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Amateur angler lands biggest ever fish caught on a rod in UK

Written by on April 30, 2024

An angler has reeled in what is thought to be the biggest fish caught on a rod in freshwater in Britain.

Darren Reitz, 34, from Rainham, in Essex, said it took him and three others 50 minutes to haul the 143lb (64.4kg) catfish out of the water on Saturday night.

The dustman said he had started fishing in Chigborough Lakes nature reserve in Maldon, in Essex, at 8.30am and hadn’t caught anything the entire day.

But at around 10.30pm, soon after changing his bait, Mr Reitz said he had his first nibble. Just under an hour later the amateur angler was weighing his catch.

Speaking to The Telegraph, he said: “I’d just changed my bait after a long day of catching nothing and it was raining quite a bit, which puts pressure on the water so the fish come up to the surface. My friends started panicking as it was clearly a big fish and they were telling me how I should pull it out.”

Mr Reitz, who started fishing in 2017, decided to ignore the advice of his fellow fishermen and “do it the way I know how”.

He added: “I did it how I wanted to, and about 50 mins later I pulled that huge catfish out of the water. I think this is one of the biggest fish ever caught in the UK. If I get the record that would be nice.

“I’m over the moon, I can’t stop talking about it, you never think you will catch something like that. And that is the joy of fishing, I guess I was just in the right place at the right time.”

Nick Simmonds, secretary to the British Record (rod-caught) Fish Committee (BRFC), said the record for catfish was set in 2000 at 62lb. However, record listing for catfish was closed in October 2000 to discourage the illegal importation of large catfish.

On Nov 9 2023, the BRFC decided to reopen the listing for claims, with 130lb set as the benchmark. Mr Simmonds said: “If the captor of the fish wants to make a claim, the BRFC will consider it.”

After weighing the fish, Mr Reitz released it into a different lake and the fishery bailiff paid him £143 in cash as the angling club is looking to remove catfish from the lake Mr Reitz was fishing in.

A pound for every pound

He said: “The bailiff paid me one pound for every pound of weight, so I came away with £143 in cash. You expect to pay to go fishing, not to get paid. I’m hoping to go back next weekend and hopefully I’ll get another.”

Mr Reitz said he started fishing after being attacked in a nightclub in Southend-on-sea, Essex, in 2017.

He took up the hobby, alongside motocross, after being the victim of an unprovoked assault. He said he required four metal plates in his face owing to the incident.

The Wels catfish is a non-native species from Europe, but has now established a self-sustaining population in British waters.

The 143lb weight of the catfish caught by Mr Reitz is thought to be both the biggest catfish caught in Britain and officially the biggest of any fish caught on a rod in freshwater. 

The current official British carp record is 68lb 1oz, according to the BRFC, although Naomi Turner caught a 72lb 12oz carp at Holme Fen Fishery in Cambridgeshire, on April 27.

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