At up to 10 feet long, 300+ pounds and with a life span that can exceed that of the average human, the wels catfish is certainly a formidable fish. This once-uncommon catfish is seeing a large population swell in the warm waters of German rivers, and the population isn’t the only thing that’s getting bigger. Unprepared for the voracious appetites of the wels, native fish are going straight to the gullets of these monster-sized catfish. German anglers and commercial fisherman are growing increasingly distressed by the depredation, leading many fishing associations to call for widespread harvesting of the species.
Unfortunately, that is not an easy task. As well as being tasteless and sparse in edible meat, the wels is not a fish that can commonly be tackled alone. According to the Spiegel Online International, Gottfriend S. of Westphalia, Germany required a tractor to drag his massive catch from the water. He caught the catfish after his fisherman’s association opened up normally closed catfish seasons in an attempt to stem the negative effects of the wels.
“You used to always find trout here, but the wels catfish is wiping everything out,” Gottfriend said.
Fishing for wels has gained popularity in the European country, however. Reports of wels fishing were marginal in the 1980s, but sky-rocketed to a count of 14 tons of catfish caught in the Rhine alone in 2010. The species has also been receiving more and more media attention when an incident occurred last summer in Berlin where a wels catfish dragged a small child underwater.
Experts attribute the catfish’s population boost to warmer summers and the construction of power plants near rivers. Ambitious anglers have started to gear up in expectation of bigger–and meaner–catfish with heavier fishing rods and a sporting spirit. This is one fish story that can’t be overstated.