Sunday, 13 January 2013

British Canal Records — Battle of the Billies

Two contenders for British record canal perch were brought to my notice a couple of days ago and what great fish they are. Dan Sales had one at 4lb 4oz from the Grand Union, probably in

Dan Sales carries the cover of Angling Times with his big billy
... but Sam Edmonds fishing the urban Lea had one that at Keith Arthur's reckoning went half an ounce more...

Video still of Sam Edmonds with his contender for 'Billy of the Cut'
Dan Sales fish is a bona fide canal fish but I'm really not sure if Sam Edmonds fish is because the video states he was fishing the 'River' Lea and if so then it's a river fish and not eligible. Trouble is I have great trouble telling one part of the Lea from another, it being a vast and bamboozling network of canals, rivers and canalised rivers that join, merge and separate from one another all the way from Hertford Castle Weir to the Thames at Limehouse. Just because it's got a steel revetment, a towpath and narrow boats floating on it doesn't necessarily mean it's a canal. 

So, is it a canal perch or not? If not then it's a very nice fish indeed but no great shakes competing against those from the Thames and Great Ouse but if it's a canal specimen then it's the largest known. Erring on the side of caution I'm inclined to have Dan Sales as the record holder because there's no confusion in that case — the Grand Union is a canal pure and simple. Where Sam Edmonds caught his looks to be around the Clapton/Tottenham area to me, but if anyone can identify the actual location and say for sure that it is a true canal there, then the record is his. 

My Thanks to Rob Thompson for bringing both to my attention!


  1. I must have got my weights mixed up Jeff I thought the video one was 4lb 4 too.

    Of course the problem is you just don't know what's been caught. In the case of a national record or a fish close to it you have probably got a very good chance of seeing a report, not so with smaller fish. It's a bit like the Barbel Societies "river record" list, it only lists the fish that folk have asked them to consider and as such it isn't, and can't be, accurate. In that case it actually gets more complex, say if I caught a 14lb Soar barbel, the RR list makes the biggest 13lb 10oz yet I know that the river has done bigger than my 14 so I wouldn't wish of sending it to the BS for consideration.

  2. Jeff - The Kennet & Avon has certainly done big 4lb fish on the canal sections in the Newbury to Reading area. - I'll try and get some idea of potential weights but many of the locals don't publisise their fish.

  3. Absolutely true, Rob. If canal records aren't recognised then big fish go back dismissed as relatively small when set against the national records. I don't think there was any mention of Dan Sales breaking any records in AT, but the story would have been even better if Dan or the AT staff had known about them. Then those who are fishing canals seriously would then have a clear idea about what level they're fishing at when they catch a perch over 4lb 4oz.

    Steve Philips at TCF stated that the 18lb zander from the Cov canal a few months back would have been a 'British canal record' for the species had it not been eaten though, so at least one editor knows what's what! No doubt if Steve was still News Editor at AT the story would have been that of a record canal perch.

  4. I did come across a lot of big fish reports that might have been from that canal Phil, but they were so flimsy I couldn't put my finger on any of them — of course, they'd kept it quiet, as they should. For my purposes, the canal name is enough, actual locations aren't necessary and those where I have given locations were published as such in any case.

  5. Jeff,

    The Lea Perch can be viewed via the Tight Lines Podcast,I think it was the 12/12/2012 programme.

  6. Doh,

    Just seen it at the bottom of the blog.I blame a few pints at lunch time ;-0

  7. The problem with the whole thing, romantic an idea though I completely agree it to be, is that a good number of canals are simply links on rivers to get boats around dodgy aquatic terrain so those fish cannot be truly considered contenders - they contain river fish that have wandered up the man-made arm - but even if you take quintessential canals such as the Grand Union and the Oxford, they too are influenced by rivers from time to time when, say, the Rivers Tove or Cherwell flood and deposit their chub in them and carp vice versa, etc, etc...and we shouldn't see locks at the ends of them as barriers to dispersal as experience tells us they clearly are not

    It's a lovely notion, but perhaps not to be taken too seriously I suspect; you can't even limit it to 'narrow' canals when you realise the Grand Union is categorised as 'broad'. A bit of a teaser all round

  8. Oh, I agree totally George, but anything that elevates canals back to the status they used to enjoy has to be worthwhile, don't you think? They're all river powered miracles of human ingenuity that cross pollinate almost every river system in the country one to the other. But, they have their peculiar separateness that needs to be celebrated with a peculiar separateness of records because there's some serious anglers targeting them nowadays who will require targets based upon them and not the nationals.

    Keith's 2lb silver bream is a case in point. We now have the situation where a really big silver bream is either available at a single day ticket commercial 'down south,' or, we can imagine, because of Keiths' remarkable fish, that a record breaker exists near to almost anyone who lives within spitting distance of a canal — and that's the majority of us.

    I like imagination. It's missing from fishing nowadays sadly.

  9. Monty, I missed out on that Sunday afternoon pleasure today. Best drink of the week in the right pub, cheers.

  10. Yep, I agree, but struggle a bit with the boundaries. I guess if the world is happy to conclude it's simply a case of a fish being caught in a waterway technically defined as a canal then that's it. I just won't be able to sleep this week worrying about the advantage others have on certain canals ;)

    I also need to rewrite my forthcoming post, I fear!

  11. Hi Jeff,

    The Lea is split into normally four types of waterway, the natural river Lea, the relief channels and the Lea Navigation. In my opinion the true canal stretches are those waterways that are man made and the natural river Lea runs alongside. The Lea Navigation is a combination of both natural river and a man-made canal...Its not easy to define!
    Regarding that location I think it is a lot further North beyond Dobbs Weir? I live in Clapton and cannot recognise it, but it does all look quite similar. The clue is the Rye House sign and pub, the Lea meanders more up that end.
    Anyhow I'm off to buy some jiggs!

  12. Yes it is! That's the speedway track over the way with its stands and red flags. I thought for some reason the video was looking North, but it's pointing South as they walk. Looks like it's the main river there, or is that the Lea Navigation?