posts by venue

posts by category

posts by date

venue blog

Famous Five - Birch Lake - The Big Cats of Birch Lake 2012

Blog Post Image Blog Post Image Blog Post Image Blog Post Image

Not so long ago we had two very experienced Ebro catfish anglers fishing Birch Lake and they had a good week, landing some good cats and carp into the 30’s.

Twice, however, they had to take to the boat to try to land of one Birch’s really big monster catfish and on the second occasion it was in daylight and they got a very clear view of the catfish alongside the boat. Sadly, on both occasions they failed to land the giant and left at the end of their stay shaking their heads and commenting: ‘You have a couple of really special big cats in there!’

Where did these ‘special’ cats come from? Well in the 2009 season long-time Birch angler Nigel Butler from Frome, Somerset, recorded the best ever catch of catfish caught in a single night from the complex. Nigel banked five big cats, including the Birch record of 120lbs and another just a ‘nats over 100lbs. Remarkably, the cats were landed on standard carp tackle and boilies intended for carp. A canny Nigel, fished with a slackish clutch and just allowed the cats to plough up and down the lake without too much pressure until they were ready to be gloved, although he did lose one big one on the concrete sluice gate.

So I think those ‘really special cats’ lost by the Ebro anglers were probably those two hundred-pounders caught by Nigel. With the average Wels’ growth rate being around 10lbs a year, that would put the biggest cat in Birch currently at around 150lbs, with another around 120lbs, although I personally think there are currently four Wels’ over 100lbs in the 2.5 acre lake.

In the season 2012 no one managed to land one of the hundred pounders but if I had a tenner for every occasion an ‘uncontrollable’ monster was lost I could put my feet up and finally retire!

Best Birch cat of 2012 was an 85lb beast landed by client, Mark Taylor, which was not just a pb but his first ever cat! Mark also banked another cat of 38lb, plus smaller fish of 27lbs, 25lbs and a double. Mark’s girlfriend Fran also had cats to 48lbs (but wouldn't touch it!), commons to 31lbs 5ozs and grass carp and mirrors to 18lbs – all p.b.’s.

One important thing about the Wels’ catfish is that they are not like carp. They have a very slow digestive system compared to carp, so they tend to feed like mad for short spells then lie up for a longish spell whilst their system digests the food. Then they wake up again for another feed, then they lie dormant for another spell, which then means cats are either feeding or they are not and unlike carp it is extremely difficult to induce them to feed by baiting up etc. The experienced catfisher knows this and is used to the blank sessions but the less experienced see all the cats caught on Birch and Poplars and think they are easy to catch: but they are not easy to catch unless it is during one of those  feeding spells.

Wels’ catfish, particularly in stillwater, are a much harder proposition than carp not least due to the feeding pattern. You also have to think in order to get that run, then you have to hook it - and missed runs are common with cats as the hook has to be in the right place in the mouth - and then you have the fight of your life to contend with once they are hooked!

Interestingly, we have one cat in Birch – it is a seven footer – that has developed a habit of lying up very visibly on the surface in the summer months under the treeline. It will stay motionless like a log day after day on or just under the surface, totally oblivious to the big carp swimming around it. I have never seen this before in France or the UK as normally cats lie up on the bottom. On a hot sunny day though, it is a remarkable and somewhat frustrating sight!

Numerous p.b.’s and first-ever cats were landed in 2012 by our visitors to Birch so I have included some of them in the Roll of Honour. The most rewarding thing about being a fishery owner is seeing the sheer delight and astonishment on clients faces when they have banked their p.b. Wels’ catfish or carp. I well remember the first thirty pound and forty pound cats I landed many years ago.

I thought I had hooked into a steam train!

Roll of Honour

Mark Dicken 85lb pb

Andy Parker 80lb pb

Jake from Kent 75lb pb

David Phillips 82lb pb

Keith Supple 65lb 8oz pb

Alan Hickmott 67lb pb

Fran Jordan 48lb pb

Craig Gambles 38lb pb

Neil Smith 41lb pb

Bill Rushton 44lb pb

Steve from Midlands 42lb

Posted by Paul Selman on 18/01/2013 12:40 Categories : Famous Five - Birch Lake

Famous Five - Poplars Lake - The Big Cats of Poplars Lake: 2012

Blog Post Image Blog Post Image Blog Post Image Blog Post Image

For a lake of just 2.5 acres, Poplars Lake is not only an excellent carp water: it is without doubt one of the best big cat waters in France and closely rivals neighbouring Birch Lake for the number of 100lb plus Wels’ it contains.

Lake record is currently 120lbs and was caught by Andy McHales from Hull.

In the season 2012 only one hundred pounder was successfully landed, but undoubtedly many were lost with anglers reporting numerous fish ‘that broke my line’ or ‘I could do nothing with’ – even on heavy gear.

Leading the way was Carp-France client, Eric Sprought, with his cat of 103lbs caught from the swim known as Catfish Corner on three of our house pellets fished on the hair rig. This is a tactic I wish more of our visitors would try, but it does need care as the pellets break down in about four hours in warm water, so it is not a method you can rely on overnight. Eric tried the tactic in an evening before putting the rods out for the night and it also produced also an upper thirty cat for him, and he also lost another monster. I wish more would use the pellet as hookbait for the carp more often, after all tons of our French Sarb acquaculture pellet go into the water each season and has become almost natural food for the fish.

Like any water containing carp and cats, the cats develop a liking for boilies and pick up the rigs intended for carp and this is certainly the case on Poplars. Landing a powerful hard fighting cat over 30lb/40lb on standard carp gear on boilies is an achievement for any angler and I suppose over the course of a season most cats are landed from the lake on carp gear, although losing the bigger cats is inevitable on such tackle, although you can get lucky on occasions.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with landing cats on carp gear I am personally a tad old fashioned and think it’s a far greater achievement to catch the cats on rigs and tackle set-ups intended for the species and using live baits, dead baits, luncheon meat, squid, liver etc. My personal best of 85lb from Poplars was caught on a live frog off the surface, you can’t get more natural than that!

Setting your stall out specifically for cats gives you much more of a chance of landing the bigger ones and you are not solely relying on luck fishing for the big Wels’ on carp methods. So if you want a big cat acquaint yourself with the latest cat rigs in particular which are much more effective than the primitive cat rigs I was using twenty years ago. A good starting point is the Catfish Conservation Group’s website at

Finally, here is a list of those anglers who managed to bank one of Poplars big cats in the 2012 season.
Suffice to say, many are coming back next year to Poplars or are trying their hand on Birch.

Roll Of Honour 2012

Eric Sprought 103lbs (pb)

Matthew Nixon 60lb (pb)

Ivan Capel 60lb

Ashley Heaton 55lb (pb)

Jason Orr 52lb (pb) and 77lb (pb)

Gary Laidman 68lb (pb)

Michael Rutherford 70lb (pb)

Lee Atkinson 58lb 3oz

Kevin O’Shea 68lb

Lee Hallam 70lb (pb)

Daz P 60lb (pb)

Ian Brownell 67lb 2oz (pb)

Ryan O’Sullivan 65lb, 67lb, 67lb 8oz (pb)

Jamie Cottee 63lb 2oz

Posted by Paul Selman on 10/01/2013 20:02 Categories : Famous Five - Poplars Lake