All summer long I have walked the canals and if I was truthful, bar a few stand out occasions, it's been largely a case of wading through thousands of micro zander. Whilst wading though I have been taking note of interesting features both above and below the surface. Lure fishing I have found has a great by-product whilst searching for hits, in that you are essentially leading around as a carp angler would to find hidden features. Now having a lure slowing your weighted hook negates the thump you get with a bare lead, but watching your bright braid as the lure descends then slacken as it hits bottom, you easily gauge how deep somewhere is.
Finding an extra foot here and there might seem inconsequential to most people, but a five foot deep bit of canal round these parts is a rare thing that surely will prove a focus point for fish in the winter months. Not only have I found deeper areas but sheltered ones too and now I think I have ear marked several generally nondescript spots which I think will become productive in the colder months. Saying that though, it's been quite warm lately and even with the canal full of leaves it's definitely feeling like it could be a drawn out autumn. Even with the unseasonable warmth I thought it might be good to go and check out a couple of these spots to see if there might be some predators moving in before the sun sets on this warmish weather.
Having only a few hours of an afternoon free I zipped over to the closest of my ear marked spots and found the Oxford was heavily coloured from the still active boats. An hour or more of casting brought zero action and I soon moved on empty handed, though I am still confident this first area will certainly come into its own once the temperature drops properly.
A long walk later and I arrived at a new spot which has had its moments already this year, producing some really big perch. Today it was more the zander I was casting for, but a big fat perch wouldn't go a miss though. I began casting round with a new Berkley Havoc sick fish in clear bream colour, which I bought from a lure event held at Specimen Fishing UK at the canal basin, and after a while I thought I could feel the occasional tug. After persisting for a while I changed to small savage gear 3D bleak and that to seemed to garner a few enquires, but nothing was really having a proper pop. Still convinced it was fish grabbing at the lures, I abandoned the real fish replicas, dived into the lure box and changed to a Fox lemon tiger zander shad. A few casts with that and I got a proper hit from a little zander.
Lucky for me it had only taken three lures to crack the code on this occasion. Other times I have spent hours going through what seems like hundreds of lures to find the pattern the fish are into. Now I had found a lure that was the right combination of bright and wiggly I worked up and down the section. It seemed like most of the fish were holding tight to the bottom of the far marginal shelf.
After landing two more small zander and a very keen half pound perch which practically swallowed the quite large lure, I moved into what at first seemed to be a barren area. Thinking there was little around I wasn't really being that diligent in covering the water and I was about to move on again. That was until I made a shorter cast which landed five feet short of the cover. I was watching the line for it to fall slack when the lure made bottom, but braid jerked tight quickly and I struck. Something grabbed it on the drop and my strike had sent it firing out across the canal.
The fish felt quite weighty and given the snatching take I suspected I'd hooked a pike. All too soon the fish went from hugging the bottom to trashing open mouthed on the surface. I could see the jig hooked right in the corner of a decent zander's mouth and quickly put some pressure on it to bundle it into the net.
Just as the sun was setting on a lovely autumn day, the Oxford canal and one of my new spots had come good and proved to me that there certainly are a few better zander kicking around on a canal that I've not had a lot of confidence in up until now. I certainly will be coming back to these deeper sections over the colder months as I think they could really become a focus point for all kinds of prey and predators when the temperature drops.