On the Societys Melbourne trip in July, one of the ANGFA members there expressed an interest in obtaining Tandanus tandanus (Catfish or Dewfish) to photograph. We were looked after very well whilst in Melbourne and because I enjoy fishing, I told him that every effort would be made to collect some specimens.
The Friday after the Melbourne trip, the entire garden around our house was upset with a shovel to extract as many earthworms as possible and because of recent wet weather, this was no problem. The next day, all necessary camping, fishing and fish transporting equipment was packed in my PAJERO Four Wheel Drive. The best place to catch Catfish near Canberra is Wyangla Dam, which is located about 45 kilometres Northeast of Cowra. My wife, Robyn, and I left Canberra about 2 p.m. and were setting up camp on the water's edge just as the sun disappeared behind a big hill at the rear of our campsite. The trip was a good test of our new Four Wheel Drive vehicle, as the area had a couple of deep gullies and a lot of large granite boulders which made progress slow. Robyn cooked dinner while I attached hooks and sinkers to the four small fishing rods.
The rods were all about six feet long and the reels were spooled with a four to six pound monofilament. I used six number four long shank hooks with a minimum amount of lead sinker, just enough to cast the bait about twenty feet from the bank. I walked a few paces from the campsite to the water's edge, then, with the aid of a torch, threaded two or three fat wriggly worms onto each rig and threw them out into the cold, black as ink, night. Each one of the rods was set up along the bank about ten feet apart with them being supported by a small stick stuck in the mud.
The waiting was made very easy by a nice big fire, Robyns good cooking and a couple of cans of Fosters for dessert. After dinner we went to check the rods - all of the lines were pulled tight and were snagged on underwater obstacles. I re-rigged all the lines and cast them back into the water, this time I held one of the rods in my hand, in no time at all I had a plump Cyprinus carpio (European Carp) on the bank. The time spent waiting by the rods was not very pleasant, by 8 p.m. there was already a heavy frost on the ground, so the procedure was to warm up by the fire for ten minutes and spend ten minutes cooling down by the fishing rods. By 10 p.m. I had caught three Catfish: all were 12 to 15 inches long and the chilly night air got the best of me, so I packed it in for the night.
When the three captured specimens were placed in the garbage bin and the aerator turned on, the next problem was to keep them from freezing. The dam water was 11C and the air temperature was definitely below freezing. I had to decide whether to leave the bin partly submerged in the dam throughout the night risking the wind blowing up which would cause waves that would turn the bin over, or to put them in the vehicle and risk the little fellows getting frostbite. There was a slight breeze blowing, so I chose to put them in the vehicle. When I went to check on them in the morning, all three were lying on their side and I thought the worst, the fish looked dead but were still a little limp. A water change was carried out just to see if that would help, and in about an hour all three were swimming about, apparently revived from their semi-frozen state.
The Catfish have three poisonous spines, if you are unlucky or careless enough to be spiked by them. They won't make you ill, but it is very painful and sometimes the affected area will remain sore for a couple of days.
The three fish are currently residing in Canberra. One is at "The Tackle Box" fishing tackle store in Oatley Court, Belconnen, swimming around in a large display aquarium. One is at the Lakes Ecology Labs in Kingston and the other is awaiting transport to his new home in Melbourne.
Tandanus tandanus has a large range on this continent, they are found in the South Australian Gulf area, throughout the Murray Darling River System and east of The Great Dividing Range from South of Sydney to the North of Cairns. They can withstand temperatures as low as 4C and as high as 35C. This Catfish is easy to keep in captivity and transports well. For those of us that eat our friends, they are also highly regarded as a table fish. Put a tandanus in your tank and he will settle down very quickly, temperature is not important, pH does not matter as long as the water is clean. These Catfish do not have any scales and appear to break out in sores if kept in a polluted environment.
They will eat pieces of the tail from the bait prawn, earthworms, small fish and SNAILS (they even dig up burrowing snails). They are peaceful towards fish that wont fit into their mouths but will outgrow all but very large aquariums.
The best time of the year to capture small specimens is from November through to March. Anyone in the Society interested in putting a tandanus in a tank, see me and we will arrange to go and catch some in November when the weather and Wyangla Dam have warmed up considerably. Fish collecting is fun and every fish in your aquarium that you have collected has a good story to go with it.
So, in finishing, that's my breeding tale - I hope you enjoyed reading my experiences with these wonderful fish.
There is further information on this species on the Cat-eLog page.
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