- The story of the one that didn’t get away.
Anyone who knows a fishing enthusiast has heard the story of that one that got away. But Ditch Ballard can now proudly tell a story about how it didn’t.
In January, the British Fisherman was vising Ebro River in Spain hoping to catch some carp. But he ended up hooking more than he bargained for with his rod.
He managed to catch a gigantic 200-pound catfish. It was an hour-long battle with the veritable leviathan but, in the end, Ballard emerged victorious.
“It was the biggest battle of my fishing career, yet I wouldn’t wish it on anyone!” the fisherman admitted on his Instagram.
Let’s listen to his account of this incredible catch.
A painful hour
Ballard was visiting Spain in January. He was stationed by the Ebro River in the north of the country, looking for notable smaller catch — carp.
And while a true fisherman doesn’t give a hoot or a holler about the weather, the conditions by the Ebro were far from ideal.
“With an air temperature of 26°F, the wind chill actually made it feel unbearable on that January night,” said Ballard.
Suddenly, something took the bait. Ballard knew immediately that whatever had swallowed his hook was no carp.
“The bend in the little 10-foot rod suggested I was likely attached to a catfish!” he wrote.
At first, he tried to reel his catch in, but the task proved hopeless. The enormous beast at the end of the line kept struggling and ripping, and it looked like it would soon tear itself free.
“Line was uncontrollably ripping off the reel so I untied my boat and set sail,” Ballard wrote.
But in his hurry to bring his catch to land, he forgot to fetch his hat and shoes from his tent. He soon came to regret that.
Ballard found himself in the middle of the Ebro, huddling in his tiny boat in the near-freezing air. Water splashed into the boat and onto him, and hypothermia began to settle in.
“The next hour was simply painful,” admitted Ballard.
“As my muscles fatigued and the adrenaline wore off, my body temp began to crash, and I found myself crouched in the bottom of the boat trying to hold on whilst shivering uncontrollably.”
As a perfect example of how cold it was, Ballard had a moment of panic when noticed that his line was fraying.
Except it wasn’t. The “fraying” was simple icy slush forming on the wet braiding.
‘I Needed This Battle to be Over’
After a freezing hour of struggle, Ballard’s leader knot emerged from the darkness. He knew he had almost won the battle but then he realized yet another problem.
As if in a fairy tale, the giant fish had dragged his small boat way offshore.
“I was now [nearly a mile] from home!” Ballard wrote.
What was he to do? What else — he pulled on his frozen gloves with great effort and began to reel the fish in.
“I NEEDED this battle to be over one way or another, so I just pulled with all I had left in me. Each time the fish ran, I nearly lost a digit, as by this time my hands were so cold they weren’t really doing what my brain was telling them,” the fisherman recalled.
Yet, finally, he saw it. A gigantic catfish, more than eight feet in length, looming just below the surface.
“I managed to get a hand on its jaw. I was physically and mentally exhausted but had to give one last push to secure my prize,” wrote Ballard.
With a heave, he pulled the 200-pound monster on board. He was, exhausted, and shivering, but he’d won.
“As the sun crept up a couple of hours later, a harsh ground frost cloaked everything in white. I cradled this mammoth creature for a moment and wondered how I was ever going to beat it in fresh water…
“Thinking about it now, I’m not sure I ever want to!” he concluded.
Big But Not Big Enough
Ballard’s catch is no doubt one behemoth of a fish. But if you’re anything like us, you will have thought to yourself: “Did his 200-pounder set any kind of a record?”
Unfortunately, no. This is not to diminish Ballard’s achievement, but the catfish he caught is small fry compared to the current world record holder.
According to Guinness World Records, the biggest catfish ever caught is a Mekong giant catfish caught by a Thai villager in 2005. This absolute monstrosity was nine feet long and weighed a staggering 646 pounds.
Yet, that’s an entirely different type of catfish, so you can’t really compare it to Ballard’s catch. Congratulations to him — he sure has one hell of a fishing story to tell now, and the pictures to prove it.