Fishing lines: Don't be nice to big cats - eat them

If ever an organisation was ill-named, it's the Catfish Conservation Group. Though this doughty band of feline fish fanciers would surely disagree, silurus glanis can look after itself perfectly well, thank you. In fact, it's every other water creature that needs protecting from the ugly brute.

The Wels, or European, catfish, is not a team player. Apart from the fact that it grows very big and is tougher than anything found in British freshwater, it has few redeeming features. It has mean little eyes, a huge mouth that gives it a smug, self-satisfied look, and sickly colouring. It looks like a cross between a Lord Of The Rings orc and a giant slug.

I once interviewed a shadowy character who knew all about how to smuggle them into the UK from Eastern Europe. He said: "Can't see why people want them in their waters anyway. They end up eating everything else. In the end, you'll just have one bloody great big hungry catfish in the water."

We are talking about an eating machine. There are rumours of them eating all sorts of things, from dogs (the cats' revenge) to small children. When I was in Russia some years ago, our guides told the story of a youngster who was drowned by a catfish. He had wrapped his line round his foot and gone to sleep in the sun. A catfish had taken the bait, and pulled the lad in.

Most killer-cat stories are doubtless apocryphal, but catfish are perfectly capable of trenchermen tuck-ins. This aspect of their appetite was illustrated this week by a rant from the respected big-fish columnist Des Taylor in Angling Times. He pointed out that Spain's River Ebro was once famed for its barbel fishing. Now there are fewer barbel and more big catfish. (Curiously, the same issue has an angler posing with a 200lb catfish from that very river.)

If catfish had stayed in Spain and Kazakhstan, the two favoured venues for catching a whopper, all would be fine. But already several UK waters hold cats around the 100lb mark. Not one is a native fish.

Before the smugglers got to work, catfish were confined to a couple of lakes. My 1973 British records book doesn't even mention them. But now the record-fish committee has had to scrap all claims because so many illegal immigrants have been smuggled in. It reached a peak when a tiny Essex lake tried to claim a record with a 102-pounder.

The trouble is, catfish-loving loonies are illegally stocking them everywhere. I've just heard that one of more than 30lb was caught from the Great Ouse. Another around 40lb turned up on Berkshire's River Kennet, a third in the Darenth, a Thames tributary. Good news for catfish, bad news for most anglers.

In the US, they have a far more healthy attitude to catfish: catch 'em and eat 'em. Here, we are much more precious. What's caught is invariably returned. To eat even a catfish would be like, well, eating your cat.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower