starts screaming at me to wake up, the fishing alarms are ringing and a rod is tearing line out of the reel. It is catfish time…! First Wels Catfish EbroI rush over to the rod, trying to get my bearings just before I pick up the rod to start fighting this monster catfish. Instantly, I can feel that there is something heavy on my line. Drag is set high and this fishing is running… After 2 mins of letting this fish take my line, I start to get some control and begin reeling this fish towards me. By now there must be +160 meters of fishing line between him and I and the game of tug o war is on. 22 minutes later, I have successfully landed my first Wels Catfish. Weight: 147 lbs

Ecstatic with my first Wels Catfish

At this point I was over the moon, this is the biggest fish I have ever landed and now to cement your glory with some images. In the summer, you would be in the river to take a glorious picture with your fish but it is almost winter so we took pictures on the bank of the Ebro river. Strip down to bare clothes as you do not want wet attire after you put the catfish back into the river. Honest Moment Here…

Catfish Slime: Something that no one tells you about but I feel everyone should know. It is bad, expect every bit of skin and clothing to be covered! Oh and they also shit on you!

Having spent 20-25mins fighting this catfish with battery acid running through your veins, you are now expected to lift and hold this catfish in a position so that everyone can take 100’s of images from various positions. Your arms are burning but in the end, you have great pictures that will last a lifetime of you and your catfish.

Day 2

After a successful first day, pulling in a 147 lbs catfish, we were excited to get back and get our lines into the river and catch another big fish. #2 angler on the rods was Quin (Bankrat). Today is noticeably colder than the first day, the water temperature has also dropped which is not a good sign for us for fishing and also waiting around for a fish to bite. We set the lines and get the kettle on, it is 7.45 am and we are all set for the day. We go back to entertaining ourselves so we don’t go mad with boredom while we wait for the next catfish. Breakfast and lunch go by and still no sign of a catfish. We re-bait the rods and reset them over lunch and again over dinner. Time is moving so slowly. One of the great bonuses of having a guide who is there to help you during your trip, like Dave, is he goes to get us food (breakfast & dinner and any other supplies you may need during the day). Normally, we would order breakfast between 8-9 am and we would order dinner at around 6 pm. Night sets in and we are ready for a rod to start running, it is the around the same time we caught the first catfish on the first night. 11.30 pm and still nothing. We speak to Dave and he has been informed that another group fishing with Catmaster Tours has been catching upriver towards the dam wall. It is deeper water and we all agree that we will move there first thing in the morning. We pack up our camp at 12 pm and head home a little disheartened with a “blank day”.

Day 3

The morning comes and we are starting to struggle to get motivated, it’s cold and the early starts and late nights are starting to take effect with the added blank day the day before. Dave arrives promptly to collect us to take us to our new fishing spot which is closer to the dam wall with deeper water. I will say this, it is more picturesque than the first spot we were based, a lot more activity on the water with boats going up and down the river trawling for various species of fish. We go through the normal routine of setting up our rods, it is overcast and chilly. We have now realised that between 11 am and 11:45 am the sun starts to break the mist and it is at this point we start to de-robe and the day starts to become enjoyable. In the swim next to us is Colin, the owner of CatMaster Tours, he is fishing with a mate also trying to catch the big one. They pulled a nice catfish out the night prior to our arrival so our hopes are high at this point in time. Hours go by, cups of coffee get consumed and we eat both meals. Around 7:30 pm, one of the rods starts beeping, FISH ON! After about 15-20 minutes of working this fish, Quin lands himself a beautiful catfish. Weight: 102 lbs

Posing For Photos

No one ever explains how hard it is to pick up a catfish after you have been fighting to land the fish. Arms are tired plus how slimy the catfish is… Here is Quin (Bankrat) doing a fine job.

Day 4

Three days and two big catfish over 100 lbs. As a group, we were still very positive with the whole fishing for 18 hours on the banks of the Ebro river. Day 4 is the start of Youngers (aka Michael Young) being on the rods and like the past three days, we arrive promptly at our new camp where Quin had caught his fish the night before. We bait and set the rods as normal and assume the position in our chairs with coffee in hand. The morning passes us by and we notice that the Colin and his fishing friend were going to try another swim down the river (halfway between our first fishing spot and our current swim). Immediately, Dave suggested we split our rods between the two swims, four rods in each. We agree and proceed to reel in and re-bait four rods which are to be placed in the new swim. The distance between the two swims is about 40 – 50 meters, so we had to move our base camp in between to shorten the running distance when a fish decided to get caught on our hooks. The afternoon is slow, games are being played, some beer is being drunk and many laughs are had by all… 8.20 pm, we hear an alarm going off, two of us are there and we are shouting for Youngers (he is in the middle of making us all coffee) FISH ON!

Initially, Youngers did not feel anything on his line, in his head, he thought it was us playing a joke but this is very common, the catfish will swim towards you before running. Then, the catfish decided to change his direction. It was at this time, he knew there was going to be one hell of a fight on his hands. I will say this, Michael handled himself like a champ, he worked the fish hard and in some parts, the fish worked him. After 25 – 30 minutes, we saw catfish in the shallows, it was HUGE. We also realised we were on our own as Dave was out getting us supplies. Big Dan stepped up, rolled up his sleeves, got his feet wet and grabbed the jaw of the biggest catfish to be caught for the past five years. It was at this time, Dave arrived back and by the look on his face, we could tell he was impressed for two reasons:

  • #1 – We had caught a donkey (his words)
  • #2 – This bunch had landed this fish unassisted

Weight: 241 lbs

Biggest Catfish for 2017

You can imagine, we were told by Dave (our guide) that Youngers had just landed the biggest fish of 2017, the biggest catfish for the past 5 years. As a group we were ecstatic. In great fisherman tradition, we all fishing a can of Spain’s finest larger in one. #BrokeTheEbro

Day 5

Tired but over the moon with the catfish that Youngers caught the previous night, we arise from our slumber bright and early. Dave arrives promptly to collect us and we head to our base on the banks of the Ebro river. It is Daniels turn on the rods. We go through the same process as every other morning. We bait all the rods and get them set in the exact same spots. The reason for setting the rods on the same spots is because everytime a rod is placed pellets are thrown over the hook enticing the fish to feed. Basically baiting the areas. Rods are set, coffee is prepared and we are ready for the long haul of waiting for the sound of the running alarm. The morning passes and we re-bait the rods at lunchtime and put the lines back out. The afternoon goes by and not peep of activity from any fish species. Evening arrives, we bait up again and set the rods and order our dinner, still, nothing is happening on the river. Deep down, we are all starting to wonder where are all the fish? The night is truly upon us, the temperature has dropped and the waiting is taking its toll on us all. BLANK, day 5 is a total blank, not a bite, no sign of a catfish as we pack up and head home at 00:20 am. 

Day 6

Our final day fish and the last day that Dan can catch himself an Ebro catfish. The pressure is truly on to get Dan a catfish before we depart and never return because Youngers broke the Ebro. #BrokeTheEbro We arrive at base camp and go through the routine of baiting and setting the rods, we have almost mastered the art and every day we cut our time from arrival to having coffee in our chairs. As we discuss and joke about our week of fishing, there is a sense of “will Dan catch a fish” but being early in the day, we still had confidence that he will land himself a +100 lbs catfish. Lunchtime arrives after a slow morning of waiting with bated anticipation of a catfish.

Again we re-set the rods but for the second last time on our fishing trip to Mequinenza. There is a sense of doubt floating around as the hours run down on our last day and we all are hoping and praying to the Catfish Gods that Daniel can catch an Ebro catfish. We all agreed that it would be very harsh if 3 out of 4 caught a catfish each. During the summer months, it is completely different fishing. Over a week-long trip with 4 anglers, you could be catching 4 – 10 catfish a day, easily.

Dear catfish Gods, please can you send us a fish on the last day of our fishing trip!

The final baiting

6 pm arrives and ZERO sign of anything and our spirits are almost breaking. We have resorted to inducing some beer just to keep us from slitting our wrists. The rods are out, we eat our final meal along the banks of the Ebro river and we wrap ourselves up for the evening shift. Time slowly rolls on and it is at about 9:30 pm that we start to discuss packing up so that we can go and enjoy a cold beer in the warmth of a local bar. It was at about 9:43 pm that one of the rod alarms started going off, this is it, FISH ON. We all shout for Daniel, he is watching the opposite swim’s rods, he runs over to the rod, picks it and starts to reel in… Nothing, he reckons there is nothing at the end of the line, now myself and Youngers were there and saw the take, there is a fish on the line. Arms pumping away and all Dan can feel is the weight bouncing on the ground as he reels in… SHIT, we lost the only fish of the evening. Instant heartbreak as we stand and watch Dan reel in what could have been his one and only chance to catch a catfish. WAIT….. As the line shortens as it draws up the river bed of the Ebro river, we see a flicker of scales, he has not caught a catfish but he has caught a 42 lbs Carp. Reeling in a 42 lbs Carp should have been a great fight but not on the catfish rods we were using.

Being a Carp fisherman, this was a great fish and Dan was very happy, to say the least. As Dave is collecting the fish in the net, Youngers shouts… FISH ON. One of the rods in our second swim had been taken. Lucky for us all that Youngers went to check on the rods. Dan ran over, grabbed the rod and started to battle with what definitely feels like a heavy catfish. Two fish in two minutes 🙂 It took about 15-20 minutes to land his first Ebro catfish and complete the fishing tour. Every fisherman had caught and landed a catfish. Weight: 111 lbs

Tour Complete

The final night with Daniel catching his catfish completed what was a great fishing tour to the Ebro river and we can leave with our heads held high. We all caught a + 100 lbs catfish and Youngers caught what some fishermen search for their whole lives.

Final Thoughts

This was one of the hardest fishing trips I have ever been on and it was not because of the big fighting fish. It is the style of fishing with a slice of bad weather. Sitting on a bank for a combined 402 hours takes it out of you. 18 hour days with the hopes of catching a fish with very little to do to keep yourself from going mad. It is not the type of fishing where you can change locations and go in search of the fish, you wait for the fish to come to you. Would I do it again, NO! Would I recommend it to someone to do, YES! And I would recommend CatMaster Tours. We are all happy with the catfish that we caught, we have the images to prove it.

Special Mentions

Big shout out to Dave who looked after us from the start, we did give him shit (to pass the time by). If it were not for his GPS, rowing our hooks to the designated spots and keeping us fed and hydrated with constant runs to the shops, the trip would not be been as a success as it was. If you are thinking about catching an Ebro Catfish, go with CatMaster Tours and ask for Dave. Another Shoutout goes to Colin, Thanks for your Swim. Thanks to all who made this a trip to remember!!!

5.0 Rating From 2 Reviews.
on 06, Dec 2017
Great post Craig. Very in-depth. Since watching Mr Wade, I have wanted to catch a Wels catfish. Well done
on 06, Dec 2017

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