Catfish are long, and heavy fish and therefore need specialist equipment to land, unhook and weigh them safely. First of all there is the landing net. You may well be catching fish that are 5 foot long and therefore a 42 inch net is far from ideal. A minimum of a 50 inch net is required but a specialist catfish net of 60 or even 72 inch is far better. If you do use a 50 inch net, make sure that it is one with a deep mesh.
Often the catfish will obligingly curl its tail when in the net so it is possible to net them using a net this size, although obviously it is not as easy as using a bigger net. When you finally get the catfish near the net, be very careful, they will often surge off again just as you think they are beaten. Always make sure that you draw the fishes head right up to the spreader block as catfish, along with eels, can actually swim backwards, If the fish is not in the net properly you may find yourself attempting to net only the head as it snakes backwards out of your net.
Unhooking the catfishThe first thing you will need is a good unhooking mat, ideally the mat should be at least 6 foot long by 2 foot wide. Two smaller mats can be used but always peg them down to ensure that there is no possibility of the mats separating. Make sure that the mat is also on level ground. The Wels catfish is very slimy and if the net is on a slope they can slide right off it. Catfish tend to behave themselves on the mat and do not thrash about like other species, all they will do is snake around a little. Make sure that you have a bucket of water handy to keep the fish wet.
When you come to unhook the fish do not be nervous of it, yes, a Wels catfish is a big fish with a big mouth but it is not a savage monster that is going to bite your arms off. On rare occasions you may get a slightly bad tempered one that may have a bit of a snap, but it hasn’t got big teeth that are going to do you any harm. The pads in a catfish’s mouth can be a little sharp and they will give you a slight abrasion if you catch them but that is all. Until you are confident unhooking the fish, use a glove. A rubberised type glove is ideal as you will still be able to feel the fish properly and you will not catch the fish’s pads leaving fibres on them. Things such as chain mail gloves are completely unnecessary when unhooking Wels catfish.
To unhook the fish, gently open the fish’s mouth, if closed, and remove the hook. A pair of long nosed pliers is ideal for getting a good grip on the hook and quickly and easily removing it. Pliers give a much better grip than forceps and will make unhooking far quicker and easier. Use a hook wound product such as klinik to treat the hook mark. If you do hook a catfish down the throat, which fortunately is rare, especially if using circle hooks, then roll down your sleeve and put your arm into the fishes mouth and remove the hook carefully, do not blindly just poke around at the fish with forceps.
Weighing the Catfish
Again specialist equipment is needed to weigh Wels catfish. A weigh sling of 5 foot long minimum is required, they should not just be crammed into a carp weigh sling. There are some very good weigh slings on the market and some, such as the Catmaster Tackle weigh slings have the handles offset towards one end of the sling. All the weight of a Wels catfish is at the head end, therefore having the handles towards one end helps to distribute the weight in the sling properly at stops it from tilting. Just make sure you put the fish in the sling the right way round of course!
When weighing a catfish a weighing tripod is very handy. Catfish in the UK can exceed 100lb and it is much easier and safer for the fish is you use a tripod to weigh them on. It also stops the needle from bouncing all over the place due to your arms shaking as well. Obviously arm yourself with a set of scales with the capacity to weigh any fish that you are likely to encounter.