Despite freezing, angler lands 222-pound catfish after a half-mile tow

A fisherman braving temperatures below freezing was targeting carp from the banks of the Ebro River in Spain when his “little 10-foot rod” bent in half with line “ripping off” his reel, indicating it was much larger than a carp.

Being an experienced wels catfish angler, Ditch Ballard knew it had to be one of Ebro’s monster catfish, so he untied his 12-foot aluminum boat, climbed in and began what he would later call “the biggest battle of my fishing career.”

The air temperature was around 27 degrees Fahrenheit and the windchill made it more miserable, but Ballard persevered during this nighttime fishing excursion.

“The next hour was simply painful,” he stated on Facebook. “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.

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“At one point panic set in as I thought I could see my braid fraying in the first rod guide, but on closer inspection it turned out to be icy slush forming in all the guides as the wet braid ran through under tension.

“Eventually the leader knot appeared in the darkness and I knew my prize was close. What I didn’t know is just how far I had been towed down river; I was now over 1km (.62 miles) from home!

“I struggled to put on the gloves (they were frozen too!) and began hand lining, putting way more pressure on that Fang X hook than should be possible!

“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.”

Eventually, the 8-foot catfish surfaced and Ballard managed to get a hand in its jaw and secured his trophy catfish.

“It was the biggest battle of my fishing, career, yet I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” he wrote.

The sun was up by the time he put it on a tarpaulin to weigh and measure. After doing so, he released it back into the river, according to the Daily Mail. The catfish was 28 pounds shy of the record for the Ebro River.

Ballard, who runs Ebro Mad Cats specializing on targeting wels catfish and carp on the Ebro River, posted about his catch on Facebook last month. It was well received by his admirers.

“Great catch and I’m sure you deserve every praise,” one wrote. “Sounds like a great battle. Glad you won to tell the story.”

Stated another, “What an amazing experience, one you’ll be able to tell the rest of your life…The signature fisherman’s story.”

Photos courtesy of Ditch Ballard.

Story originally appeared on For The Win