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A laid back fishing holiday with cats to 130 lbs

For the last two weeks we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming Bill & Steve who’ve been visiting us since 2015. Affectionately known as “the Catfish brothers”, Bill & Steve are catfishing purists and do everything they can to avoid the carp and to my knowledge, they’ve never hooked one. Their favourite tactic is live baiting with roach caught on site. Catching a roach here isn’t that tricky but catching a good size roach can be hard work. It’s the larger roach that produce the largest catfish whereas the smaller roach tends to produce the kittens which, although they are still the target species, it’s not what they are really after.

With a whole two weeks to play with, the guys didn’t rush to get set up. Preferring to take a leisurely approach to their holiday… and why not! Bill was the first man to connect with something serious but unfortunately all did not go well and his mainline failed. In fact he had back to back failures and he’d never lost a fish here before in all those years. Bill and Steve are both detail oriented and are big fans of our kettle bell test which they use religiously.

They are also by far the best equipped anglers for the catfish with rods and reels that are more often seen boat fishing offshore for sharks! Some of their rods have a rated casting weight of 1000g (no that isn’t a typo, I really did write 1kg!) and some of their reels have a drag rating of 25kg! Obviously they match this with some serious terminal tackle (200 lbs test swivels and 0.50 to 0.60 mainline straight through). They use large dedicated catfish hooks (which is why they don’t catch any carp and when they are live baiting they use a 6/0 size which is…. ah massive!) Knowing this you’ll understand why they tend to bank what they hook and if they get bust up then it just goes to show you how large and powerful these fish have become. 

Luckily, third time’s the charm and Bill successfully banked a new PB of 130lbs. What’s shocking is that despite the fact that our catfish mats are absolutely massive (2m x 2m) the catfish still didn’t fit without being at an angle!  The guys did amazingly well to bank this specimen, normally a catfish of this size is at least a 3 man job. Steve had the unenviable job of holding onto the beast with two gloved hands while Bill prepped the mat. He knew that one big pull from the catfish and he was going in!

Steve with a 130lb catfish in France

Catching the small catfish became part of the routine and they got at least two runs per night throughout the session. They tried the Scopex Squid boilies, 50mm boilies, massive chunks of luncheon meat and when I say chunk I mean half a tin! Fishing on the bottom didn’t really work for them and most of the runs came on their favourite method of a suspended live bait. Beausoleil can be a challenging water for carp anglers that have 90+ specimens to fish for. Bill and Steve are fishing for just 10 specimens… which takes it to a whole new level of difficulty.

The one that got away

Steve got his big chance on Monday. It’s impossible to know how large it was but Steve has banked some pretty big catfish in his time and even with his monster gear, he couldn’t get this creature under full control. He got it in close a couple of times but when it decided to really pull back, it ripped the line from his monster size reels like it was on freespool… just bonkers. In the end, somewhere in the dark, down the shallows, everything went slack and Steve was left with nothing but a sad, limp piece of line. The shallows are littered with boulders that will cut you off if in a heartbeat. Throw in the aerator, the bridge, and the island margin and it’s a really challenging part of the lake to fish and even more so for our massive catfish.

Oxygen drop

I visited the lake again on the second Tuesday and unfortunately, the oxygen level had dropped (thanks to yet another storm system that was passing through the area). This time it didn’t bring a ton of rain (luckily). Despite the progress that we’ve made with getting the green algae under control, the lake is not immune to changes in air pressure and temperature and this will have an effect on the oxygen level. As soon as I saw the reading I put both of the splash aerators online and within a couple of hours the DO level around the units were improving and within 24hrs the overall DO level of the lake had improved. By the end of the week the DO level had recovered sufficiently that I could turn off one aerator, and a day later, the second unit. We can therefore be pretty confident that this was a blip, rather than a big oxygen crash. In previous years I’d have to leave the aerators running for weeks to recover from these drops but I’m hoping that we’ve made real progress with the way in which we manage the water quality and that’s better for the fish and the fishing.

Alien invasion?

During the recent flooding event we saw, much to our surprise, a crayfish boldly strolling down the main driveway. In the weeks running up to this I had noticed for the first time one of two crays sitting in the shallow margins. In previous years I’d never have been able to spot these because of the level of colouration of the water. When I noticed them I thought that this was just a result of the increased water clarity but when you see one walking down your driveway, alarm bells start to ring. Have we been invaded by aliens?

We’ve never had a crayfish problem here but they can cause trouble if left unchecked. The native species really aren’t an issue as they live in harmony with the other species present. Carp and catfish love a bit of crunch! The real problem is the American red signal crayfish and much to my horror, this was what was strolling about the joint like he owned the place. After a chat with a couple of contacts, I purchased a couple of traps and set about catching them. After a couple of days I’d caught 5 which can’t exactly be classed as an invasion. Steve & Bill love to experiment in their angling so I gave them the go ahead to hair rig one up and use it as bait! They removed the pincers first to make sure it couldn’t cut off or damage the hooklink or mainline. They were hoping that I was going to catch enough of them so that they could knock themselves up for a crayfish supper but that wasn’t the case. Good job TBH or that will be another challenge for our guests to contend with! We are going to continue running the traps for a few weeks to see what occurs but the early signs are that yes, we have a few but it shouldn’t be an issue for the fishing. I guess we should be flattered that they chose our lake to be their home but while everyone is welcome here, sometimes we do have to draw the line.

Encore!

The guys absolutely love their time at the lake and they are already booked to return next year. They both love the outdoors and cook all their meals alfresco by the lake. This year they used a Cobb cooker which seemed capable of cooking just about anything. There’s a lot more to fishing than catching fish and the guys take this part of the holiday, very seriously and rightly so! It’s always a pleasure to see them and we look forward to welcoming them back again next year.

Catch report & Feedback from:

Bill and Steve
Dates at Beausoleil: 22 June to 6 July 2024

Brief details of your catches:

1 catfish of 130lbs (PB) and lots of small catfish

How was the weather?

Hot and sunny first week, cloudier and cooler the second week

How did you find the accommodation?

As always, the accommodation was excellent

What could we do to improve your holiday?

Nothing I can think of

Would you recommend our venue to a friend?

Absolutely

General comments

Another fantastic holiday at a fantastic venue. Despite only one large cat, the fishing was very good. Would have caught more large ones had we been able to catch more large live bait.

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