History of the Wels Catfish in the UK and

Europe

          The European Wels catfish, Latin name Silurus glanis is wide spread in Central,southern and Eastern Europe extending as far

            east as Kazakhstan and south to Slovenia. Apart from Germany most of the population of central Europe stems from deliberate

            stocking, the Ebro being a Classic example.          

             Despite it’s size and large mouth the main diet of the catfish is annelid worms, gastropods, insects, and crustaceans, however

            once they attain adult hood nothing is safe from that bucket like mouth. They have been known to take everything from

            frogs,rats and voles to quite large ducks.

 

            The Wels prefers slow sluggish rivers and warm shallow lakes and can even be found in brackish water in suitable rivers.

            Spending a lot of it’s time laying up in holes in the bottom or under snags the Wels ventures out to actively hunt and is a

             formidable predator, when hungry it will feed on the bottom where it will scavenge pretty much anything that comes it’s

             way but prefers to do it’s predatory hunting in open water.

   

            The female produces up to 30,000 eggs per kilogram of body weight. The male guards the nest until the brood hatches, which,

            depending on water temperature, can take from three to ten days. If the water level decreases too much or too fast the male has

            been observed to splash the eggs with the muscular tail in order to keep them wet. It is argued that  alleged attacks by

             large catfish may in fact be triggered by swimmers or bathers straying too close to a male guarding a nest,as they are known

            to aggressively protect their eggs. Like most fish that produce huge numbers of eggs their prolific spawning is negated by

            the fact that they are cannibalistic and will feed on each others young. The eggs of the Wels are highly poisonous and should

            never be eaten. The fish however is highly prized as a food source in Eastern Europe especially. This has had a major impact

            on it’s numbers in these areas mainly due to the fact that the best eating fish is deemed to be under 15 kilograms, so they are taken in

            large numbers before they have had a chance to spawn.

 

            The Wels is the second largest freshwater fish in Europe second only to the Beluga Sturgeon (2,200 lbs)which of course spends part of

             it’s life at  sea. So the Wels could be the largest  truly freshwater fish in the world!   

             There is much speculation as to the maximum size that the Wels will achieve but it is generally accepted that they may  attain weights of

            at least 600 lbs  (caught by a Russian Trawler) or more in favourable conditions, only time will tell. At present the only substantiated

            rod caught claim is of a 316 lb  8 oz fish from the river Po in Italy.

 

          Most of the Catfish in the UK stem from a few fish that were given to the Duke of Bedford as a present and stocked

          into the lakes at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire.  They were then redistributed from there, however these redistributions

           were later supplemented by the often illegal importation of larger fish from the continent, which resulted in the suspension

          of the official British rod caught record at 62 lbs in 2000 (R.Garner withy Pool Bedfordshire). This is a great pity as there

          are now some truly large home grown specimens in many fisheries around the UK.