Ebro Del­ta Cat­fi­shing Ex­pe­rience

Sportfishing Adventures - - CONTENT - Text and pho­tos by Chad White

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!

First im­pres­sions

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.

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