The start of February 2013 saw Black Cat test anglers and wels guides Stefan Seuß and Benjamin Gründer and their guests head to the middle reaches of the Po. The wels camps on the river are normally closed at this time of year as the angling season does not start until the beginning of March.
However, Bernhard Heiner, manager of the renowned ‘Welscamp am Po’, opened his camp to the anglers, allowing them to safely store their cars and luggage.
Stefan Seuß, Benjamin Gründer and guests spent seven days on the banks of the Po. And the anglers were subjected to harsh weather conditions throughout the trip. Heavy snow, snowstorms that tore through tents, daily temperatures below zero and water temperatures dropping rapidly from 6 to 3.8 degrees all made the trip a challenging undertaking. The banks of the Po were covered in a thick layer of snow, causing many tents to collapse under the snow load.
It was clear to Stefan Seuß that water temperatures below the 10-degree mark would mean few bites yet the chance of a really big predator. Based upon his experiences and observations from recent years, Stefan even believes that, similarly to pike and zander, wels can be successfully fished for all year round. Their active phases may be shorter in winter as the fish require a longer period for energy conversion, but wels continue to eat even at temperatures below 6 degrees.
The specimen hunters drifted during the day, fishing close to bottom using vertical rigs, while at night, they fished from the bank using underwater float set-ups with deadbaits. Fishing in the biting cold proved tougher than anticipated. Rods and reels were constantly covered with a layer of ice while the anglers’ fingers were numb after just a few hours on the water. However, in spite of all that, the incredible came true and the anglers’ dedication on the water yielded a total of nine wels. These included three giants wels measuring 228cm, 233cm and 234cm.