Are canals really as badly populated with fish as most anglers would have you think? The simple answer to that is, no. From what the majority of angling clubs and occasional canal anglers say you'd think certainly the midland canal system was bloody well devoid of life. Honestly I couldn't count on my entire families fingers and toes the amount of times I've heard that all the fish in here have been eaten by the zander, and it's just not true. In fact every time I hear that sentence or the likes I have to stop myself physically throttling whoever said it whilst screaming 'what the effing hell do you think they're eating then you t*$t'.
Undoubtedly the biomass has undergone a change since the introduction of a new apex predator, but the fact remains that zander are thriving and they are eating something to thrive. Gone are the days of bit bashing for 3lb of fish and here are the bag up days where the canals are abound with big fish, as my old friend Phil Mattock here seems to prove every other week by bagging up with quality fish all over the canal network.
What brought me to this micro rant was a session I fished a few nights ago on the cut. Spring/early summer it would seem is one of the best times for silver bream from the canals. It's not that I am an expert or anything on the subject of silver bream, it's just I've seen a lot getting caught recently on other blogs. So I thought this was as good a time as any to try and fill that silver bream box.
So off to the local canal I go with minimal tackle, to pitch up in an area where I have always seen loads of topping fish whilst rubber chucking. I aint the biggest fan of the Oxford but this bit is close to home and is terribly convenient for short evening sessions. After tapping a few mates for info on how they catch these forgotten fish I opted to fish down the track of the canal using 13ft rod almost like a pole. I also set up a Drennan antenna float to fish for lift bites as well as dips. Apart from the super sensitive float set up, everything else was very crude; size fourteen hook, 3lb hook link, and double red maggot fished over a few balls of ground bait.
Much against the common belief I found this section of the Oxford to be brimming with fish of some very interesting sizes. From the off I was into small roach of up to six ounces, which sharply jagged the float under when they attacked the maggots. Interspersed with the roach were a nice helping of skimmers and perch. It was only a matter of numbers before I hooked a better fish and the first one was a nice perch of around a pound, followed by its mate who was a few ounces bigger. I kept the maggots going in and the fish carried on biting all the way through till dusk.
The silver bream I had gone for never materialized but just as the sun dipped below the horizon my float indicated the first positive lift bite of the session. It turned out to be a very powerful fish that led me a merry dance all around the canal before succumbing to gentle pressure. After seeing a big silver flank I so wanted it to be a massive roach, but the reality was that I had hooked a big roach bream hybrid that had got rolled up in the line. On the scales I registered over three pounds which added a few needed points for the challenge though.
I didn't carry on after that fish as my bed was calling me home after a long day at work. Although it only turned out to be a very short one and I didn't find my target fish, it was a very interesting session. I really had no idea how many fish were in this section of canal, and it proves how wrong the naysayers are when they say there is no small fish in the canals. This session reaffirmed to me exactly how healthy my local canals are. Maybe if the common garden angler spent a bit more of his time fishing the canal rather than commercial fishery then they might start to catch a few more fish out of the canals and then this misnomer that the zander have eaten all the fish might just fade away... what am I saying, of course it won't, because it's always easier to blame someone or something else for us not catching rather than admitting it's our fault.