Coarse Fishing in Spain by Philip Pembroke

Information about places to go fishing on the river Ebro in Spain

Buscalo, July 2007
The River Ebro has a reputation for being Spain’s finest angling destination. It’s certainly the largest single expanse of water and begins its journey near Santander in Northern Spain; winding its way through La Rioja and past Zaragoza, Aragón’s regional capital before exiting into the Mediterranean via a huge delta area, located on the southern limit of Catalonia, equidistant between Barcelona and València.

Information about places to go fishing on the river Ebro in Spain isn't hard to come by. Stories of fishermen, consistently catching carp above 10kg and often up to 16kg are not unfounded. In fact, last year the unofficial Spanish carp record was broken on the lower River Ebro near Mequinensa. The fish exceeded 35kg.

This type of fishing will certainly appeal to a minority of dedicated specimen anglers who are patient enough to invest large amounts of time by the river bank. However, even for the pleasure angler ground baiting really pays off.

A hundred-weight of halibut pellets, offered as loose feed, certainly gets results but can prove expensive for most anglers’ pockets. A good alternative is chopped luncheon meat and large tins of sweet corn. The ingredients for ground bait mix are less important than the strategy used to attract fish.

A catfish fishing guide once told me that he would bait up a whole series of swims with pellets at least one week before the arrival of his clients. Over this bed of ground bait he would instruct his client to cast their live-bait or pellet hook bait and they would often strike into a large fish just a few seconds later. If the first swim was empty he took them, in his boat to the next one he had pre baited. The client would go away thinking that the river was full of fish and that anywhere they cast good bites would occur. Information about places to go fishing on the river Ebro in Spain frequently comes from expert anglers with years of experience.

The pleasure angler hasn’t the time or inclination to prepare so far in advance but a sufficient amount of ground bait on a river this big, and once you’re down on the water, it’s a big channel (you can fit 15 River Seguras across its width) placed in the right swims gets results. At least one large bucket of ground bait mix, made up of ingredients purchased from the local supermercado including particle bait like chickpeas and beans, is cheap and effective.

Many large carp are advertised as caught on this or that brand of boilie (a commercial bait product made from reconstituted artificial foodstuffs well known anglers are paid by the manufacturer to say so. In reality a significant proportion of these specimen carp are hooked using alternative baits like chickpeas (a good choice of hook bait for method feeder style of fishing) that can be marinated overnight in garlic or cake mix to concentrate their flavour.

For millennia Spanish anglers have used almonds and olives to great effect. So in the face of massive marketing campaigns, by tackle manufacturers, don’t discount those hook baits that can be found, for nothing in the trees surrounding your finca (small Spanish farm). Hard fighting barbel, caught on the River Muga, are particularly fond of snails found on the underside of bamboo stalks growing from the riverbank.

I paid a visit to the River Ebro last May with a friend, we had just played a game of rugby and caught the coastal train down from Sants station, in Barcelona to Tortosa, a great value two hour journey.

Big catches are not guaranteed and so it proved on our fishing trip. The river ran very clear and high at scenic Xerta, twenty minutes drive up the valley, so I knew we would experience a had a hard time attracting bites. After three hours we had bagged one small fish each.

The enormous size of the River Ebro means that a good number of different factors can decide the quality of the fishing on any given day. Everything is on a larger scale than anywhere else in Spain, the winter and spring floods can prove devastating (check out the limigraf on the church wall in the square at Xerta for flood records levels going as far back as 1617). And the shear number of dams (presas) means that river flow is completely regulated along it lower course.

The rise and fall of water level does play a significant part in fish behaviour. But it can work to the angler’s advantage. Water is released from dams, every evening to create HEP for the evening meal. As the water level rises, further downstream this washes food into favourite swims that triggers a feeding response in the fish. Take advantage of local knowledge and bag up. My best fish have come in these conditions taking large carp just under my rod tip about 6-10 pm in summer.

The Ebro is a great fishing river because of the variety of fish species that can be caught. They include zander over 8 kg, sea bass, and enormous mullet, American largemouth Black bass to name but a few. Tactics will vary but spinning with a good selection of lures is very popular if you get tired of playing the waiting game for that elusive large carp. Information about places to go fishing on the river Ebro in Spain is improving every year, as more anglers discover one of Spain's best coarse fisheries.

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