Paradise lost

Wels catfish

September/October 2016 .  Spain  .  Rio Ebro

Martin Sack

We had high targets for this expedition: First was to catch a wels catfish longer than 2,50m at the Embalse de Mequinenza after all the years, as we already expected increasing catfish stocks two years ago. Then I wanted to find out in which time big cats were reacting to pellets at river stretches where nobody ever fed before. Twenty full fishing days were on the schedule. To be all time flexible, the best basic requirements were outdoor tent equipment, dinghy with 5hp outboard, roomy expedition kayak and a basecamp on the ground of a holiday house of a friend nearby.

You can have many planning, but this time everything war going in the other direction. The disaster had a beginning with an engine damage of my 4×4 at the arrival, still in Germany. It was not possible to hire a payable rental car which was able to carry a kayak on the roof and pull a trailer, so I had to buy a new car in short time. After five days of crisis management and many extra efforts the travel to Spain was going on. At the arrival my friend at the location told me that he had to travel back to Germany for a while because of urged private reasons, so he could not fish with me like planned. Just before his way back he had to put to sleep his dog spontaneously. The series of bad destiny should ongoing until the end of the trip. So we faced boat engines with need of repair, injury, effort of medical care, obtrusive poachers, bothersome guides and fights for the last spots.

In the Spanish district Aragon the legal situation got more serious in the meantime. An additional license of 30€ per week was necessary, wild camping was prohibited. But at the water we faced another reality: We still meet scary people, and the slaughter of the last catfish was going on. Some passages now seemed to be less monitored now, because at night no sport anglers were present at the water. What an insanity!

After all thirteen fishing days were still possible. The catch results were absolutely connected to the “condition of poaching” of the particular section of water. At the Embalse de Mequinenza thereby it was possible to catch regularly big cats only with very high effort and best local knowledge of the water – many hot spots of the past have been just empty! At very remote river sections it seemed to take the same development, but the general catfish stock was still much higher. A final result of 71 catfish, among them 9 between 2,10 and 2,35m, was solid, but far under the former potential of this Ebro stretches. Only the results of the experiments with pellets were pleasant. It was possible to catch with 3-4kg Pellets a wels catfish more than 2m at a completely new spot after thirty minutes – as long as you knew the exactly spots.

The meetings with cool fellows in the middle of nowhere led also to more happiness of mood. Many thanks to „family Shattock“ as well as Patrick and Stefan for a very funny time at the water, for which we willingly scarified a day of fishing.

We had caught and released in Aragon more than 350 wels catfish longer then 2m in the last eleven years, at a water stretch of 180km. So it was a very personal issue when recognizing that today presumably none of these fish was still alive. The Embalse de Mequinenza was becoming a further example in which short time an excellent fishing water can be destroyed completely. May politics of Europe will save the cats in future, instead extraditing them as invasive species to indiscriminate killing! Until then we have no other option then searching for the last hidden areas, far away from unteachable humans and fishing mass tourism.


Angler: 1

Wels catfish: 71

Wels catfish more than 2m: 9

Statistic (Length in m):

2.352.332. – …


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