King of the Catfish

blog post photo

by Zeb Hogan
Monster Fish Host

I’ve had a few fish turn on me as I went to release them and give me a nibble. It seems like a reflexive act – the wels are used to using their (big) mouths and so they do seem to try to bite and grab things that get in front of them or threaten them. When the wels bit me, it didn’t exactly hurt, but it didn’t feel good either. The initial pressure of the bite was…hard to describe…it’s similar to if you we’re bitten by someone with no teeth, a gummy bite, or like when you get your arm stuck in the door of a closing elevator. It doesn’t hurt so much as surprise. The wels teeth are more like sandpaper than teeth: you can feel them, and they definitely leave a mark, but they don’t cut. They grab and scrape. So when I was bitten by the wels catfish in the last scene, it left a big scrape, almost like I’d fallen off a bike and skinned my knee.

Video Preview: “Giant Sea Tongue” — Meet the wels catfish — a huge fish whose entire body acts a kind of tongue, which serves its voracious appetite well.

My feelings are hard to describe regarding Roland Lorkowski, the man responsible for releasing the invasive wels into Spain. I always try to take an objective approach when I talk with people like Roland. Of course, I found it personally disappointing that he released wels into the Ebro, but my main goal was to get information from him. Being upset wouldn’t have helped the situation. That’s one thing about invasive species: they are virtually impossible to remove once they invade a new system. And so while I certainly feel bad for the native fish of the Ebro, and don’t agree with Roland’s decision to release them, it doesn’t do much good to get mad. The number one thing people can do to stop the spread of invasive species is to adopt strict regulations to keep them out of habitats where they don’t belong. Countries like Australia have already taken precautions to try to keep wels out of their rivers and lakes: there is a $100,000 fine for bringing wels into Australia.

The most surprising moment of the trip was finding that big wels right under my feet when we were electro-fishing. When we first saw the fish, it was struggling in some submerged branches and then it disappeared. It seemed like there might be a chance it had got tangled in the wood but we didn’t know for sure. I guess part of me wanted to make sure the fish was OK and part of me wanted to see if we could catch the fish. As soon as I jumped in the water I felt the fish – I practically landed on top of it – and it was an eerie feeling. I thought that the fish would be stunned, so I wasn’t that worried about a bite, but it still felt strange to be in the water with something so big. Aside from the encounter with that big fish, I also thought it was very interesting to learn that the growth of wels has been so steady over the years.  The first anglers caught a 30 pound fish, then a few years later a 50 pound fish, then a 100, then 200, and finally last year the record breaker. It makes me wonder just how big the wels will grow in the Ebro.

Video Preview: “Attack of the Invasive Fish” — Zeb comes face to gil with the Wels Catfish, a fish with a mouth so large it’s been wiping out native fish with appetite alone.

Monster Fish Catfish King premieres August 9th at 10P et/pt.