Whisker SheatfishThe wels catfish, also called sheatfish or just wels, is a large species of catfish native to wide areas of central, southern, and eastern Europe. It is a freshwater fish recognizable by its broad, flat head and wide mouth. Wels catfish can live for at least fifty years.
It has been introduced to Western Europe as a prized sport fish and is now found from the United Kingdom east Kazakhstan and China south to Greece and Turkey. It is a freshwater fish recognizable by its broad, flat head and wide mouth. Wels catfish can live for at least fifty years.
The wels catfish lives in large, warm lakes and deep, slow-flowing rivers with soft bottoms. It requires water that is oxygen-rich, moderately hard, and about 20 degrees Celsius. It is predatory and its diet consists of fish, frogs, crustaceans, and sometimes birds.
The wels catfish have been introduced to many different areas of the world for aquaculture purposes or as sporting fish. For example, it was introduced into some reservoirs in France in the 1980s, to create a recreational fishery. Releases or escapes have also created feral populations in some other areas. It is regarded as an invasive species in both New Zealand and the United States, where it is illegal to possess without a permit.
All wels catfish are born with two pairs of defensive sharp spines. These are detached from the fish's back about two months after birth, leaving distinctive circular wounds. In addition to this, both male and female wels catfish have three sets of sharp teeth on the sides of their mouths which can inflict serious injuries to humans who are bitten by them.
The wels catfish is highly esteemed as a sport fish in Europe. Special tournaments are regularly organized for fishing this species. The largest wels catfish ever caught is 4.02 meters long, weighed 97 kilograms, and was caught in France in 1989. Wels catfish are very aggressive when it comes to feeding time, but are otherwise peaceful fish. They can live for at least fifty years, which is exceptionally long for a large freshwater fish.