Tuesday, 10 July 2012

British Canal Records - The New Canal Royalty

*Please note, records have been updated in the light of information received after publication

Just recently I've trawled the Internet in search of the largest specimens of the fifteen main coarse species ever caught from the British Canal system. It has been both a labour of love, and a labour of utter frustration! For a time, many lucky people are going to be British record holders without knowing it...

I hold two records myself! For both roach and tench, because I simply cannot find any reliable reports, anywhere, that document any larger than mine. Of course they aren't the biggest ever, a 2lb roach and a 6lb tench simply must have been caught in a canal, even recently, but if they have, then I can't find them.

Now I've done this, because I see that canals are not recognised as legitimate specimen fish venues, and that is entirely because there are no reliable records kept, and therefore there are no targets to chuck a bait at. Every single large fish caught from a canal disappears into the black hole of the British Record Fish List, because none are never quite so big as to worry any of them.

The British system of record keeping for record fish is so narrowly focussed upon the biggest ever caught anywhere, that the biggest caught somewhere particular, is completely glossed over. Only those really interested in certain species, the Tenchfishers club, Barbel Fishing World forum, and carp fanatics too, keep extensive and useful records of the biggest fish caught from particular places. The Tenchfishers, for instance, keep a list of the 50 largest tench ever caught, which is a very useful resource, and the BFW keeps lists of individual river records, which is also, very useful. However, neither have any record whatsoever of canal fish.

So for my purposes, when compiling a list of the largest canal specimens, they yielded no information whatsoever, because no canal tench enters the top 50 list for tench, and the barbel that have been caught from canals have been inexplicably missed out, and no records kept for them.

Luckily, The Specialist Angler's Alliance keep top ten lists of lots of species. And that is a credit to them, for that's where I found the best eel. However, they keep no lists for either crucian or silver bream, which is odd, but true. And, the carp and barbel lists are little use as they seem to be listing serial recaptures from the same strict localities.

The BRFC is the worst offender though. They are the official keepers of the crown jewels, but unfortunately, every time a new claim to the crown is made, and in time, plonked on a lucky angler's bonce, the old crown is dumped in the bin like some tacky tiara, and carted away to landfill never to be seen again. The BRFC don't even have their own website, which is an appalling state of affairs. For gawds sake, they only have a guest page or two on the Angling Trust website, and there only allow us to download the current records in pdf format, but have no historical records to speak of, or if they do, then no publicly available archive that might be useful to researchers.

They should, in this day and age, be keeping extensive records of all the largest specimens caught in individual river catchments, because that is important scientific evidence for the health of the fisheries in those catchments. Personally I think the overall record list is all but redundant, and firmly believe that the important records should be those kept by river catchment, including all the lakes and ponds and drains within them. It makes perfect sense to see fishing in catchment terms, because ultimately, all water courses and bodies within a catchment, are related, one way or the other, and that's because the water that falls from the heavens into the catchment, isn't joined directly to others across the tops of hills and cannot be linked, unless by sea...

The Record fish list even includes fish from Northern Ireland. That's crazy thinking. The only link between Northern Ireland and the British Mainland is a political one. The fish that live over there are simply Irish, not Northern Irish! To their credit, the Irish dissolve the political distinctions between Ireland and Northern Ireland, keep records for fish caught in the entire of Ireland, and don't seek to compete with English, Welsh or Scottish fish either. Presumably that's because they have their heads screwed on, and recognise that the Irish Sea sea presents something of an insurmountable barrier to coarse fish, unless they get there by ship, as did all their roach.

The Scots keep their own records too. But the English don't have any records but the UK records, choosing to keep none that aren't contaminated by fish from across political borders. So, the whole system is in disarray, and it's no wonder that the crowns are somewhat tarnished when a Northern Irish roach has supplanted the true English record set by Ray Clarke on the English Dorset Stour. I mean, we're part of Europe and have been for decades, and that's as much a political union nowadays, as 'The Union' ever was, so if were going to keep records based upon political allegiances, and ignore real geological distinctions, then why not scrap the British Records altogether and subsume them in the European records?

Back to canals. Of course canals do cross catchments, and they are the only waterway that actually can because we built them to do precisely that. They link rivers together in a way that rivers can't achieve on their own, therefore they are a kind of conduit between fish in one catchment and another.

For instance, there's an outfall on The Coventry Canal just around the corner from me that empties into the River Sowe, and another a mile North that empties into a tiny tributary of the River Anker. The Sowe flows into the Warwickshire Avon and then the Severn, the Anker into the Tame and then the Trent. The Severn runs into the Bristol Channel and reaches up into the Welsh hills, and the Trent runs to the North Sea and reaches up into the Peak District. Those two local canal outfalls are the tenuous, but direct water link between one side of the country and the other.

That's where zander got into the Avon, no doubt, and it's how signal crayfish will get there too, and to complicate things further, the Oxford Canal joining the Coventry Canal nearby, joins the Thames and therefore, much of Southern England, to both the Trent and the Severn catchments, hereabouts.

Canals are very interesting watercourses. That they stitch the land together with watery seams that run across both distinct and separate geological divides, and historical political divides too, seems a good reason for a proper list to be put together for them. I think it would be of scientific interest if they were. But it would also be of interest to anglers and give us all something new to aim at.

I can't compare the silver bream I catch from the Coventry canal to those you might catch at Mill Farm in Surrey, because they are entirely unrelated except by dint of their specieshood. However, I can compare my silver bream with yours from almost any canal you care to fish, because the vast majority of our canals are linked together.

The problem is, I can't find any genuinely large canal pike over twenty pounds! The information out there is so garbled, and angler's reports so unreliable, that I've left it open, as I have with dace, grayling, and rudd. The rest are the best I can get. The barbel is decidedly iffy with a weight given in gross pounds, though it's clearly a double-figure fish, and the zander, though pretty damn big, does not look near fourteen pounds to me, and I see the TCF journalist has used some cleverly practiced language to avoid actually backing the claim. Pictures though, are deceiving things, but the chub? Hmmm. Don't know. The picture is so bad I can't tell if it's five pounds, or seven.

Hardly any are verified, and some not even verifiable, except those caught by the blogging community, because their reports are backed up with diary accounts, good pictures, exact weights in pounds and ounces, and a level of honesty, frankness and accountability not found anywhere else, I'm afraid. Not surprisingly, bloggers between them, hold a lot of records because they can be trusted.

Not many will last long though, if I can find better, or you know of better? Till then, those who are newly crowned Royalty of the Canal, enjoy your reigns, while they last!

*Please note, records have been updated in the light of information received after publication


  1. Jeff, you've missed out:

    Tesco Trolley
    Morrisons Plastic Bag
    Branch with unknown amount of old line
    Unusal length of barbed wire.

    Still a sterling effort on your part mate!

  2. Never had a shopping trolley Dave, hooked a few but never put one on the bank yet! There's one under bridge 11 that's broken me and every angler for miles around. A true specimen that...

  3. Hi Jeff

    get in touch with Gary Palmer, chairman of the Lure Anglers Society if you want the zander section updated.

    he can certainly give you more info than i can, but that 13 will be annihiliated...!

    ps love the blog.


  4. Hmmm, Pike - The Bridgewater Canal has definitely produced thirties which have been described online as authenticated. I'll see if I can find anything to expand on this...


  5. KB, I hit a brick wall with the reports from the Bridgewater. No smoke without fire though. I heard of a very big thirty from there but could not authenticate it

  6. James, will do.

    Solid fish on the list is all to the good.

    Cheers. Jeff

  7. Have a peruse of this for your record pike. Manchester Canal and Exeter Canal stand out.
    Also, have a look at this for some real "urban" piking!
    Cheers, Ian.

  8. Cheers Toodle,

    I got a twenty seven in the first scan. Manchester canal. The exeter I came across, but couldn't nail one till now Tomorrow I'll go right through the list see what I can find

    Ta mate.

    The first pic on the second link is well worth a look at. Great photography.


  9. Hi Jeff, great effort.

    Can I make a submission for rudd!? http://canalangler.blogspot.co.uk/p/personal-records.html

    And also own up to having had a reliable report, and seen pictures of a 9lb 4oz bream caught from Exeter Canal by Dave Sellick of Exeter Angling Centre this year. My friend Dominic Garnett has also had a 3lb 2oz perch from Exeter Canal... on the fly.

    Particularly impressed by roach and silver bream! I've never heard of a 2lb canal roach yet.

  10. Russel, I've updated the spreadsheet. You've lost the bream record through sheer honesty, but gained the rudd record! Now, beat my roach record. It has to go. Still can't find one bigger though, and not through lack of looking

    Do you have a link to Mr Garnett's perch?

    Also, what about that 8lb tench you told me about from down your way? Any extra info?

  11. Dave sellick had one of 7lb 8oz recently from Exeter. I'll have a word with him and see what the biggest one he knows of is. Also I know of a wels of 28lb caught from a canal, but I'm sworn to secrecy on all other details! But I've seen the photos and I know the angler. I'll find the link for Dom's Perch, it's in his book too. Rudd was indeed last April.

  12. Thanks Russel, that'd be great.

    I've found a grayling at last, and not any old grayling either, but a Yorkshire record at an impressive 3lb 14oz. None that big in the Cov...

  13. Is that the Driffield canal fish?

  14. Yes it is, did you know of it?

  15. Ha obviously shoulda checked the table, as I can see it is indeed. Read about it in the accidental angler. Btw couldn't agree more with your views on our shambolic record fish lists. Canals vary greatly though, as you say a 4lb bream from yours is a good specimen whereas it'd be below average In Exeter, it would seem. I would think Exeter would hold a lot of the records to be honest - bream, carp, tench, pike. If only we knew for sure! Then there are the canalised rivers, like Lee Navigation, there's some monsters in there...

  16. I've been trying to work out the Lee. I fished it when I lived in Essex once or twice, but it's difficult to pinpoint who owns and controls what nowadays. A right shambles, unless you're local and know it. I'd like to do it by train this winter, but don't want to end up in the wrong place.

    I did hear of a big carp from the Exeter ship canal that might beat the one from the GU

  17. I used to live about half a mile from Enfield Lock, Jeff. Thing is, how do you decide what is canal and what is river? What about flood reliefs? In any case there were big tench, bream (though both very rare, and I never had one) and especially perch there. Bit rough to be honest, when I was younger, if I fished it alone I took my 'cheap' gear. Sorry state of affairs, as it was a cracking hemp water. I think there was pretty much every species of freshwater fish you could get. The usuals, plus ruffe, bleak, dace, zander, and a rainbow trout was caught there in a match once.

    Lee Anglers Consortium control most of it.

  18. Indeed! Have you seen the map of it? There's a London Underground style map of the entire complex. It's unbelievable how complex it is. I knew it was complicated from my days there, but like you say, which bit is which?

    I fished Broxbourne on The Navigation, oh, a million years ago, and looking over a bridge saw the biggest chub. Of course that's what its now most famous for.

    There's a catch of chub by a Sikh guy, Brigepal Singh. Unreal! It's from the Navigation so I reckon it's the canal chub record sewn up for now. Wish they'd have said something more than 8lbs + though

  19. Picked up the comments on the Lea Jeff. Its Navigation canal from Aqueduct lock down( thats at Kings weir,geographically but not same part of the Lea) therefore no close season....so its officially a canal!all the way to Bow Lock at the end of the river at Bow creek

    Ive spent 3 years of recce missions map reading etc to understand the Lea. Both the Navigation canal and the Old( natural river)

    With the exception of the natural lea at Kings weir/Dobbs weir and Broxbourne, It( the Navigation aint fished much mate. Nothing like it once was.

    The silvers have been decimated. However there are some isolated big fish....Carp Tench around.

    I tried two sessions at Chesunt( on a good tip off) But old Tinca never turned up.

    But people still fish it and we have a few suprises. My 72 year old neighbour had a 5lb Pike out the Navigation right opposite the Olympic stadium last winter, just where it joins the hertford union.

    Sorry Ive blathered on...I love the Lea and I really like your attention to canals

    But there are some

  20. John L, would that be Windmill Lane by any chance? I always fancied it for tench but never fished it in my time there. The Lee Navigation below Enfield Lock (towards Ponders End) never used to get fished, everyone fished above the Lock where the road was - this was popular for carp. There were loads infact. The EA/LAC put a load in in the winter of around 2000 possibly and guys were catching 60lb+ of em in the winter. But it's just aswell as you are right about the silvers, although we did used to catch decent roach on hemp. Rows of cormorants used to line the boom that separated the river from the Navigation though.

    Anyway below the Lock there were hundreds, and I mean many hundreds of big bream that could always be seen but never caught, although much of it was unfished anyway. Also John you are dead right about the easiest way to tell is whether there is a close season in place!

    Jeff, Broxbourne is interesting. I would refer to the bit above Dobbs Weir (where the former British Record Chub was captured) by Fish and Eels pub as Navigation Canal, yet below it is obviously river. And also there was a brook that fed into the Lee Nav below Enfield Lock, so at what point does a dace swim out of that brook and become legally targetted by an angler before June 16th!??

    God, I could ramble on and on here...

  21. John, cast your experienced eye over this. Brigepal Singh fishing waggler on what looks suspiciously like The Navigation.


    If so, then he gets record canal chub. Shame there's no proper weight mentioned for his '8 pounder.'

    Russel, this is turning into a proper canal angler's paradise of what is and what is not a canal. I think a canal might be any waterway which is not quite a river, but is not a pond, lake or drain. But then again, is a drain a canal, or just a big ditch?

  22. Jeff, I've just checked out the chub capture - incredible. The article says that it came from The Crown section. I've fished there. It's close to both Dobbs and Carthagena. I would have called it river purely because of constant flow but some of it looks distinctly 'canaly'. Use John L's logic and try and ascertain whether it is subject to closed season!

  23. Ive met Bridgepal a couple of times Nice bloke, superb angler. He was waggler trotting the far bank at Wormley.Catching when all others were not!

    The Crown is just at the bend before Broxbourne, well at Broxbourne. Also known as The Conkers( Trees!)Its most definatley River not canal there. The Lea is not a canal in my opinion.But has been canalised for Hundreds of years!!!

    Great in it.lots of locks too.

    Im on the LAC forum...But not much posting onit really.

    Commercials have changed fishing. I use em too...

    But I love the canals I used to live 5 min walk from the Regents in Bethnal green London and now 10 min drive from the Lea.

    They are something special

  24. Pic of a Manchester 'canal' pike...

    It's actually from one of the basins in Salford Quays (the old Manchester docks and linked to the Manchester Ship Canal: Mike D has confirmed it's authentic and it might be the same fish caught - I think - at c33lb)


    PS: THAT pikepool pic is amazing

  25. Well, KB, the pike record lasted a day! If Mike Duddy says it's authentic, it is. It looks a proper monster - that lad's whole arm is wrapped around it. So, it's a new record for pike.

    Cheers KB. much appreciated.

  26. Sorry to an anorak but I have just checked The Accidental Angler by Charles Rangely-Wilson and he states that the grayling weighing 3-14-0 was caught by EJ Stanton in 1967. Sad, I know. Also the crucian doesn't look like one to me! I remember coming across pics of some big ones from Basingstoke canal that also looked a bit iffy but they were bigger. I'll find their website, it's probs produced big perch. I'm sure bob Roberts would be willing to help out if you asked him what fish he is aware of, and their credibility. Just don't mention Rudd ;)

  27. Don't worry about anoraks, got mine on now!

    Sorry to hear the grayling is that old. Don't know whether to let it stand or not, but if it's an official Yorkshire record, then...

    Tough call.

    As for the crucian. I don't have a problem with the way it looks - it looks like a marsh farm style fish to me, butI can't get any sense of scale in the picture, so it looks kinda small, don't you think?

  28. http://basingstokecanalaa.co.uk/member-catches-20089-Tony-Etherington-Crucian.htm

  29. I came across this fish last year, assumed it was a lake fish. And it is, but it's not, because Great Bottom Flash is both at once...

    Is it true crucian though? Looks like a hybrid in the trophy shot, but more like a crucian in the mat shot where you can see a growth defect in the compressed scales in the rear half. Other reports say that the flash does contain hybrids and they are not sure about them

  30. Jeff
    Love your blog. Wiltshire angler here just up road from K&A canal.
    Full of great fish if you can find them. Attached for near 4lb perch and 2lb roach...also 41lb carp caught this year from close to here. Not a "record" but stunning canal fish
    All the best




  31. Cheers Pete, sad to see my Roach record go , but at least it gives me something to aim at!

    I'll add the carp, which was on the list a few days ago, onto the top ten list

    Found the perch, in the end!

  32. Hi Jeff, glad you found that link useful. Have since found the following details of a 30lb 14oz pike from the Exeter Canal.
    Cheers, Ian.

  33. Chub 6lb 15oz Seb Newosiad

  34. I'm away for the weekend down Itchen way, my thoughts are all on that tonight.

    Please keep them coming in the meantime, it's looking like a serious list now.

    Russell, ta for the chub. Do you have a mail address? Want to talk off blog

    My mail is on my 'about' page somewhere.