23 October, 2017 |0 Comments
Once the carp has started spawning I usually start thinking about other summer species to target, especially catfish, as they are usually in good condition at this time of year and are also feeding well, making it the ideal period to have a go for them. With my main catfish water also home to some very big carp I also make sure I’ve got a couple of carp rods and appropriate end tackle carried with the kit as well, but try to keep in mind that the catfish are the main species being targeted.
As with most catfish waters that also contain carp, there was always a regular supply of boilies and pellets going in, so choosing to go with the halibut pellet approach as my main tactic for the catfish wasn’t a difficult decision to make. I love the fun of fishing livebaits for the catfish, especially fishing them close to the surface, where you often get some extra movement from the bait to warn you of a potential take, and sometimes the extra excitement of seeing/hearing the take itself as a big ‘cat’ smacks into the bait, causing a big splashy swirl at the same time. However, the hassle of catching and keeping the livebaits in good condition and the problems of small pike pinching the baits, plus the sheer effectiveness of the halibut pellets makes them my ‘go to’ bait most of the time. Dynamite Marine Halibut Pellets straight out of the bag are very effective and have caught me some big catfish, but sometimes if I have the time, I like to give them an extra boost by soaking a few kilos of pellet in extra halibut oil and a glug of XL Liquid Worm a day or two before the trip.
On my first catfish trip of the summer I picked a swim that I thought had the right attributes to make it an attractive area for the catfish, though it was a swim I’d tried and failed to catch any catfish from when trying for them on a session the previous year. 24hrs into my session it wasn’t looking very promising for the ‘cats’, as I’d had no signs or activity on the two catfish rods whatsoever. However, it did look as though there were indications that the carp were getting closer to where I’d positioned a third rod on carp tactics; fishing a 15mm CompleX-T cork ball pop-up in an area where I’d fired out a couple of kilos of CompleX-T boilies; trying for a fairly even spread of bait over an area covering roughly the size of half a tennis court. That evening I refreshed the baits on the catfish rods, but decided to leave everything as it was with the carp rod, as I didn’t want to disturb this part of the swim when it looked as though there were some fish about and I already had a decent amount of bait in the area from the baiting up I’d done earlier in the session. Thankfully the following morning my tactics paid off, as a mid-20 common snaffled the hookbait and was soon after held captive within the folds of my landing net.
Later that afternoon things got even better, as after casting back out with a fresh pop-up and firing out another couple of kilos of CompleX-T, a blistering take occurred on the same rod. The fight from this fish was exceptional, going off on a number of long, powerful runs which at one stage, after the fish boiled near the surface not far out, disturbing what seemed to be a really large volume of water, actually had me thinking that I’d hooked a catfish on the carp gear. Assuming that I was attached to a relatively small catfish, I started to try and bully it a bit, in order to gain the upper hand. However, much to my surprise, the fish eventually revealed itself to be a decent sized common, as it cruised past just under the surface, only a couple of rod lengths out. After that I stopped taking any liberties with the fish, and after several more minutes of heroic fighting stamina, I was able to gratefully bundle it into the net. This one turned out to be a very solid male common weighing in at a very pleasing 36lb. That was it for the session. I’d not managed any action from the catfish, but a brace of gorgeous commons was a fabulous result.
The next time out I was determined to get to grips with the catfish and managed to get myself in a swim that had provided me with a 70lb catfish at around the same time the previous year. Again, two rods were used for the ‘cats’, both with 21mm Dynamite Marine Halibut Pellets as the hookbait, fished over a couple of kilos of the same type of pellet, but in a mix of sizes, including some small 3mm ones, that would break down really quickly and help to create plenty of attraction from the moment of introduction. Nothing occurred overnight, except for being woken up by the heavy rain that started in the early hours. Early the following morning though, with the rain now coming down in torrents, a steady run occurred on the left-hand of the two catfish rods. Before grabbing the rod, I made sure to slip into my lightweight rain jacket, but with the rain so heavy, I was soon soaked to the skin as I stood by the side of the lake playing what was obviously a big catfish. Fortunately, with no real snags around I was able to stay calm and concentrate on the job in hand. There was a moment when the ‘cat’ went on a steady run quite a way down to my left, where it briefly caught one of the lines belonging to the carp angler fishing the swim further down on my left. Thankfully, he was alert to the fact that it wasn’t a run on his gear and that it was a fish that I was playing that had caused his alarms to sound and he soon came over to offer assistance. Once I’d gloved the catfish and got it onto the bank, I was glad to have some help to weigh the big ‘cat’, as my back, that had been giving me some grief over the previous few days, was now really starting to play up. I was suspecting something close to my existing catfish personal best, and once we’d wrestled the fish into the big sling and up onto the tripod I was presented with a weight of 74lb 12oz.; a new PB! With my back really starting to hurt, it was all I could do to lift the fish up for a few quick photos and with the rain still absolutely pouring down slip the big catfish back into its home.
Later that morning, the rain eased off and I was able to start drying myself off a bit and go about getting the rod I’d had the catfish on, re-baited and back out, along with a fresh load of freebie pellets. The rest of the day was spent trying to make myself as comfortable as possible, as the back pain continued to make life very uncomfortable. Things were quiet for the rest of the day, but later that night the same rod was back in action again as another catfish found the pile of pellets and my hookbait too much to resist. This particular ‘cat’ immediately felt even more powerful than the previous fish, as it made a very determined initial run, easily stripping 50 odd yards from the relatively tight clutch, as it ploughed off in the direction of the far bank. It was obvious that I was playing another massive catfish, but I was soon left wondering just how big this particular fish was as it made one long powerful run after another, either heading in the direction of the far side, or off to the left. 10 minutes into the fight, the ‘cat’ made another determined, unstoppable run way down to my left and once again I found that the fish I was playing had managed to interfere with the lines of another angler. I had to call out in the darkness to ensure that he understood it was the fish that I was playing that had disturbed him and again I was thankful of some additional assistance as he opened his bail arms to allow me to play the fish in without too much extra hassle and resistance from his own lines. The fight seemed to go on forever, with my painful back complaining all the while. Eventually however, the big catfish was in the shallow water in front of the swim, but I found it almost impossible to get right into the edge, as it kept grounding itself on a little ridge of shallow water running from the corner of a reedbed, only a few yards out. Thankfully, Josh, the angler who’s lines my catfish had interfered with, came to the rescue and was able to make his way out in his chest waders and get behind the fish and help it over the ridge. With the catfish now the right side of the shallow ridge, I was able to steer its huge head right to the edge of the sloping margins, where I could then get a good grip on the bottom jaw with my gloved left hand and slide the fish up onto the big mat. Both Josh and his brother were of invaluable help over the next few minutes as the massive catfish was weighed in at 104lb exactly and some photos were taken. My back was now in agony, and attempts to lift the fish for some decently posed shots were proving impossible. All I could really manage was to lift part of its bulky body off the ground, but was unable to bring up its huge head up before my back pain forced me to abandon the effort. After a few shots laying on the ground next to my prize, the lads helped to slip the fish into the sling and carried it down to the water, where I paddled out and had the last few moments with the monster before it regained its bearings and gracefully glided off.
What an unbelievable session! Two PB catfish in one day, with the largest over the ton! Several years ago, once catfish in the UK were starting to grow over the 100lb mark I had dreamt about what it might be like to catch one of that size… and now I’d done it. This wasn’t something that had been brought over from the continent on the back of a lorry at a big weight, but a catfish that had grown on as a relatively small ‘kitten’ into the massive fish that it now was. Truly a giant in UK freshwater terms, and despite the pain in my back I couldn’t have been happier with what I’d just caught.
A few days after the successful catfish session, I received a text from my mate Scott to say that he’d just caught his main target fish, a huge 57lb common from a non-publicity water and was now planning a celebratory social session on Swan lake on the Bluebell complex… and could I join him? I was still in celebratory mood after my catfish, so it didn’t take much persuading to get some carp gear sorted and head off to Swan the following morning. On my arrival the pit was busy and fitting in next to Scott would have been a bit too tight, so I ended up starting the session around the other side, but obviously making plenty of time with the rods out of the water, so we could share a few beers and swap our various tales of fish related captures. I was able to manage a 3-night session, but after the first two nights I was sure that the bulk of the carp that had been in the area of my first choice swim had now moved off, so I ended up moving for the last night to a swim almost at the other end of the pit. I was rewarded for my efforts the following morning when a run on the middle rod resulted in a nice mirror around the 22/23lb mark. Yet another one falling to a CompleX-T cork-ball pop-up fished over a spread of CompleX-T freebies. A nice end to a lovely social session.
Next on my agenda was a couple of eel trips. Each year I keep meaning to give eels more of a concentrated effort, but there’s always something else that seems to get in the way; plus, the fact that finding good eels waters nowadays is getting harder and harder. However, I had access to a gravel pit, not too far away that I knew had produced a reasonable eel earlier in the year. So, with the catfish box properly ticked for this year, I was able to plan a mid-week 2-night session. I’d not fished this particular pit before, so on my first trip I wanted to do a good bit of work with the marker rod before choosing where to fish. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas and within minutes of arrival for my first session the heavens had opened, and I was treated to the best part of two hours of very heavy rain, necessitating taking shelter in the car rather than making use of the marker gear. Eventually the rain eased off and having the place to myself I quickly raced around a few swims, getting a rough idea of the depths, features and the extent of the weed in each so that I could make a choice, get some rods out and the bivvy up before it got too late in the day. The pit was generally quite shallow and very weedy, but I found a swim with a reasonable depth and a nice clear area extending from the margins to around 20 yards out. I started off using worms on running rigs on both rods, one fishing just a few yards out to the right on the slope of the marginal shelf and the second almost straight in front of the swim, about 15 yards out, on a hard patch of gravel with weed to the left, right and a few yards behind the spot. Both the spots were treated to several spods of 8mm Dynamite Meaty Pellets that had been prepared by emptying 3 packets of the pellets into a bucket, which then had a bottle of ‘Fish Gutz’ and a few generous squirts of XL Liquid Worm spread all over before a good shake up and leaving to soak up the liquid attractors for 48 hours. I started to set up the bivvy, but was interrupted by a few ‘beeps’ on the alarm on the right-hand margin rod. The bait was being investigated by something, and I was soon striking at a twitchy run, which resulted in a small perch of around 2oz which had crammed my big lobworm offering into its greedy little gob. This first little perch was soon followed by several other twitchy little takes that either resulted in a small perch, or missed strikes. It was becoming obvious that my swim was full of little perch that wouldn’t leave my worms alone, so I took the decision to switch over to using a few of the little perch as deadbaits instead, fished on the same rigs, but with a perch head or tail section instead of the worms. This put a stop to the interference from the little perch, but did result in a couple of nice bonus 2lb+ perch, with a best of around 2.08, as the light faded. Later on, after it had been dark for some time and during a period of steady drizzle, the margin rod was ‘away’ and I was pleased to feel the judders and twists of a hooked eel following the strike. The resulting fish wasn’t a particularly big one, at around 2lb, but it was nice to get off the mark with an eel on the first night on a new water. Even better was to come, as a run later in the night, on the rod fishing further out, produced a much better eel, that went a very pleasing 3.09 on the scales. The following morning produced another decent perch, but then the weather changed, becoming clearer and sunnier and the rest of the session was without any significant action, though I wasn’t about to complain about the results for my very first eel session on a new water.
Spurred on by the initial success, I was keen to get back for another eel session, but as that didn’t take place until September I’ll tell you about the outcome of that one and some subsequent outings in my next blog.