Friday, 15 February 2013

Canal Zander — Around Midnight

A couple of years ago during the Coventry zander fishing boom when everyone I knew was avidly chasing them up the local cuts, TCF Editor, Steve Philips, filed a report on his blog about one he'd caught after dark. Nothing unusual in that — zander are caught all times of the day and night if you're there when they're on the prowl.

Contrary to popular belief I found you could not only snare them in bright sunlight but that after dark, though very productive on occasion, wasn't necessarily the best time of all. Past midnight or around noon, just so long as you caught their seemingly random feeding spells you'd certainly have a few runs and catch fish.

Coventry Canal zander at night

What was remarkable about Steve's nighttime capture was he took the fish on a lure. Now I thought that an accident at the time, that he'd pulled that bait straight past the nose of a fish who'd reacted to vibrations out of sheer instinct. A lucky break at the end of an otherwise unproductive session you might say...

I'm not so convinced nowadays, in fact I don't believe luck had anything to do with it. It seems that that night fishing with lures might prove to be a sport well worth looking further into because just recently another local angler and good friend, Lee Fletcher, repeated Steve's feat by catching two additional after-dark zeds by the method. Now, one fish could be an accident, three just can't be. It seems that zander really will sight-chase prey under light conditions that rob most fish of their sense of vision, and avidly.

Curious about this seemingly counter-intuitive sport and anxious to have a go myself, around midnight I tackled up my lure rod, took my dogs out the door and walked to a local zander hotspot on the Coventry Canal. They'd enjoy it, I'd enjoy it too, and there was nothing to lose but a succession of expensive lures hooked up on boat tarpaulins and the now invisible overhead telephone wire that passes across the junction.

What surprised me was how very accurate my casting was. I really thought I'd be home in half an hour with a hefty bill for lost lures but though the flight of the lure couldn't be seen, a certain 'knowledge' kicked in that I must have learned over many decades. The cast was calculated, committed to, but the flight sensed in the air by feel. In no time at all I was so confident that I was casting tight to boats with the lure splashing down within a foot of their hulls. My instincts were as sharp as a tack.

Searching the water was fun too. The broad expanse of the junction gave lots of scope for all kinds of techniques to be tried out which was why I'd avoided the narrow stretches further along where short casts would have been the order of the night and dangling branches a recipe for disaster. Sink and draw, tug and judder, slow and low, high and fast, all were possible and all were tried.

Unfortunately on this occasion none produced a fish but I do believe I had an enquiry late on. I tripped on the bottom in one particular place over and over and eventually hooked up to the hundred weight of sodden wooly jumper that proved the culprit. Of course after hauling it to the bank and unhooking I had a few more casts over the same line and felt a kick that might well have been a fish because the lure was in mid-water when it happened.

I didn't connect, but that's zander fishing for you. Not every bite finds a hook hold even when you think there's no possible reason why it shouldn't. However, it was more enough to convince me that another go is on the cards soon because the sport was really fascinating. There's also the question of having started out on the mission to catch a midnight zander by the deceptive arts of lure fishing, of not allowing myself to give up till at least one fish is banked. If my friends can do it, so must I!

Lure fishing at night on the Coventry Canal


  1. Keep at it Jeff, try to keep the lure moving slow and near the bottom as much as possible, and you'll be in with a chance.

    Agree about the nocturnal senses kicking in. I always check for the ringpools to confirm my cast is a good one, and so far I've not snagged up when aiming for features. I think years of barbel fishing at night help with this though.

  2. I'll try shads next time out, Lee. It'll be easier to get them to the bottom without tripping up. Yours were both caught on them I believe?