Posts Tagged ‘redtail’

Fish of the Week – Redtail Catfish (Pirarara)

June 14, 2011
Our “Fish of the Week” is redtail catfish, also known as pirarara in Brazil. One of the most ubiquitous of the giant cats, it appears to have very few habitat limitations, just as happily living in acidic, blackwater lowlands streams as it is in alkaline highlands rivers. They can be found in all parts of clear (blue) water, blackwater and whitewater (sediment carrying) rivers, including small tributary streams.
Redtail Catfish

Redtail Catfish

Their unique markings and bright coloration makes them very easy to identify – their bright tail is an instant giveaway. Their dark upper body contrasts sharply with a cream to white segment below the lateral line posteriorly. The mix of contrasting colors highlighted with red makes this catfish one of the most striking of the big cats. Its body color is dark olive to shiny black, its abdomen white and lower fins red. Its dorsal fin and adipose fin are fringed with red.

A very powerful fighter, redtails are known for a sustained, line-pulling initial run and the ability to find a tangle of submerged logs at the end. Adults can grow up to 60 inches and can weigh more than 100 pounds (the IGFA world record is 113 lbs, 9 oz. caught in the Rio Negro). Found in the Amazon basin in Brazil, their seemingly endless appetite makes them easy for anglers to engage. They’re ominvores, as they feed on fish, detritus, crabs and fruit (we’ve actually caught them on pieces of watermelon!). They’ve been landed on everything anglers use, ranging from free-swimming live bait to a Wooly Bugger fly (cut bait is easiest, for practical purposes).
An entire head of a traira on a circle hook is a durable and widely accepted bait for redtails. Use an Amazon rig, configured as follows: “For Redtail Catfish, a large (14/0) circle hook haywire twisted to 12 to 18 inches of strong (120 – 220 lb. test) wire then twisted to a heavy (180 lb. test swivel. A two ounce (or heavier – as current demands) egg sinker is allowed to run freely on heavy line (50 pound or greater) braided line. This wire reinforced ‘Amazon’ rig helps keep piranha away from the actual running line and minimizes the loss of hook, line and sinker.”
Set up your road according to your preferences. Try a woodchopper rod (medium-heavy baitcaster or spinner) equipped with heavy braid (50- to 65-pound test). You’ll have fun catching these guys on light tackle – they’re very durable fish that don’t tire easily.
Several types of water are usually productive. In a river without a lot of features, a curve will often suffice. Drop the bait into the deeper, channel side. If deep pools with eddying water are available, select these types of water. Often, piranha activity on the bait is followed quickly by a take, which may summon the redtail. In any case, the traira head is a great bait even when almost entirely denuded. Let the piranha have their way and wait for your quarry. If there is a redtail there, you’ll usually meet up within 15 minutes. If not, move on.
To succeed with this tackle, you must survive the first run. Make sure your boat is ready to move upon the hookup. The “take” is usually a no-doubter – redtails grab forcefully and move on. With an open bail (or clicker on), allow line to be taken until you’re certain the fish is moving away from you and has had a chance to engulf the bait. Point the rod tip upward, engage your reel and allow the rod to be pulled downward until it points at the fish. With resistance occurring, a redtail will usually react with a screaming run, hooking himself with the circle hook in the process. This method is highly recommended because it will unfailingly result in a safe hookset in the corner of the fish’s mouth, never in its gullet or stomach.
Depending on the size of the fish and the underwater structure, anglers with light tackle can be spooled on the first run. Make sure the boat stays with the fish and you keep a reasonable reserve of line. Don’t try to stop him with a thumb or a tightened drag – you’ll probably just break him off. Let him burn off that first blast and then you can start to fight back. The key to landing a big redtail on light tackle is to get him off the bottom. If possible, get nearly over him, but offset at an angle, and work him upwards. If you can lever him into the water column, you gain the tactical and mechanical advantage and can probably land the fish quickly. If he is able to remain on the bottom, he will seek cover or structure and even though you may have survived the difficult first run, you can still lose him to an unforgiving snag. Once at the boat, redtails can be easily lifted from the water by their heavily boned pectoral fins. He’ll talk to you the entire time you take your pictures. Put him back to fight again.
If you’re record hunting or simply want to land the highest possible percentage, a heavier rig (i.e. – an Ambassador 7000 sized reel with a stiff, short and heavy Ugly Stick rod) can be used with line up to 100 lb. test. This is enough to slow down the runs and then muscle all but the biggest redtails off the bottom, the key to landing them.
John With Big Redtail

John With Big Redtail

Acute Angling – Official Website

It Started With A Snail! – A Giant Amazon Catfish Story

May 24, 2011

Ever wonder what a day of fishing for giant Amazon catfish is like? Find out in this story by Anthony Williams – check out the whole thing below or click here.

It Started with a Snail! – A Giant Amazon Catfish Story

by Anthony Williams


6 a.m. on the Travessao River: Brazil’s Amazon Basin.

We loaded our rods and cool box onto our 18 ft aluminum fishing boat as our guide, Chico, checked the 40 HP outboard and made sure all was in readiness for our day’s fishing.

A noisy pair of Macaws flew over the river, howler monkeys added to the dawn chorus and a tiny humming bird addressed the flower covered tree over our dining area.

We were staying in a tented camp on an island. Dropped in by Float Plane 1.5 hours from Manaus, capital of the Amazon region, we were remote with a capital R! We were even 5 hours by boat from the nearest Indian village, so we saw not a soul all day, apart from the other 6 fishermen in camp.

‘Where’s the bait?’ my fishing partner, Jeff Wilcox from the USA asked. I said that I was sure Chico had a plan. These guys live in the Jungle and it’s their supermarket. They don’t go ‘shopping’ without their cash card!

We set off into the current, through some fast flowing rocky channels and into an open area bounded by rocks and pools. Chico nosed the boat into some calm water behind the rocks and got out of the boat. We watched as he hunted around and then got on his knees and prised some sort of fresh water snail off the rocks under the water line. He cracked them open with the handle of his machete and produced a thin, whip-like stick, a 4ft length of mono and a small hook, to which he attached his prize.

Rather than start fishing he thrashed the water with the tip of his ‘rod’ to attract fish and then dangled his snail bait. A couple of minutes later he pulled a 4 inch fish that I didn’t recognize onto the rocks. Jeff and I jumped out, found some snails and joined in. Half an hour later Chico had 10 fish of 4 different species on the rocks and we set off back into the swirling waters. Jeff and I had caught 1 fish between us!

We found a nice pool and drifted slowly with 6 ft 6 inch Loomis Bass rods, multiplier reels and 80lbs braid, the business end being a 10/0 circle hook and a chunk of fish on the end. A 10 inch wire trace and a sinker rounded off the set up. We dropped the leads onto the bottom and drifted and soon encountered Piranha. Not the little hand sized jobbies, but big 5 to 7lbs Black Piranha. Great fun on light tackle. We must have caught 50 or so before we got ‘bored’ and decided to try for some bigger fish. We kept a couple as bait and put the rest back to annoy us another day.

Redtail Catfish

Redtail Catfish

We had already had some success with the Amazon’s 1,200 plus species of Catfish. Notably the very striking and solidly built Red Tailed Catfish. On much heavier rods we had caught them from 10 to 70lbs and what a fight! These Amazon fish are solid, not the floppy, slimy European jobs. In addition to the resident species of Peacock Bass, acrobatic Saber- toothed Payara, Corvina, Bicuda, Piranhas and so on, we caught many other catfish species.

Jeff was buggering around with his bait. Mine was chewed up by Piranhas and the steel trace and clip a bit mangled by their powerful jaws, but I dropped it to the bottom while I waited. A gentle run started and I said to Jeff ‘Here we go…’ the run didn’t stop though and got faster. I pointed the rod at the fish and clicked into gear. Nothing happened – the run just went on but with enormous power.

Chico knew what was up and started the engine seconds before my braid ran out and off we went, me winding hard to keep in contact with the fish. I wish I hadn’t! Something very powerful and totally unstoppable went mad when I really put pressure on. He hadn’t really known he was hooked before.

Big 100 yds plus runs developed and with a fully bent rod I could make no impact on him at all. This was pretty much how it went for the first hour. When directly over him there was absolutely no give in him at all. Jeff reckoned there was no difference in him than when I hooked him and was starting to suggest I might have to cut the line as we would never be able to land anything this powerful on such light tackle.

‘No. Let’s just try and see what we have first’, I said. I just wanted to see the fish and then decide.

Still I couldn’t make any impression on him. I remembered my Dad telling me once, when Salmon fishing in Scotland, that to just hold a fish invited disaster. ‘Get sideways onto him and keep pulling his head round’ he advised. I asked Chico to STAY AWAY from the fish. I didn’t want to be any closer than 30 yards and at an angle. Once on position I lowered the rod to one side and pulled hard but very slowly. Slowly he came round, but he didn’t like it and shot off on another big run.

We caught up with him again and did the same. By this time it was hot, I was being passed bottles of water and lit fags, had water poured over my head and was soaked in sweat. But it worked and the fish responded like a puppy on a lead. Albeit a pretty huge puppy! Smaller runs of 30 to 50 yards came and by some miracle, with the braid under enormous pressure, it never touched a rock or snag.

Soon he was close to the boat and we saw a huge swirl deep under the surface. I gave him an extra strong head pull and then lifted.

‘Bloody Hell !’ from me and a ‘WOW’ from Jeff. The biggest freshwater fish I had ever seen broke the surface. It was a Giant Piraiba catfish. The world record, recorded by IGFA was broken on this river in 2007 and weighed in at 295lbs of solid muscle.

Right. Now I was really fired up! Plan B was now to try and land him. Small problem was that there were no beaches, just steep banks rocky outcrops and jungle…What to do??

Two of our chums from camp hove round the corner in their boat. I waved them to come over. ‘Have a look at this baby’ I shouted. They came over but kept their distance as he was still doing 20 to 30 yard runs. I pulled him gently up so he showed on the surface and they could get a look. Retired surgeon Joel Adler (Doc Joel) had been in on the earlier year’s world record catch and he just said that we should try and get a rope round him so we could drag him onto some rocks and measure him.

Well. By now I was getting blasé and the Cat was doing pretty much as I wanted. I hauled him close to the boat and Chico undid our mooring rope and on a pass he tried to get the rope round the Cat’s huge tail.

Well, that went well ! He shot off like a fresh fish, soaking us in water. I tried to pull him round and the rod responded unhelpfully by snapping 2 thirds of the way up! Now I had a problem!!

I retrieved the top section, everything was still connected and I could still bring him close enough to try and get the rope on him. Problem was, he simply didn’t like that! I called to Joel and his guide carefully brought his boat over. Joel had a big game rod and a massive 15/0 hook on 200lbs steel wire. We lifted the fish’s head and literally hooked him in the mouth to guard against another run. He was docile though with his head out of the water and Chico managed to slip the boat’s rope over his head and secure him !

High 5’s all round as this was a mainly American group. I was the token Pom.

We gingerly towed him to a group of rocks and Chico and I jumped out and pulled him on to the biggest rock. He was huge! Joel kindly said that he had seen the previous world record landed and this guy was bigger. Very kind of him, but we’ll never know. I was focused on releasing him safely and wasn’t going to take a chance by trying to weigh him. After taking some pictures we slid him off the rock and he swam away strongly.

2 hours and 10 minutes it took from start to finish . The most exciting fish I had ever caught and by far and away the best fight. It was like a game of chess in a way….

Good old G. Loomis will replace my rod for free and I will return to the Amazon in search of the other 1,195 species of catfish I didn’t catch !! This river has 8 world records of different fish in 4 years. They are being broken year on year and we have only fished a tiny part of it. Watch this space !

It started with a snail !!

Tony Williams travelled to Brazil and the Amazon with Paul Reiss, owner of Acute Angling. He joined the Rio Travessao exotic species variety trip operated in the northern Amazon highlands.

Acute Angling – Official Website

Amazon World Records

April 15, 2011
It’s no secret to us that the Amazon holds the biggest exotic gamefish you can find, as evidenced by our numerous record catches over the years (detailed below). Can you imagine what strength it took to bring in that 295 pound Piraiba catfish or that 109 pound Jau? (Both of which, incidentally, were caught by Russell Jensen – you can view a video montage of his record catches with Acute Angling at the bottom of this entry.)

We’re often asked, “Where are the biggest fish located and why?” To put it simply, you’ll find the biggest fish, particularly peacock bass, only in the Amazon basin. The IGFA all tackle record for Cichla temensis (the largest of the peacock bass genus) is 27 pounds, and they often weigh in over 20 pounds. These trophy fish can’t thrive in waters that go below 72 degrees, so you’ll find them in the tributaries of the Rio Negro, Rio Orinoco, Rio Branco and some tributaries of the Rio Madeira and not in Peru, Bolivia, Florida or anywhere else.

Acute Angling’s Amazon Exotic Species records with IGFA
Species Scientific Name Weight Angler Trip Year Type Status
Pescada Plagioscion squamosissimus 11 lbs. 4 oz. Russell Jensen Rio Travessao 2009 AT* Current
Piranha Serrasalmus rhombeus 7 lb and up Russell Jensen Rio Travessao various AT Past
Piranha Serrasalmus rhombeus 8 lbs. 7 oz. Russell Jensen Rio Travessao 2008 AT Current
Apapa Pellona castelnaeana 7 lb. 0 oz. Paul Reiss Rio Caura 2003 LC* Past
* Note –     A T = All Tackle Record      LC = Line Class Record

Acute Angling’s Amazon catfish records with IGFA
Species Scientific Name Weight Angler Trip Year Type Status
Piraiba Brachyplatystoma filamentosum 295 lb. 8 oz. Russell Jensen Rio Travessao 2007 AT* Current
Jau Zungaro zungaro 109 lb. Russell Jensen Rio Urariquera 2005 AT Current
Jundia Leiarius marmoratus 25 lb. 12 oz. Russell Jensen Rio Travessao 2008 AT Past
Jundia Leiarius marmoratus 28 lb. 11 oz. Russell Jensen Rio Travessao 2009 AT Current
Redtail Phractocephalus hemioliopterus 70 lb. 8 oz. Paul Reiss Rio Alegria 2003 LC* Past
Redtail Phractocephalus hemioliopterus 16 lb. 6 oz. Russell Jensen Rio Urariquera 2005 LC* Past
Jandi Rhamdia sebae 9 lb. 8 oz. Russell Jensen Rio Urariquera 2003 AT Current
* Note –     A T = All Tackle Record      LC = Line Class Record

Acute Angling’s Amazon catfish record with the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame
Species Scientific Name Weight Angler Trip Year Status
Jundia Leiarius marmoratus 23 lb. 8 oz. Larry Larsen Rio Travessao 2008 Current

Russell Jensen’s video montage of record fish caught with Acute Angling:

Acute Angling – Official Website