Future of barbel: rivers or lakes?


Could a stillwater produce a record barbel in the next decade? That’s the question being asked this week after another double-figure specimen was taken from a commercial.

Craig Wright’s capture of an 11lb 2oz fish at Heronbrook Fisheries comes at a time when species experts are becoming increasingly concerned about the growing number of big barbel being taken from the nation’s waterways by otters.

Unlike the owners of river stretches, commercial fishery bosses are able to protect their stocks with otter-proof fencing and this, coupled with the steady stream of bait going into stillwaters, is seen by many as key to the record’s future.

Incredibly, the specimen taken from the Staffordshire match lake weighed a mere 6oz when it was introduced in 1998, meaning it has been growing at an impressive 1lb every year.

Heronbrook boss Neil Dale has had numerous reports of other big barbel since the lump was landed, and is adamant that it is only a matter of time before stillwaters wrestle the barbel crown from running water.

“It could happen within the next three or four years. The fish in my waters are fed a lot of bait by anglers and I practise good fishery management, so I see no reason why they can’t reach weights of 20lb-plus. All my barbel are in pristine condition, and more and more tiny barbel are beginning to show up in catches which proves that, contrary to popular belief, they can happily breed in stillwaters,” explained Neil.

In recent years certain sections of the angling community have voiced their displeasure at the stocking trends at some commercials, and Barbel Society chairman Steve Pope believes any record taken from a stillwater would be readily discounted by river anglers: “I almost regard them as a different species. If a lake did take the record, it would certainly cause a stir.

“Record barbel should live in rivers, and I think all the current doom and gloom about the effect of otters on running water venues isn’t needed. I accept there is a problem with predation, but we need to look at the issue over a number of years and then take action.” While an increasing number of people may be ready to accept that commercial venues could have a part to play in the future of the barbel record, fears remain in some quarters that fish reared exclusively in stillwaters could suffer health difficulties.

However, Sparsholt College senior lecturer Mark Burdass was quick to dismiss this assumption: “If there is good water quality, then there is no reason whatsoever why a large fish should be in a poor state of health,” said Mark.