Cat Fishing Tactics on the Big French & European Rivers

Many catfish anglers are now travelling to the big European rivers such as the Saone and the Ebro in search of catching a huge monster catfish.

Picture showing Huge Catfish using Tactics RigsCatfish Tactics Helped catch this 85 pounder!

These rivers hold some very big catfish to well over 100 pounds in weight, and these massive creatures fight like no other fresh water fish! It’s no surprise that fishing for catfish in Europe has become a popular pastime for many carp anglers.

Catfish are incredible creatures with the ability to hunt down all sorts of prey. They have been referred to as eating machines as they can, and do, gobble up a massive quantity of food every day. They will eat almost anything, from live fish or dead fish to boilies often used for carp fishing!

How Catfish Catch Prey Using Their Sophisticated Senses

Catfish are a lovely colour with mottled markings along their flanks. These distinctive markings can change colour depending the clarity of the surrounding water. Maybe this is to reveal their moods, communication or for the purpose of blending in with their surrounding during a hunt certain prey, I’m not sure, but it could be a combination of these factors.

They have a large number of scent glands and vibration sensors all along their body, with greater concentrations around the lateral lines. These may help in detecting any vulnerable prey within their vicinity. 


They have two long whiskers positioned on the upper jaw. These can be used to track live prey out in the flow of the river. They possess another four whiskers on the bottom jaw, which are used to scavenge around the river beds to detect smaller food items, such as crayfish, worms and leeches. Catfish do need their strong senses and glands in order to survive because they have very poor vision. Their eyes may just have enough focus to distinguish between day and night!

Their scent glands are also quite strong, so it may be a good tactic to use very smelly baits, such as squid and other strong, fishy smelling live baits.

Catfish have hundreds of very small, sharp teeth positioned in the upper and lower jaws. They look a little like one side of a Velcro pad. These are used to clamp down on prey during a hunt. The prey is then sucked into the back of the mouth and throat where there are four crushing pads. These are used to crush down prey and help pass it through to the stomach.

So how do we go about catching some huge catfish, and what are the best tactics when fishing for catfish?

Here are some general tips when fishing for big cats on rivers:

  • Catfish have poor vision so try to use highly smelling baits.
  • Live baiting may produce more or maybe even the bigger catfish as they will detect the bait better from the vibrations they give off.
  • Try using a sliding ledger rig when fishing for catfish.
  • Catfish can sometimes be located at the bottom of the drop-off features of the big rivers in the boating channels.
  • Try placing a catfish rig tight up against a drop-off at around 25 feet deep.
  • Try not to play catfish for too long. The longer they’re played, the more chance of losing them due to the leader grating across their sharp teeth. So, use heavy tackle and play them hard!
  • Buy a catfish clonker to help attract big cats into the area where your baits are positioned. Although, check with the authorities first as these are banned in some countries, especially France!
  • If other fishing methods are not producing the big cats, then try using a catfish rig float to trot live baits down the river in the shallower waters, or over drop-off points!
  • Good baits to use when cat fishing are; squid, leeches, worms or eels.
  • Always have other fishermen present when fishing for big catfish. They will require 2 or more people to handle, especially if the hook has been taken down the back of their throat. Placing your arm deep down inside a catfishes mouth can cause injury – so be careful!

 A Very Big Catfish Capture in France!


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