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Top secrets for targeting catfish

No other river in Europe has caused a furore like the Po in recent years. For all anglers with their sights set on the Italian river, here are some heavyweight tips to set you on your way.

Catfish camp or do it yourself?

A number of catfish camps have established themselves on the banks of the Po in recent years, extending from the delta to the middle reaches of the river. While staying at one of these camps may be more costly than organising your own trip, there are too many positives for me to decide against them. Organising fishing permits alone is almost impossible for foreigners and takes up a great deal of time. At a camp, you receive your rod permits on arrival and can start fishing straight away.

A camp also offers you safe parking for your car. Sanitary facilities are provided and can be used at any time, as are cooling facilities so nobody has to do without fresh food such as meat, eggs, etc. Many catfish camps will also sell you baitfish. And you don’t even need your own boat. You’ll be provided with one on arrival and your Po adventure can begin. Hiring tackle is also straightforward, allowing you to “dip your toe” into catfish angling without having to invest in expensive equipment. One of the biggest benefits, of course, is that you’ll normally be sharing the camp with experienced catfish anglers and can learn very quickly.


Best time of year?


When the water is warming up in March/April, you can enjoy real moments of magic. The months of September/October are also hot periods for tempting one of the giants of the Po. But beware! There’s a fine line between bagging up and blanking. When the snow melts on the mountains in spring, the river can cool down again in a matter of days. Even if other anglers were catching well just before your arrival, this can easily change in a few hours. It’s far from uncommon for anglers to catch nothing all week. The same dilemma can occur in autumn. When the water is rapidly cooling, the action can dry up. So, when should you go?

For your very first trip, I’d recommend June or July. The water has warmed up completely and the fish have finished spawning and have spread out in the river again. Mass catches may be rare even at this time but the probability of landing Europe’s largest freshwater predator is at its highest. And please don’t forget that the Po is the hardest catfish water in Europe. The average number of catfish caught by an experienced team of two anglers is three to four a week.


Which methods?


When it comes to catfish angling, I like having a range of options to conquer the king of the Po. Buoy fishing, spinning, underwater float, bubble float, drift fishing, clonking – all these methods can produce the desired outcome and each of them has its own unique merits. Many anglers fish from the boat and allow their bait to drift through spots where they believe catfish are lurking. Such flexibility allows them to quickly fish any spots that catch their eye. This is a simple method that repeatedly yields good fish.

Drift fishing is also a fantastic method for tempting giant catfish during the day. Simply drift along with the current and troll your baits behind the boat. This also allows you to fish a very large area and offers good prospects of bringing a catfish aboard.

Buoy fishing is suited to those who like to settle in on a sandbank with a bivvy and bedchair and keep an eye on their buoys. This is also a good spot for legering with an underwater float. Spinning is the supreme discipline of catfish angling. There’s nothing more thrilling than targeting a large hunting catfish with a spinning rod and not only seeing the bite but also hearing it. But you have to keep your ears pricked. Once you’ve spotted a hunting catfish, you have to stalk it. So absolute silence on the boat is crucial. This method is highly recommended when the water is rising.

Fishing with a catfish clonk, meanwhile, is only an option for those who've mastered it. Otherwise, you run a major risk of startling the fish with the clonking sounds instead of attracting them.


To stand a chance of success, you have to discover the predators’ locations or hiding places. All features of the water can give clues as to hot spots. River bends, harbour areas, backwaters, sandbanks, bridge pillars, warm water inflows – all of these should be on your radar during your stay on the Po. Fish very often lurk near these prominent features.


Guiding or go it alone?

For those making their first catfish trip to the Po, I can only recommend the services of a catfish guide! They have expert knowledge, they're familiar with all common methods and they know the predators’ hiding places. This allows you to concentrate completely on your fishing.


The Po will continue to cause a stir in the angling world. The river holds a large stock of big catfish that will only continue to grow. Catfish and the Po – a match made in heaven! It won't be long before we’re being amazed by news of a 280-pound giant catfish in an angling magazine. Perhaps one of you will be the lucky angler?


I wish you every success...

Yours, Benjamin Gründer

Team Black Cat