Catching Catfish In The UK – A Complete Guide

I feel that catfishing opportunities are often overlooked in the UK. We’re all so obsessed with carp that its easy to forget that the mighty Wels Catfish is the true monster of British freshwater. Not only do Catfish grow larger than Carp, but they also put up a better fight. The downside to catfishing is, let’s face it … they are ugly. But what they lack in looks, they more than make up for in size. Even in the UK, these fish grow upwards of 100lbs.

Many people are intimidated by the idea of hooking at catfish because of their looks, size, and reputation. But they aren’t anything to be worried about. Despite what you may hear, the spines are not venomous and actually, the spines on the larger catfish are quite dull. They also don’t have teeth but rather rasping pads they use to hold onto smaller fish.

This is why I think the idea of catfishing puts off so many British anglers. But the thrill of hooking a catfish is second to none. They put up epic intense fights and will genuinely test your angling abilities. If you’re looking for a new challenge or want to come face to face with a genuine freshwater monster, catfishing is definitely worth trying. In this article, we’ll cover in detail all the different facets of catfishing from setting up your tackle to holding your first catfish.

Best Places For Catfishing In The UK

FisheryBiggest Catch
Wintons Fishery, Sussex90lbs+
Kingfisher Lake, Somerset80lbs+
CCG Adams Pool, Warwickshire 90lbs+
Cudmore Fisheries, Staffordshire60lbs+
Oakwood Park Predator Lakes, Norfolk120lbs+
Elton Carp & Catfish Lakes, Gloucestershire60lbs+
Fendick’s Fishery, Norfolk95lbs+
Lakemore Fisheries, Cheshire75lbs+
Churchwood Fisheries60lbs+

What Tackle You Need For Catfishing

If you’re already an accomplished carp angler, fear not! You more than likely will already have the vast majority of tackle required to go catfishing. With a few simple adjustments to your kit, you can have an excellent catfishing setup. However, if you’re new to fishing in general and are specifically interested in catfishing, then its worth getting the rod and reels that are tailored toward catfishing.

Below, we’ve compiled a list of everything you’ll need to go catfishing and why you may need it:

Rod Catfish Pro Persuader Fishing Rod MK3Essentially everything just needs to be bigger and stronger for catfishing compared to carp fishing. This means using a high test curve rod coupled with a strong, powerful reel. We’ve linked a catfish rod but if you’ve got a decent carp rod, that will do just fine. Ideally, you’ll want the rod to have a 3lb + test-curve
Reel – Sonik Vader X 8000RS As with the rod, you can essentially use most carp fishing reels. But we’d definitely recommend using a freespool reel when catfishing as they allow you to transition between two drag settings seamlessly.
Net/Landing Mat Trakker Sanctuary T3 Landing Net/Advanta Protector Hi-Loft Cradle LargeSince catfish are longer and bigger than carp, you may need a bigger net and landing mat. Ideally, you’ll want a landing mat that lets the catfish’s body spill over the edges as the larger fish are incredibly long.
Mainline – Power Pro Moss Green BraidA strong mainline is needed when catfishing because of how much pressure you’ll have to apply on the fish. We’d recommend a 30-50lb braid for your mainline for UK catfishing.
Silicone TubingKorda Green Silicone Tube We’d recommend using around 2 meters of silicone tubing on your mainline. It presents the rig better and it will also protect the catfish from the braid. Braid is very sharp and can easily damage the fish if it rolls.
Hooklink Korda Kamo Coated HooklinkLastly, you’ll need an incredibly strong hooklink. Braid with 40lb breaking strain will effectively cover the vast majority of catfishing situations in the UK
Leadclip – Korda Lead ClipsBorrowing a standard lead-clip rig for carp fishing is an excellent choice for catfishing. It’s simple and effective for both species.
Lead – Korda Fishing LeadsYou can basically attach any lead to a lead clip so the size and weight are really up to you. There are lots of different leads for different things. For instance, the distance you’ll be fishing or the type of lakebed.
Hooks – Catfish Pro Eagle Wave Fishing HookYou get away with using big carp fishing hooks but if you’re targeting big catfish then its worth investing in some genuine catfish hooks.

Catfish Rig Setup

Setting up a catfish rig is quite simple. You can use a lot of the rigs that you would use for carp fishing to catch catfish. Everything just has to be scaled up one size. This means carp are also susceptible to these rigs and since they both like similar foods, don’t be surprised if you land a few carp during a catfishing session.

Below is a setup guide for a standard catfishing rig that can be used throughout lakes in the UK:

  1. Spool up your reel with 40lb braid
  2. Thread on approximately 2 meters of silicone tubing to protect the fish from the braid
  3. Attach the braid to your lead clip and choose a suitable size and shaped lead
  4. Tie a hair rig with your hooklink which should also be 40lb braid or coated braid
  5. Thread your catfish hook onto the hooklink and secure it with a knotless knot
  6. Using a baiting needle, thread on a large chunk of processed meat and secure it with a bait-stop
  7. Connect your hooklink to the lead clip using a swivel clip and a blood-knot

The main focus of a catfish rig is ensuring that it is strong a durable. It doesn’t need to be complex. Providing that it can withstand the enormous power this fish can generate, the majority of carp fishing rigs will be just as effective when catfishing.

How To Locate Catfish

To really improve your chances of finding and catching a catfish, you should try night fishing. They become more active at this time and often hunt during the dark. This means that they are more exposed and you’ll be more likely to see them.

I’ve actually found that catfish tend to like places with cover like reeds and lily pads. Especially during the spring as the water is starting to get warmer. Like carp, they are fish that are affected by weather and they are usually easiest to catch during the warmer months. You can look for things like bubbles, splashes, and ripples in order to locate catfish. They are sometimes found in the margins but because they are both predators and scavengers, they tend to move around. Often putting your rig in a few meters from some vegetation and loading it with lots of smelly bait is quite an effective technique.

It’s also worth taking a couple of laps around a lake for observation before you choose your swim. If you focus on the small details, you’ll often find tell-tale signs of where the fish are. Sometimes it’s as apparent as a big splash, but sometimes the clues are much more subtle. For instance ripples or unidentifiable shadows moving underneath the lake surface. Using a pair of polarised sunglasses will greatly help when trying to understand where the fish are and where they like to feed.

Wels Catfish Bait

Catfish will essentially eat anything but ideally, you want to use the smelliest bait possible. They love strong-smelling, meaty, oily baits and so we’d recommend using something pungent. Some people, especially in the USA, like to use live bait for catfishing. These have proven to be effective but many people may feel uncomfortable with the idea of using live bait. Furthermore, many fisheries in the UK have banned things like live bait.

You can also just use carp fishing baits for catfishing like boilies and pop-ups providing that there isn’t a large concentration of carp in the lake that you’re fishing. You can also prevent smaller carp from taking your bait by using extra-large boilies that won’t be able to fit in the smaller fishes mouth’s. This way, you can ensure that it’s either a big carp or catfish that takes your bait.

Below, we’ve listed the best baits for catfishing and split them into two categories. Hook-baits and loose-baits. Hook-baits, as the name suggests are the baits that are attached to your hook. Loose baits, however, are feeding baits that are often incorporated with each other. They are baits that you use to draw the fish into your swim and keep them occupied in a particular area near your hook bait in order to increase your chances of a bite.


  • Processed meats (spam, corned beef, etc)
  • Fish (Minnows, Roach, Rudd)
  • Boilies
  • Lobworms
  • Pop-ups
  • Wafters
  • Squid


  • Sweetcorn
  • Pellets
  • Oils
  • Fish attractants
  • Tuna chunks
  • Salmon eggs
  • Hemp
  • Maggots
  • Crushed boilies

How To Fight & Reel In Catfish

Fighting a catfish can be quite a challenge but its so much fun. They fight incredibly hard because their bodies nearly entirely consist of lean muscle. Just take your time when reeling in a catfish and allow the fish to tire itself out. It’s important to have confidence in your tackle when catfishing because sometimes they can just dart and get your line wrapped around a rock or something sharp. This is the last thing you want to happen because that could lead to your line breaking.

If the fish does decide to charge towards an obvious danger or if its taken too much line, you should have the confidence in your rod and reel to lock up the clutch and apply some pressure to bring the fish out from an awkward position.

Landing & Unhooking Catfish

With a large catfish its helpful to have someone there with you when landing the fish. This is simply due to their sheer size. Once you’ve got the fish into the net, you’ll want to detach it from the pole so that the net can collapse. This will allow you to get a better grasp on the net.

Then you and a friend should both hold the net on either side and gently lift the catfish out of the water and walk it over to an unhooking mat. Catfish can be very heavy so it’s important to lift them with the correct posture in order to avoid hurting yourself.

Once the catfish is in the unhooking mat, you want to ensure that it is calm before unhooking it. It’s also worth wearing gloves when you remove the hook from a catfish’s mouth. This is because they have rasping pads in their mouths which are very abrasive and can cause damage to human skin. Then you want to gently pry open the catfish’s mouth so you can get better access. Then you can use a long pair of forceps to unhook the fish and remove the hook from its mouth.

Holding & Photographing Catfish

Holding a wels catfish often takes two people as well. Their bodies are incredibly long and practically spill outside the parameters of most unhooking mats. The best way to go about holding a wels is by evenly distributing its weight across your limbs. There is no particular method to holding a wels because they vary so much in size and shape but the most important thing is that the fish feels secure.

Once you have the fish in a stable, comfortable position, its then very easy to snap a quick photo before releasing it back into the water as quickly as possible.


How big do wels catfish grow? – There is no telling how big the wels catfish could actually grow. The largest recorded catch is 317lbs from the Po Delta in Italy but they could technically grow larger. The only thing that would stop wels from growing is a food shortage. However, in the UK, the largest recorded catch was 144lbs.

Are catfish harder to catch than carp? – No, I wouldn’t say that catfishing is more difficult than carp fishing. The two are actually very similar. Catfish are more aggressive feeders so if you’re fishing at the right time and place, the bites come very easily.

Do wels catfish eat each other? – They most certainly do!

Are wels catfish dangerous? – Outside of the water, wels catfish don’t pose a real threat to humans. However, there have been reports of them going after small children in the water. But this is simply because they will eat anything.


Catfish are some of the hardest-fighting freshwater fish in the world. They are so much fun to catch and if you get a chance to go catfishing, it’s absolutely worth trying. While they are ugly and slimy, they truly are freshwater monsters.

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