Ebro Delta Catfishing Experience
Last summer brought about the opportunity for me to fish several days for the famous monster Catfish of the river Ebro situated in the North Eastern corner of Spain. Now I must admit that in advance of the trip I was not quite sure what to expect from this.
Much of what I had seen on the TV seemed to show crowded banks, a barren landscape, and a ‘fishing by numbers’ type of approach. However, what I found over the course of the next few days was a fantastic fishing experience which was as far removed from this stereo type as could be imagined!
Perhaps the first thing to mention in terms of a ‘big game’ fishing trip was the sheer ease and convenience of reaching the destination in comparison to some of the other far flung
A fantastic fishing experience which was as far removed from this stereo type as could be imagined
voyages that I’ve embarked upon, half way around the globe! A two hour Easy Jet into Barcelona from the UK, pick up the hire car, and within 90 minutes we were pulling in to our accommodation for the next few days, a charming, rustic villa nestling in typical Spanish countryside amongst Olive groves. We received a friendly welcome from our fishing guide, Al Henderson, and over a couple of beers were given a brief orientation in advance of the fishing. That evening we took advantage of the local taxi service and headed down into the nearby resort L’Ampolla, where we enjoyed the local speciality ‘paella marinera’ with a drop of Albarino, a superb dry White from Galicia in very civilised surroundings. We returned to our villa that night in suitably high spirits and full of anticipation for what lied in store.
Let battle commence
The following day saw the commencement of fishing and we followed Al down to the closest slipway around 10 minutes away from the Villa in the town of Amposta. All fishing on the Delta section of the Ebro is carried out from boat due to the largely inaccessible nature of the banks, which are heavily lined with banks of tall reeds. The boat was ideal for the job, an excellently maintained 18ft Carolina Skiff JVX with a 60HP Honda on the back. We headed up river for around 10 minutes, and to my total surprise did not see another boat, we had the river to ourselves! The fishing method is essentially a ‘stake out’ approach with bottom baits being taken out by the Guide from a small inflatable tender and lowered carefully into gulleys and clear spots alongside huge banks of weed in some of the shallower sections of the river. Plenty of free offerings are distributed
around the hook-baits, and we were assured by Al that we would be fishing around 4 or 5 pre baited areas during the course of the day. Once the baits are in position it’s a case of sit back and enjoy the surroundings while waiting for a pick up. The Delta is a real mecca for birdlife so you can observe some great sights, and we were lucky enough to spot Osprey, Marsh Harriers, Purple Heron, Night Heron, Hoopoe and 3 different types of Egret amongst others!
After around 90 minutes with just a few plucks from the nuisance fish, Channel Catfish, which are typically just a few pounds in weight, we decided to move on to the next swim. The baits were positioned and within around 15 minutes, bingo, the Shimano Baitrunner 12000 OC was spinning, and this time it was the real deal! As advised I picked up the rod swiftly and whacked into the running fish, only to connect with fresh air, a
swing and a miss! The bait was repositioned and I was relieved to hear that it is not uncommon to miss a take, as the fish are very wary of resistance and pick up the baits in a cagey manner which is somewhat in contrast with their rather numb looking appearance. The good news on offer was that the same fish would be likely to return to the bait within around half an hour, so I sat in anticipation of the run, holding my rod with finger hooked round the line ‘touch legering’ for a hundred pound fish! Sure enough, around 20 minutes later I felt a sudden tighte- ning on the line and with no hesitation, Whack, I slammed into the bite and felt the Daiwa Uptider immediately hoop over.
Sluggin’ it out!
These Wels Catfish don’t really look like they are built for speed so I was absolutely gob smacked by the sheer running power of the fish, which set off like an express train, stripping line at quite an alarming rate! The other rods were cranked in, and the anchors had to be left behind with buoys attached as we fired the engine to go
I was absolutely gob smacked by the sheer running power of the fish, which set off like an express train
after this hard running brute which was now in excess of 100 metres away. Eventually the fish found some heavy weed growth and the final part of the battle involved a skilful process of steadily coaxing the fish through the weed into open water, where a further 10 minutes of fighting around the boat had this monstrous Cat ready to be gloved onto the boat by the guide. With the fish on the deck of the boat it was time for the high fives and celebrations, and I must say that in the flesh, these Catfish have a kind of prehistoric aura about them which perhaps pictures cannot do justice to. After the customary photographs the Catfish was released quickly back into the water, and glided off showing little sign of distress. I must admit it was an almost surreal sight to see a fish of this size (in excess of 150lb) casually mooching back into a freshwater environment!
Only the beginning
The trip was a great success in terms of the fishing, with each of our 3 days on the boat yielding 2 Catfish and 4 of the 6 fish caught exceeding 100lb, with a biggest of 167lbs. The guiding was pro-active and first rate, Al has 19 full seasons of guiding under his belt and this knowledge real-
ly shone through. It was remarkable to be able to enjoy fish of this size and power so close to home and on a budget which makes this kind of adventure affordable to people from all walks of life.
Along with the Catfishing we were also able to fish for Black Bass and Sea Bass with light spinning gear whilst waiting for the next bite, which really helped to pass time in between Catfish takes. Trying to extract the Black Bass out of the thick weed-beds on surface frog imitations was great fun! We were also advised by Al that during certain months of the year (mainly in May and June) there is a good run of both Bluefish and Leerfish which enter the river and can be targeted on medium weight lure gear close to the estuary. Sadly we were a little bit late in the season for this, but were quite happy to keep hauling those huge moggies!
A fond farewell
The final day of our trip was a late departure, but instead of fishing a half day we opted to take Al up on the offer of a trip into the salt marshes at the end of the Delta where some fabulous birdlife was observed, with the highlight being the vast flocks of Greater Flamingos. Looking out over this sea of pink, you have to pinch yourself to remember that you are not in the great Rift Valley in Africa as hundreds of these majestic birds sift through the silt.
In conclusion we enjoyed a fantastic break and the trip exceeded my expectations of the Ebro Catfishing experience in every way possible. With all this possible just a few hours journey from home, I left this beautiful destination vowing to return next year – to catch a bigger one !
Fighting a big Catfish from the foredeck.
The Ebro delta attracts amazing gamefish like this 50lb leerfish.
Sunset on the lower Ebro vista.