Fishing the River Ebro in Spain for Catfish and Carp

Sean McSeveny
  · Sean McSeveny  · January 22, 2013

Although this post is a bit old and from my time as a fishing guide in Spain, it highlights just how good the fishing is on the Ebro. What I have not touched on is the fantastic predator fishing on the river, especially the Zander.
My friend Lee and a couple of other customers, Warren and “H”who had been out with me before accompanied me. As it is almost a 6 hour journey by car from the Costa Blanca we set of early. By the time we had picked up our hire tackle, bait, licenses, had some lunch and arrived at our accommodation it was almost 3pm. As the villa was located right on the river we did not have far to walk to get a fishing spot.We set up 2 rods each for the Cat’s, and I used the small boat that I had hired to take out the baits. The river can be over 500m wide at some points and to get the bait into the main channel where the Cat’s hunt is essential. Hence the need for a boat. You need to drop around a kilo of ground bait in with every bait that goes down. We were using 12 and 22mm Halibut pellets for the ground bait and two or three 28mm pellets for hook baits.
We didn’t have long to wait for the first bite. A few beeps on the bite alarm followed by a good run. A nice fight ensued and H, had the first fish of the trip in the net. A lovely Common Carp of 18lb. Despite using 4 1/2lb test curve rods the fish gave a good account of itself.
We waited for another hour for the next fish. Whilst we were waiting we could see anglers on the other side of the river land some big fish. Just the knowledge that there was a good number of big fish in the area made the tension almost unbearable.
Warren was the next to hook a fish. This time it was a savage take and a fast run. After 10 minutes he had landed our first Cat. At 28lb it was a mere kitten, but we were all glad to see it. After all it was one of the main reasons we were there.

Shortly after I managed to land a 23lb Carp. I had set myself a goal this year, of catching a Carp over 20lb. So to say that I was delighted was an understatement.
Lee finished the day by losing his fish only 20m from the bank.

The following day we decided to fish the opposite bank, as we had seen plenty of fish landed on that side the day before. Unfortunately it was not to prove as successful for us. The morning session brought a single 23lb Carp for Warren. A good fish in anyone’s book, but a little disappointing for the rest of us. It was quite for most of the day and as we were all starting to feel a little sleepy around 4pm. Suddenly the bite alarm screeched into life and the line was screaming of the spool. Despite having the bait runner on Warren just managed to grab the rod before it headed into the water.
What ensued can only be described as a titanic struggle. The fish sped of taking line from a very tight clutch. It was pulling Warren all over the place. It then picked up another line and managed to get itself snagged up a 100m out. I had to get into the boat and follow the line out to where the fish was snagged. We managed to untangle the other line and remove a bush that had been picked up. I then managed to pull the fish out backwards from the underwater snag, which allowed Warren to play the fish to the bank. Even then it took a further 5 minutes to get the leviathan to the waters edge. Thankfully Martin Walker of Catfish Capers had supplied us one of his off duty guides for the afternoon. He skilfully man handled the giant onto the awaiting unhooking mat and weigh sling. It topped the scales at an impressive 108lb. After a quick photo session we returned it back to it’s natural habitat. Warren was still recovering and had to sit down for a well earned rest.

On the Wednesday, we had organised a guide for the day. Martin Walker of Catfish Capers, supplied us with one of his top guides. To say that our catch rate increased is an understatement. He took us to an area of the river that had been fishing very well.
The section of the river was around a 15 minute off road drive from Caspe. When we got there we had a flat open area to fish from. The other side of the river was a series of rocky cliff ledges and ravines. Wheeling overhead and perched on the over hanging tree’s were more Eagles, Buzzards, kites and other birds of prey, than I had ever seen at anyone time in my life. The beauty of the valley was astounding. It could only be described as a bird watchers paradise. But birds were not what we were there for!

We prepared our 8 rods with a mixture of baits. Mainly hair rigged 28mm Halibut pellets. Some of the rods we rigged with halibut pellet an squid kebabs. Our guide used an inflatable boat to start taking the baits out. As he dropped out each bait he made as much noise as possible and dropped a kilo of ground bait in with each bait.

As he was returning for the 7th Rod the third rod that we had put out started bouncing in the rod rest, as line screamed off the real. We had all agreed before hand that the first fish of the day to be hooked would be Lee’s. We were all keen to see him land his first fish of the trip. As soon as the rod started bouncing we all yelled at him. He managed to grab the rod just before it headed into the water. He struck into the fish and was almost pulled into the water. This was no kitten, this was an unhappy Daddy Cat. It just kept taking line as Lee struggled to keep the rod tip high. Whilst we were all in awe watching Lee. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the number one rod was bouncing. I shouted a warning to H and he scrambled to grab the rod. No sooner had he done that than the second rod jumped into life. We didn’t even have all 8 rods out and we were into a triple hook up. Our guide returned to the shore as soon as he had the eighth rod out, to be met with mayhem. Another rod screamed off. I picked this one up, as we now had a quad hook up. The last thing we needed was another rod to go off.

Lee’s fish was undoubtedly the biggest of the four. It was creating mayhem, careening up and down the river taking as many lines with it as it could. Ron our guide was busy trying to bring in the lines that he had just put out. No easy task when you are trying to bring in almost 2lb of lead from 200m. Lee had the fish within sight of the bank. Unfortunately it was continually running across the line with my fish on. Suddenly both fish decided to go different directions and the braid parted as though it was a piece of thread. Let’s just say Lee was gutted. I couldn’t believe his bad luck. I had managed to grab glimpse of the fish and it was a monster. It looked well in excess of a 150lb. But then as it had got away it would do.

I didn’t have much time to ponder over it, as Warren was just about to land his fish. Ron grabbed the leader and brought the fish onto the bank. He left me to unhook it and weigh it. A nice kitten at 38lb. As we released it H was in the last throes of bringing his fish in. Once again Ron got hold of the leader and with gloved hands in the fishes mouth he brought it into the weigh sling. It tipped the scales at 81lb. Not as big as Warren’s the day before, but still a fish to be proud of.

After a quick photo shoot, we set the rods out again. Once again the first rods were off before the last ones were out. Once again we let Lee have the first rod. This time he made no mistakes. After a 5 minute tussle he had broken his blank. Nothing spectacular, a kitten weighing in at 23lb. Just as I had taken a photo and put my camera down I spotted the number one rod once again jumping in the rod rest. I grabbed it up struck into the fish and then handed it over to H. I am not sure if I did him a favour or not! This fish had more ideas of landing H in the water than being landed itself. At somewhere around 15 stone, H is no lightweight, but this fish threatened to have him into the water more times than I can remember. Every time he managed to gain 20m the fish took it back. So it went on for almost 15 minutes, before myself and Ron got into the water to land this beast. With both of Ron’s hands in its mouth and me dragging it’s tail we got it into the weigh sling. Between the two of us we hoisted it up to be weighed at a staggering 110lb. The congratulations and back slapping all round didn’t last long. We suddenly snapped back to attention as another of the rods screamed off. I grabbed this one and decided to keep it for myself, especially as H was looking terrified at the prospect of another 15 rounds.

If the last fish pulled H around, this one made me look like a rag doll. I was pulled from pillar to post, as it did it’s all to escape. As I was the only one of the party not to have had a Cat, there was no way I was intending to give it up without a fight. A fight was exactly what I got, but in the end I was the victor. Not as big as H’s fish, but at 90lb on the nose I was truly delighted. This was the biggest fish I had ever landed. Yes it was ugly, slimy and smelly, but what a feeling. Like all the other fish that we caught on the trip, it was released to fight another day.

I could recall all the other fish that we had that day, but it would take up too much space. I can only say that we ended up with 19 Cat’s that day. By 7.30 in the evening we were reeling round in exhaustion, like drunks after a hard night out.

The next day we were so tired we decided to target the Carp. Both myself and Lee smashed our PB’s with a 31lb one for me and a 30lb’er for Lee.


He also managed an 81lb Cat.

H also had another big Cat. It seemed that every time he picked up a rod it was attached to a huge fish. That’s why we now call him “Big H”.

It was without a doubt a fantastic trip, with everyone saying it was a trip of a lifetime. It seems that one trip a lifetime is not enough, as two of them have re-booked for a trip in June. More PB’s to be broken!

If there is one thing I have learned from this trip, it is that if you were to go on your own to the Ebro, thinking that you would be able to just turn up and catch big Catfish. You would be very disappointed. Yes you could do it for the Carp, but the Cat’s are a different matter. You need to have a boat, you need the correct equipment and you need lots and lots of ground bait in the right area. Even if you don’t book a trip through me, make sure you hire a guide for at least one day. It will make the difference between success and failure.

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