Friday, 13 February 2015

Lords of the Piscine Punyverse — Confusion Reigns! (Pt 2)

When I got home last week I was chilled to the marrow but quite excited by the unfolding drama I'd experienced.  It had warmed my heart catching such tiny fish by design but those surprisingly large minnows really had set my fishing soul on fire. Setting to work composing a blog, I wrote it up in an hour or so, edited pictures, inserted them and hit the 'publish' button. I thought my minnow interesting but not seriously exceptional. Some considerable way short of the 13.5 dram record, it was big, but not huge.

But I then practiced what I always do after chance discoveries that lead me into hitherto unknown realms, and that is to go into deep delving mode and search Google for every permutation of words about the subject matter I can think of — because it's all out there somewhere, if only you have the patience...

There's wasn't a lot out there on minnow fishing, it has to be said. But then I stumbled across Dr Mark Everard's 2005 capture of a record breaking minnow that was claimed as such according to Mail Online ~

"This was caught by design and is a legitimate British record," he said. "It weighed 15 grams — anything under a pound has to be weighed in grams."

Dr Everard has contacted the British Record Fish Committee, based in Devon, who are to verify the record.

The previous record minnow was caught in Spennymoor, County Durham, and weighed 13.5 grams.

So I went to the official BRFC listings updated in January of this year, where I discovered that his claim had not been ratified, or if it had, then the list had not been updated to include it because the old 1998 record still stood so far as it was concerned. And then I noticed a problem... 

Was the 13.5 gram record in fact 13.5 drams? Dr Everard didn't seemed to think so at the time and the committee seemed to agree according to the Daily Mail. So I went back to the BRFC list where it does not have the record for minnow expressed in grams but in fractions of an ounce. It says quite clearly, 13.5 dms / 0.024 Kilo (24 grams).

Perhaps that's why his claim does not appear? Maybe the original record was deemed correct at 13.5 drams after all and his claim discounted. But, I really don't think a minnow can achieve that weight. Based on the lengths and weights of my fish (14.2 grams and 10.2 cm length) and Dr Everard's too (15 grams and 11.4cm) my initial projections say it would have been something in the order of 7 inches in length (17.8cm) to have attained such enormity, That's about the length of Dr Everard's entire hand from finger tip to wrist.

Can you stretch your imagination so very far that it can picture my minnow with a body the size of a Swiss Army Knife, and then make the enormous leap of faith required to believe in one with a body the size of a Stanley Knife?

You can't do it, can you?

Well, I know I can't...

The record has to be a plausible 13.5 grams. In which case...

Dr Everard's fish wasn't worthy of close attention, ergo, it does not matter that my minnow was worthy of a record claim either. Where would I have got a witness anyhow? Some hapless dog walker accosted by a bearded wild-eyed madman in tweed coat asking for phone number and address in a public park in broad daylight wielding a strapping minnow in his filthy dirty hand!

I had put her back to the water without regret so I cannot be regretful in hindsight. She was only a minnow... But what a minnow she was! I couldn't help wondering if there were others that size down there and perhaps even larger still. I mean, you do wonder these things, don't you? Well, I do when only tenths of a gram shy of a record! And so I found myself having to get a set of scales to do justice to the job because my trusty dace set may do a sterling job of low ounces but had proven impossible to use effectively around the half-ounce notch when the lightest form of weighing sling possible had to be reckoned with too.

Mick Newey kindly donated a set of Salter diet scales (what minnow-sized morsels these pernickety dieters must eat!) Sensitive enough to weigh the tiny worm itself, they seemed just the thing. Properly armed with those plus a pair of vernier calipers, notebook with pencil (ink hates water) to jot the details on and a large jam jar pilfered from the spice shelf in our galley kitchen in which I'd retain specimens (didn't want them spooking the shoal on return, you understand...) I set off to do battle with Their Majesties once again.

Of course, first port of call was the swim fished last week from whence the minnows had arisen where I got to catch its bullheads instead. Hey ho, they'll do for starters! Out came the kit and the fish were put under close scrutiny. Largest went 11.35 gms and was 85mm in length. Smaller than last week's best though...

I saw three hand-sized roach under the brambles (in the picture above, if you can spy them) who refused worms point blank, but perhaps the water was too clear for minnows who were probably hiding themselves away from aerial predators. I did catch three more tiny bullheads each a third the size of the earlier specimen and then two miniscule perch the size of the kind of minnows I was after before I had to move along. Realising that the minnows were not catchable from this swim today, if indeed they hadn't moved out because I saw none at all, the pool upstream seemed best bet.

More bullheads were what it gave up. None of any size though. I couldn't see them being so well camouflaged against the gravely bottom but could witness the worm vanish and the shot drag away as they scuttled back to bolt holes under the rocks and stones with their prizes. I didn't see a single minnow there.  Though the swim usually holds many hundreds. As for gudgeon, the species of fish I'd originally set out for. Well, they didn't show either and so I went home none the wiser with James and Brian short on data and myself with a big fat minnow of a problem to solve.

Where had they gone? To shallow rapid water where the shimmering ripples might hide them from view? Downstream to deeper and slower territory where they might vanish beneath the gloom?

Who knows!

But I intend to find them out.


  1. Glad you can make use of the scales Jeff, looking forward to reading your quest for a monster minnow. I've been eyeing up a local small stream myself, just need to have a word with the farmer.

  2. They work very well, Mick. So sensitive that they had to be shielded from yesterdays blustery wind because it was enough to give false readings. Good luck with the farmer but if you want really small streams out in the country I guess asking permission is the only way.

    1. I need to give the Alne some more attention too, I'm sure there are some big, little fish to be had there and it's a lovely looking river only a stones throw from me. Anyway off to the upper reaches of the mill tomorrow, need to try and register at least a weight for Roach and Dace on my PB list before the season ends. I'll give you a shout in the close season and I'll pop over for a Zander session on the cut if you fancy it, I've been given some info on a mile stretch that might hold some big ones. Four rods will be better than two.

    2. Sure thing. Mick. Getting a double might prove something of a challenge! Worth trying for though and I wish you the best of luck in your close season quest. You never know though. Roger Booth had a nine pounder on only his second attempt and not far from my house either.

  3. Excellent work with the bullheads. Must be the second most difficult native fish to target. I've never caught even one by baited hook. Only a stone Loach would be more difficult surely?

  4. They seem pretty easy to catch for me, Russel. Voracious little blighters they are! Then again, these are the first I ever caught by design. I've had a few others from elsewhere but only accidentally. As for stone loach, even if I knew where they were I wouldn't know how to catch them... Micro baits, very fine lines and tiny hooks I suppose?