Thursday, 3 September 2015

Canal Chub — Checks and Balances

'Jim Sidebottom was fishing the Coventry Canal when a chub 22 inches long took a liking to his lobworm hook bait. 
Jim didn’t have any scales or a camera with him but estimated the fish at 9lb, and the catch was witnessed by two other anglers. Whatever its true weight it’s another example of the potential of the Midlands canal network'.

This report from the Total Fishing website intrigued me. Wouldn't it intrigue you if you were me, lived just a stone's throw from the water in question, and by way of local towpath gossip had gained a very good idea of where it was banked? 

Simon Daley and his big Stour chub
A 9lb chub is a very, very big fish indeed. But at 22 inches just does not seem long enough to me. I'd say somewhere between 23-25 would be about right for such a fish with normal body proportions. However, I have seen a 7lb chub up close because it fitted into my roach net (22 inches long from spreader to frame) and quite comfortably for the purposes of weighing. That fish was from the Dorset Stour and caught by Simon Daley on a size 20 hook to one pound bottom. It was remarkably short, but very, very broad and deep . It had all the proportions of a small carp. 

Nice cropping, Hatt...

So I went back through the blog archive (my essential and indispensable log) to the very first month and the account of the capture of my largest ever chub — a fish that I weighed at 5lb 9oz.

It was approximately 22.5 inches in length and 5.5 inches deep gauged against the 4.5 inch width of the Okuma centre-pin reel in the picture. But that fish was weighed on luggage scales. I bought them from Lidl on the way to the Severn at Montford Bridge where it was banked.

I think they may have been the first set of scales I ever owned!

I still have them hanging in the shed as a curiosity and am glad that I kept them by as such. Because just a little later and thinking that reading a little low for what was a really chunky fish, I proved them to be some way out of whack and bought a new set I could rely upon...

This train of thought precipitated my annual scales check. So I got all my current sets out, hammered a nail into the shed door frame to ensure absolute verticality and stability, and then checked each in turn and one against the other with a 2lb weight. 

Maximum capacities left to right.  4lb — 32lb — 11lb

All were fine, accurate, and most importantly they were in agreement giving readings just over 2lb because of the thick Lidl carrier bag used as a sling. And so my long standing PB roach weighed at 1lb 15oz 8dr on the rotary set still stands. 

Still can't squeeze that extra half ounce!

4lb brass Salter in 1 ounce divisions — 2lb weight plus carrier bag

Out of curiosity I then slung the 2lb weight beneath the luggage scales when I received the shocking news of the incredible underestimate of just 1lb 4oz...

Imagine what excess baggage charges must have damaged the shallow wallets of hapless Lidl customers having relied upon these contraptions at Heathrow!

Next I slung exactly 5lb 9oz beneath one of the good sets and checked it against another. Agreed weight. Then slung that weight beneath the Lidl set. Oh dear! 'Some way out of whack' is just what they were and at some considerable margin under.

So I added bits and pieces to the bag hung below the dodgy set to have it read 'exactly' 5lb 9oz and then hung that weight beneath the good sets. 

Crane 50lb set in half-pound divisions reading approximately 5lb 9oz. here or there!

11lb brass Salter in 2 ounce divisions accurately reading 6lb 5oz for the previous Crane 'estimate'.

6lb 5oz!!!

Good grief. That's quite a chub PB for a Coventry angler. Shame I'm stuck with 5lb 9oz till I beat it with a fish weighed on the good ones! There's no backtracking, I'm afraid. 

But at least I do know my current sets are all performing perfectly in tune and singing the same hymn...

So. About that chub report. Can it be believed? 

Well, 22 inches is not nearly enough length for a 9lb chub to my mind. 6-7lb perhaps, and at very best. Still, that's a very large and desirable fish and one that I'd love to have on my PB list. But not a potential record shaker, I think. 

What do I know? I've never seen a big old Coventry Canal chub, have I?

But I do have reports of where one or two might live. 

And they're not so very far away... 

PS. Mick Newey's comment with a link to the Chub Study Group proved useful. I drew a median average line through the table and got a reading of an average weight of 6lb 12oz for the length of 22.5 inches. It was a summer capture, and though a chunky fish across the back, probably not at full late winter weight in the belly. So I think 6lb 5oz more than reasonable for it. Subtract up to half an inch for good measure and it still seems spot on.

Still can't and won't claim it though!


  1. This any help Jeff ?

    Talking of Chub, I'm yet to crack 5lb since I've started weighing fish and I've caught hundreds. of them, I'm hoping this winter after a tip-off I'll get the monkey off my back.

    1. Very useful, Mick. I've updated to include it. It was six-pounder for certain. Always thought it was and this proves it to me. It would have to have been a skinny wretch to weigh just five-nine at that length

  2. Oh and talking of scales I've dumped my second set of Reuben Heaton Flyweight Mk2's fed up of the accuracy and the build quality. I thinking of maybe giving some Avon's a go if I can find a decent set.

    1. Avon's are brilliant scales Mick and I've pretty much stolen my dad's set now, they are as accurate as I think you can get dial wise, the ruebens mk2 are okay but I find they are out by usually an ounce against the Avon's, but where can you buy new ones or are they even still produced??

    2. Ebay sadly but I've heard good things about them, I just couldn't get on with the Mk2's and both had to be held together with elastic bands, I usually stick with my Reuben digital and Korum digitals which weigh exactly the same. It's weighing small dace for example where I'd like something a bit more visual. Decent balance scales also seem few and far between these days.

    3. I think I used to 'own' a borrowed set. Very good and very stable for dial scales.

  3. A very intriguing story Jeff, its stories like this that get my ears pricking up, canals have always proved difficult for me but a Chub of that size would be beyond a fish of a lifetime but almost catching the impossible. I don't think I'd have enough time to invest in to tackle such a mammoth undertaking, only for the faint hearted, but you on the other hand have a water with proven existence of such monstrous creatures.

    I myself will be on the Throop after just that very fish, a well proportioned early season Chub and a 6lb specimen will be the target....but another 2lb Roach would certainly not go a miss with a miracles chance of a 3lb specimen. We shall see but what Saturday brings.

  4. I'm still staggered by the pictures of Neill Stephen's Chub, now THAT did look every bit 9lb.

    1. Not seen it, I'll google it when I get a chance, the Lea in Broxbourne has got monster Chub but the winter and early spring is the time to target them

  5. I'm going Saturday morning, going to target some specific areas on beats 1&2 so let's hope I manage to catch, although I strangly feel confident.

    1. You'll do well, and if you don't then you'll learn. You may seem lucky, but I know how hard you work at being lucky!

      Simon's fish was taken on trotted single red maggot. So was Keith's six pounder the same morning. If nothing is doing any other way you could do worse than fish that approach, don't you think?

  6. Really interesting Jeff. Like you I weighed my biggest chub from the Avon at Barford on a dodgy set of scales. I took the precautionary approach and settled on 5lb8oz but I was sure it was a 6. Just looked back at the photo and at approx. 23inches long and 5 inches deep your chart suggests my instinct was right.
    If only I had the scales I have now, back then... Bugger!
    All the best. James

  7. James, what can you do? They have to stand when weighed badly. You can't rewind!

    I was completely ignorant, Thought they'd be correct. Trusted them. I no longer trust any set that hasn't had its thoroughgoing annual MOT. Too much at stake.

    You live and you learn...

  8. I don't buy them but often take a look in the weeklies during the weekly food shop. Cov canal featured in the AT's where to fish the other day, the chub fishing especially being highlighted.

    1. Oh yeah? Where did they mention as likely stretches? Gypsy Lane will be one of them I reckon. Bridges 17-18 perchance?

    2. Sorry, I can't recall but there was a photo of a Matchman with a catch of five or six good fish.

    3. Yes, they win matches. The Coventry Winter League held on certain semi-rural stretches is usually won by the lucky fella who draws the right chub peg on the day. It's who draws middle of the big bream shoal in the city area matches though. 40lbs is possible and has been achieved. The two either side get second and third, of course. Everyone else scratches what they can in the way of roach.

      I think they usually employ chopped worm and caster with half a lobworm hook bait for the chub. At least that's what bags best total weights. I think another way may be more productive of the really big fish though. I heard many get smashed up by big fish. That won't be carp, I'm sure.. Not round here.

  9. Just been re-reading John Etherington's chub & roach book and he refers to chub 5lbers being 20-22" long and to Dick Walker finding a dead one 27" long estimated at 9lbs, but he also flags the variation by referring to a 19.5" fish that only went 3.9.0 taken at the same time as a 5.1.0 fish at 20.5" long. So it seems a bit hit and miss to a degree I guess...not that I have any experience of five pounders of course!

  10. Chub with their tubular bodies seem extremely variable compared to compressed fish like roach. You can estimate a roach fairly accurately just from length measurements. It won't be so very far out. Chub though, I wouldn't dare draw up a length to weight relationship chart! It would be useful only for average fish. Carp are similar. They can pile on huge girth.

    The CSG chart illustrates that point. I don't the extremes are possible but an average is, but only just

    I once caught a brace of chub from the upper Avon at same length but more than a pound difference between them both. It was obvious why. One was very old and lean.

    The estimate for a 22 inch fish at 9lbs seems way too high. Three anglers witnessing and agreeing on a weight but none possessing a set of scales suggests wide eyed astonishment at a very large chub on the bank but also a certain credulity. It must have been outside their realm of experience.