The wels catfish, also called sheatfish, is a large catfish found in wide areas of central, southern, and eastern Europe, and near the Baltic and Caspian Seas. It is a scaleless fresh and brackish water fish recognizable by its broad, flat head and wide mouth. Wels catfish can live for at least thirty years and have very good hearing. The wels catfish lives on annelid worms, gastropods, insects, crustaceans, and fish including other catfishes; the larger ones also eat frogs, mice, rats and aquatic birds such as ducks. It is found from the United Kingdom all the way east to Kazakhstan and south to FYR Macedonia.
The wels catfish lives in large, warm lakes and deep, slow-flowing rivers. It prefers to remain in sheltered locations such as holes in the riverbed, sunken trees, etc. It consumes its food in the open water or on the bottom, where it can be recognized by its large mouth. Wels catfish are kept in fish ponds as food fish.
Wels catfish's mouth contains lines of numerous small teeth, two long barbels on the upper jaw and four shorter barbels on the lower jaw. It has a long anal fin that extends to the caudal fin, and a small sharp dorsal fin positioned relatively far forward. It uses its sharp pectoral fins to capture prey. With these fins, it creates an eddy to disorient its victim, which it then simply engulfs in its enormous throat. It has very slippery green-brown skin. Its belly is pale yellow or white. Colour varies with environment. Clear water will give the fish a black coloration while muddy water will often tend to produce brownish specimens. Weight and length are not correlated linearly, and also depend on the season. The female produces up to 30,000 eggs per kilogram of body weight. The male guards the nest until the brood hatches, which, depending on water temperature, can take from three to ten days. If the water level decreases too much or too fast the male has been observed to splash the eggs with the muscular tail in order to keep them wet.
With a possible total length up to 4 m (13 ft) and a maximum weight of over 180 kg (400 lb) it is the second largest freshwater fish in its region after the beluga sturgeon. However, such lengths are extremely rare and could not be proved during the last century. Most wels catfish are only about 1.3–1.6 m (4 ft 3 in–5 ft 3 in) long; fish longer than 2 m (6 ft 7 in) are normally extremely rare. At 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) they can weigh 15–20 kilograms (33–44 lb) and at 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) they can weigh 65 kilograms (140 lb). Only under exceptionally good living circumstances can the wels catfish reach lengths of more than 2 m (6 ft 7 in), as with the record wels catfish of Kiebingen (near Rottenburg, Germany), which was 2.49 m (8 ft 2 in) long and weighed 89 kilograms (200 lb). This giant was surpassed by some even larger specimens from Poland, Ukraine, France, Spain (in the River Ebro), Italy (in the River Po and River Arno), and Greece, where this fish was released a few decades ago. Greek wels grow well thanks to the mild climate, lack of competition, and good food supply. The largest accurate weight was 144 kg (320 lb) for a 2.78 m (9 ft 1 in) long specimen from the Po Delta in Italy. Other reports of larger wels (around 5 m (16 ft) or more) are unlikely and are often regarded as typical big fish stories or in some cases misidentification of the now rare sturgeon.
Dead Baitfish (GF) (V)
EFFZETT® Spinners (SF)
EFFZETT® Spoons (SF)
EFFZETT® Hard Lures (SF)
EFFZETT® Softbaits (SF)
Fish Strips (V)
Mega Shads (V)