River Monster! British angler hooks humongous 222lb catfish which dragged his boat half a mile during struggle
A British angler landed a monster 222lb catfish which dragged his boat almost a mile after an hour-long epic struggle in freezing temperatures.
Ditch Ballard, 37, was carp fishing on the bank of the River Ebro in Spain when the 9ft creature took the bait and was hooked.
He hopped in his 12ft long aluminium boat and summoned all his strength to reel in the fish in the ‘biggest battle of his fishing career’.
Mr Ballard had to contend with freezing temperatures which left him trying to hold on to his catch while ‘shivering uncontrollably’.
The fisherman then placed his 16-stone catch on tarpaulin to weigh and measure it before returning the healthy fish to the water.
Ditch Ballard, 37, was fishing in Spain when he reeled in the enormous catfish, which dragged him down the river
The 222lbs weight was 28lbs below the record for a catfish in the River Ebro and was the ‘biggest battle’ of Ditch Ballard’s angling career
The 222lbs weight was 28lbs below the record for a catfish in the River Ebro.
Ditch Ballard, who moved from Watford to southern Catalonia six years ago, runs the angling holiday company Ebro Mad Cats.
He said: ‘With an air temperature of -3C the wind chill actually made it feel unbearable.
‘I was carp fishing, but the bend in the little 10ft rod suggested I was likely attached to a catfish.
‘The line was uncontrollably ripping off the reel so I untied my boat and set sail, without pausing to grab my hat or my shoes from the bivvy.
‘The next hour was simply painful; as my muscles fatigued and the adrenaline wore off my body temperature began to crash, and I found myself crouched in the bottom of the boat trying to hold on whilst shivering uncontrollably.
‘Eventually the leader knot appeared in the darkness and I knew my prize was close.
‘What I didn’t know is just how far I had been towed down river – I was now over 1km from home.
‘I struggled to put on the gloves and began hand lining, putting way more pressure on that hook than should be possible.
‘I needed this battle to be over one way or another, so I just pulled with all I had left in me.
Mr Ballard, who moved from Watford to southern Catalonia six years ago, runs the angling holiday company Ebro Mad Cats
Mr Ballard eventually had to start hand lining and said the amount of pressure put through the small metal hook shouldn’t have been possible
‘Each time the fish ran I nearly lost a digit, as by this time my hands were so cold they weren’t really doing what my brain was telling them.
‘With the rod fully compressed, and the drag on the reel screwed up tiught, I was actually lent back into that fish with all 13st of me.
‘If the line had snapped at that moment I would have almost gone overboard into 6C water.
‘Eventually over 2.5m of catfish surfaced, and I managed to get a hand on its jaw.
‘I was physically and mentally exhausted but had to give one last push to secure my prize.
‘It was the biggest battle of my fishing career, yet I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!’
Ditch, who used halibut pellets, sweetcorn and maize as bait, photographed his catch then released it back into the river.
The world record for the biggest European catfish ever caught stands at 21st (297lbs). It was caught in 2010 by Attila Zsedely in Italy.
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