The Catfish Guide


The European catfish (Silurus glanis) is the largest European freshwater fish. Only the Beluga sturgeon (approx. 7 m), the Amazonian arapaima (2.95 m) and bull sharks are larger worldwide.

Fishing for big catfish has become more and more popular in recent years, while the population in many waters is improving and spreading.    This is also seen controversially, but not least because of myths and ignorance. Because the catfish is certainly not the eating machine that many consider it to be.

Table of Contents Danger of ConfusionWorld Records and Maximum SizeDistribution and OriginSpawning PeriodSpare Time and Minimum DimensionsBehavior and Natural FoodTop Catfish BaitFishing for Catfish and Fishing TechniquesFishing Gear for Catfish AnglingThe Catfish as Edible Fish

Danger of Confusion

A danger of confusion exists especially with the American Catfish. This catfish can be easily distinguished from the European catfish by the number of barbels. The European catfish has a total of 6 barbels, two of which are located on the upper jaw and four on the lower jaw. Furthermore the American catfish lacks the characteristic fin seam.

World records and maximum size

The largest catfish reported as a record was caught in the Po River in Italy and weighed 134.97 kg at a length of 2.45 m. It was caught while towing with plugs on catfish gear. By the way, the last four record fish were caught in the Po. There are also regular reports of larger and especially longer fish. Other top spots are the Rio Ebro in Spain, but more about this under the next heading.      Catfish get very old and so fishes of over 80 years are known.

Distribution and origin

The catfish is now found throughout Europe. Only in the Scandinavian countries it is hardly or not at all found. Its origins probably lie in Eastern Europe and the Danube system.      In Lake Constance there are also very old stocks and the fish were already documented in 1854. Meanwhile, the catfish can be found almost in the whole Rhine system due to its constant distribution and has also historically been home to the Oder and its tributaries.

Spawning time

Catfish spawn at water temperatures from 18 °C, so that their natural spawning time is from May to June. The male catfish guard the eggs, which are often laid in shallow water, until the brood hatches.

Closed season and minimum sizes

Due to the constant expansion in the last 20 years the catfish has no longer a legal closed season in many federal states, while in former times it had partly proud minimum sizes. Please note that, depending on the waters, different regulations can often apply. You can find these on your permit card or, in case of doubt, ask the fishing club or the fishing authority.

Behaviour and natural food

Catfish are mainly nocturnal, although they go on raids near the surface. They are often opportunists, with a clear focus on fishing, but carrion, worms, frogs and even small mammals and birds are eaten from time to time. Catfish usually have a resting place and one or more places to prey. When hunting, catfish rely on their excellent sense of touch and smell, as their eyes are not very well developed. Catfish are particularly active and therefore easy to catch in May to October.

Top catfish bait

There are several very good catfish baits available, whereby catfish react especially to movement and strong smell. Therefore in Germany, where live bait fish is forbidden, a tauworm bundle is the bait of choice. Other very good baits are dead bait fish, squid and pellets.

Angling for catfish and angling techniques

As a predatory fish you can pursue the catfish with two different angling techniques, spinning and sitting angling with natural bait.    There is also a more active variant of sitting fishing, which is becoming increasingly popular, namely vertical fishing from a boat or belly boat. Here you usually work with the waller wood, which makes noises similar to those of catfish. Lured by the sound the catfish come and find the natural bait.

Typical for raised hide fishing are montages with an underwater pose (U-pose), which presents the lure at a depth determined by current and leader length.

Angling tackle for catfish fishing

When fishing for catfish everything is bigger, heavier and stronger, so it is not surprising that special fishing gear is needed for the XXL fish.      Catfish rods for spin fishing are mostly up to 3 m long and usually have casting weights of up to 150 or 200 grams. Even heavier are the usual catfish seat rods, because most of the time the rods are used for guying and the rods are exposed to a high permanent load as well as extreme point loads, they often have casting weights of more than 500 grams. Only very robust models or even multi reels are used as reels.

The catfish as a food fish

The world is a good food fish until it has reached a certain size. Fish up to just over one meter are still considered to be good to eat. After that they become very dull and fatty.

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