Sunday, 16 November 2014

Canal Zander — Nuff Said

You learn something about zander every time you fish for them. Most of the time what you'll learn, and it's a lesson you'll repeat over and over again, is how little you really know! Take the other night, for instance. Danny and myself went out night fishing at a new spot on the Coventry Canal some way out in the sticks. We set up a zander rod each and a quiver tip rod for the chub we'd heard could be caught around those parts. On arrival there was a flotilla of boats moored along the towpath and so we were forced to fish the gap between two sterns. Almost as soon as we cast out both started their engines to charge batteries for the evening's telly sessions. It was noisy, and soon we were enveloped in diesel fumes and so it was doubly unpleasant.

However, Danny's chub rod brought in a really good looking roach x bream hybrid within minutes and then his zander float was off too and the first zed of the night was banked. He was off to a flyer but only when I brought my zander bait from its distant position right into the vibration zone did I get a run.  And then I had another, and another, and another. Then Danny had another as well. So we'd banked five zander so far, I'd lost a very small one, an hour had passed by, but it really looked as if we'd be at it all night long. And then both boaters decided to watch the goggle box, switched off their engines, and it fell silent.

We didn't get another bite between us the rest of the session but at least we could breath and hear each other talk...

When I got home I found I had itchy feet, wasn't sleepy at all, and wanted to get back out just to see if the cessation of feeding was a matter of us catching all members of a pack, imminent changes in weather and barometric pressure, or lack of vibration! I went back out at two in the morning to fish the junction just around the corner from home with a cup of coffee in hand, where I enjoyed washing down a couple of pork pies whilst watching two static floats do nothing at all till the clock struck four when the predicted heavy rain began to fall.

Next day I went out again just to see if daylight would have improved matters...

Nothing doing in my 'barometer swim' where there's always fish present doing away with the doubt that I'm not on fish in the first place. Second swim used to be a banker but it seems it isn't these days. I did enjoy the very rare instance of a pike though. Thinking my line was too near a submerged snag, I moved it, and he snatched up the bait.

But rare? Pike?

I've lost count of pike the local zed anglers have not caught. They are about, but about as uncommon as the proverbial. You'll get one in every hundred zander. Oddly enough, Danny had had one just the other day. Now I'd had another. And, I'm just hearing first reports of a 25 pounder caught within peddling distance — a sixteen-pounder viewed through the distorting lens provided by lager and lack of a spring balance, most likely...

But you never know!

Because this very long canal pound certainly does contain well documented and accurately weighed pike above thirty pounds and probably a few exceeding forty I tend to err on the side of caution about the veracity of stated weights but there's no smoke without fire and locations are always accurate enough so I will follow such rumours up because when large pike are ever found, they're likely to be found lurking around the perimeter bounds of large shoals of large bream and there'll be more than one present.

Juggling a 'five pounder'.  A lively and slippery bugger this! 

On the subject of subjective weight estimates. I moved out into the countryside to the bream shoal in question (about forty strong. I saw them in January 2011 swimming just an inch below thawing ice) where I had my only zander of the day. It wasn't weighed but was a mid two-pounder, maybe scraping three-quarters. Catching so many in this size bracket I can weight them by eye and be only ounces out. A couple of local boaters who live on the cut the whole year round passed by as I netted the fish and proclaimed it a 'good un' and 'easily a five!'

Nuff said.

A couple of lads fishing four rods between them had two zander that day between 9am and 5pm. That's not so good for such a long session but given my own results, I suppose OK on the day. They reported losing way too many over the last few sessions, though. I enquired about their hooks and sure enough they had been using trebles. I recommended them Danny's hook choice because they wouldn't be able to get hold of mine and it works every bit as well.

Thankfully, the Gamakatsu 'wide gap' pattern seems to be back on course with every run hooked cleanly, and only one fish lost out of seven since that weird session by the bush a fortnight ago. I'm going to trial circle hooks next. I don't actually expect them to work well for zander and for specific reasons to do with gapes and jaw bone peculiarities, but we'll see.


  1. Jeff leave some for us please next sunday!!, and that story about the 20 & 30lb Pike makes me think, what is exactly existing in our canal systems, you said it yourself that they are largely an unknown entity and I know large swathes on canal systems will contain large specimens of all species but remaining untouched and it will take someone like yourself to unlock that existing potential, my local Grand Union meanders through some of the most urbanized parts of the country but unfortunately had seen excessive pressure from anglers who only angle for one thing, their next meal, a shame but a way of the world down here where illegal fishing is rife, canals are the perfect place to undertake their shady going's on, with the EA totally oblivious to how bad they have ransacked the stocks, ignore the fact of the Cormorants, the thieves are doing a more serious dis-service as the larger fish that are being poached and therefore can not re-produce hence the lack of anything barring beer cans and plastic bags floating through my once prolific G.U.C. I'd love your stretch of canal down here!.

    PS sorry for the ramble, just annoys me as our canal could be a good as yours and nothing is being done to rectify the damage inflicted on it. Cracking Zander that would be a new PB that.

    1. James, I agree but wouldn't underestimate the impact of cormorants and signal Crays especially.

    2. The lack of pike up here is to do with zander totally dominating murky water where boats travel and forcing pike into the few clear water areas where they don't. It's astonishing how few pike we get to catch during hundreds of hours spent after zander.

      Our friends from the EU do try spinning occasionally but never catch much so they don't bother for long. They ain't fond of bait fishing, are they?

      Hopefully the zeds will feed hard come Sunday! Be good to see plentyfor those attending

  2. Steve in Colorado18 November 2014 at 23:59

    If you find yourself needing more Gamakatsus just give me a shout, Jeff. I've been reading along... had a superb season here with more than a few notable fish but lately Ol' Man Winter has clamped down hard so its tackle-mending time.

    1. They certainly do work, Steve. Just like you said they would. I remember you mentioned that a mate of yours said they were great for walleye? I tell you what, you yanks are miles ahead of us brits in terms of hook patterns. You have hook patterns for everything and it seems that American anglers lead the way with development of them. Do you know what. We have one pattern for everything! The standard 'J' pattern, of course...

      It works as well as it always did. Which is 50% of the time. 75% plus is what the right hook should deliver, though. This one is delivering just that and better, so, yes, When I run stocks down I'll be asking for more!

      I hear you lot are having a hardcore early winter? KInda mild and middling here...

    2. Steve in Colorado21 November 2014 at 01:39

      Aye well, we had a lovely mild Fall until two weeks ago- and then it was below freezing for six days but we've climbed out into the balmy 50s (F) recently.
      The folks catching the rough stuff in the New York area are at a distance from me roughly equivalent to the distance between London and Moscow...and they can keep it, laddie!
      I'm strictly an artificials man myself- flies and lures. And that's because I like dynamic fishing- moving always, and I think I have that privilege because of the wide open waters we have in Colorado. Not to mention my canoe with the classic shark-mouth on the bow- if I can't catch them I can scare the scales off 'em ;)!
      But in any case, I stand ready for any needs you might have from the ex-colonies (or your mates, for that matter). We're a brotherhood of anglers, after all.

    3. Come on Jeff and Danny, where's the Zedvember the 53rd write up we've had 4 to date but missing your vital contributions. It's fascinating to read different Blogs discussing the same event.

  3. Ask and you write it...Brilliant usual.................................Happy Birthday too!

    1. Your comment cropped up in in my inbox this afternoon so I knuckled down and wrote it up. Bloody slacker that I am. Cheers!