WELCOME TO this week’s Big Fish Blog, coming to you here every Thursday. This time it’s by the Pike Anglers Club.
We take predator fishing seriously at the Mail, so are delighted our pals at the PAC are on board. This instalment comes from Alan Dudhill & Dave Mutton.
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PREDATORS AND MONSTERS
MOST dedicated pike anglers stick to the traditional pike season, fishing from October through to March. This leaves many of us at a loose end during the warmer months… so we target other species to keep us sane.
Of course we have an obsession with predators. Perhaps it’s the legendary myths of fearsome monsters lurking in the murky waters below or just the pure excitement of hooking into a hard fighting, angry fish. Whatever it is, predator fishing is a fast growing, and in my opinion, the most exciting side of the sport.
Most predators have one thing in common, teeth!! So when targeting species such as pike and zander, your kit has to be up to the job. You also need to bear in mind that when targeting one species, you will often catch another so need to be geared up to catch anything which may take your bait.
In the case of pike, you’ll also need to be familiar with the proper landing and unhooking methods so you can return the fish to the water as quickly as possible.
Large predators may appear fearsome and tough but most are in fact very fragile when taken out of their natural environment so special care is required. If in doubt, fish with an experienced predator angler until you’re confident enough to go it alone. Also, the more you learn about your quarry, the more you’ll catch.
Pike, perch and eels are our best-known natural predators and are a very worthy quarry but other non-native species are growing in number and popularity amongst specimen anglers. These include zander and catfish. Both species are now becoming fairly widespread and in sufficient numbers for anglers to dedicate their time to trying to catch them.
As with all non-native species, they can be invasive to the environment and can have a detrimental effect on existing native species. However, as with the carp, which is also non-native species, they are here to stay and are present in such large numbers that we start to accept them as we would a natural species.
We can’t eradicate them so we have to live with them. I’ve no doubt that this status will eventually extend to the zander, catfish and other introduced species in time.
These relatively new species offer the predator angler a new lease of life and an exciting quarry, needing different tackle, techniques and skills to catch them. None more so than the catfish.
Two main species can be found in our freshwater systems, the channel catfish and wels catfish. These have both been in our systems for many years but are now in such numbers as they’re beginning to get noticed.
Barbel anglers occasionally report huge fish picking up their baits (or barbel) and them not being able to even turn them with their specimen tackle, let alone land them. These dramatic incidents lead to speculation amongst anglers and reports of record barbel or huge pike but to those who are in the know, the real culprit is likely to be the catfish. Stories of break-offs give us an indication of potential areas in which to target these mysterious monsters of the deep.
Monsters of the deep…
Although there are cats in some of our major rivers, they are still in fairly low numbers and in very isolated pockets. As a catfish angler in the UK, the ultimate catch would be a cat, caught intentionally from a UK river. However, this is a target that could drive you to the point of insanity!
A much more achievable target is to catch a catfish from a stillwater in this country. There are now an estimated 500 lakes and ponds with catfish in so, unless you live in the far north, you are always within a reasonable distance of a lake containing catfish.
So what tackle will you need to target them? The key with catfish is strong and reliable. My standard UK catfish tackle comprises of a 5lb test curve rod made for catfishing UK and built on a Harrisons blank. The reel is a Shimano 6500b loaded with 80lb braid and my hook is usually a 4/0 Owner barbless circle hook.
If you are thinking about giving catfish an occasional go, rather than specialising in them, you may not want to invest in all this specialist gear. In that case a heavy deadbait rod of 3 to 3.5lb will be fine for medium sized cats in fairly open water.
A pike rod is better than a carp rod as it has a much more suitable action. The other option for occasional catting is to use a spod rod. Most medium size reels, no matter what brand are not up to the job. I have witnessed a Shimano reel have the gears turned to iron filings by a cat on a lake where the record was only a low 40. There was nothing wrong with the reel – it just was not up to the job it was being asked to do.
Reels I would consider using would be Shimano D series, long casts, Penn slammers. There are probably other big pit reels out there that would do the job, but I haven’t used them and so can’t recommend them.
So there is general heavy duty gear that is available that will cope with a lot of the fishing in the UK. The specialist gear that I use is so I can target the UK’s biggest cats or fish snaggy or small venues, where I cannot afford to let fish run too far.
No doubt there will be some reading this who will be thinking ‘Rubbish, my mate landed a 50lb cat from his carp syndicate on a 2.75lb carp rod and 15lb mono.’ Well fair play to your mate, he did well to get the fish in.
However – how many cats are lost week in and week out on this kind of gear? The local monster that has never been seen but has smashed no end of guys up on the syndi’ – what this actually means is a fish swimming round towing lots of rigs about. This fish could potentially then get tethered and be subjected to a slow death by starvation.
The other key area of tackle is obviously the mainline and hooklinks. Strong mainline whether it be mono or braid is required. Good mono’s would include P-Line cx premium or CXX Xtra Strong, GLT Pro-tough and, if you can still find any, Nash Bullet. There are many good braids and the key here is strength, not how thin it is.
Remember as well that typically braid will break at around 50% or its’ stated breaking strain. Hooklinks need to be very abrasive resistant and products such as Kryston Quicksilver 45lb and Catmaster tackle 55lb fit the bill nicely
Hooks need to be large and strong. Good brands are Owner, GLT, Gamakatsu and Eagle Wave. Sizes would vary from a 2 up to a 6/0 dependant on pattern and bait used. Remember cats have very large mouths
Rigs can vary from simple running ledger rigs with a knotless knot with baits such as pellet through to specialist rigs such as the SS rig for using leeches or dumbbells for livebaits. If you want to find out more about the catfish and how to fish for them, rigs, tackle etc then www.catfishing-uk.com is well worth a look, although I may be biased because it is my site! However, it has plenty of info on, an online shop for all the tackle required for catfishing and a lively forum with over 350 members.
We welcome everybody irrespective of experience. If you are traditionally a ‘pred angler’ then cats are definitely a species to take a serious look at. Unlike pike, they thrive in warm water and so offer a target species that presents no risk to the welfare of the fish and still fulfils the need to ’scratch that itch’ when it comes to fishing for predators.
The Big Fish Blog returns next Thursday, August 8.
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