Who said you can’t catch big catfish when it’s cold out? Well, Ditch Ballard just caught an absolute monster in the dead of winter. According to a Facebook post, Ballard was fishing for carp on the Ebro River in Spain in January, when a giant took his bait and quickly started “ripping” line off his reel.
“The next hour was simply painful,” wrote Ballard. “As my muscles fatigued and the adrenaline wore off, my body temp began to crash, and I found myself crouched in the bottom of the boat trying to hold on while shivering uncontrollably.”
And Ballard wasn’t shivering out of excitement. He says that it was around 27 degrees Fahrenheit—and windy. At one point during the fight, he thought he saw his braided fishing line fraying, but it was just slush accumulating around one of the rod’s guides. During the fight, he says the fish towed his boat over half a mile from his starting point. Eventually, he managed to land the fish—a massive wels catfish. Ballard’s fish was 8 feet long. According to the Daily Mail, it weighed 222 pounds, which comes just 28 pounds below the Ebro River waterbody catfish record.
According to the Catfish Conservation Group, wels catfish are native to eastern Europe and today thrive in waterways throughout the continent. Wels catfish can grow to over 250 pounds, with the IGFA All-Tackle World Record coming in at 297 pounds. The species is considered one of the biggest freshwater fish in the world—and the largest freshwater fish in Europe.
The Ebro River is a hotspot for catching giant wels catfish. After landing and measuring his fish, Ballard successfully released the giant back into the waterway. “I was physically and mentally exhausted,” wrote Ballard. “It was the biggest battle of my fishing career.”