Pensioner Alan Holmes got the shock of his life when he hooked into this 16lb barbel on the Oxford Canal near Banbury.
In a remarkable feat of skill the 65-year-old beat the chunky specimen ¬ the biggest-ever authenticated canal capture of the species and the first barbel he’d ever hooked ¬ on the top two sections of a pole after he hooked it on floatfished bread flake intended for bream.
The fish, which either entered the canal from the Thames or moved during 2007’s summer floods, tested Alan’s elastic and 4lb hooklength to the limit as it tore up and down the side of his canalboat for 15 minutes.
The lifelong angler then bundled the fish into his undersized net at the first time of asking, before weighing his prize and getting it photographed by his wife Tania.
“I was fishing into evening from the back of our narrowboat, catching a few skimmers, when my float drew away as normal, only this time I struck into something big and all hell let loose with my pole bent double,” said Alan.
“We’d been moored up at Fenny Compton for three or four days and I’d been feeding plenty of breadflake to keep all the bream and carp interested. I fished the lower Thames for years when I lived in Surrey but I never caught a barbel. A canal was the last place I ever expected to find one,” he added.
While many of the nation’s anglers appear to have deserted our vast canal network, Alan and his wife recently decided to retire and buy a boat, a decision that has allowed the keen angler to thoroughly indulge in his hobby.
“The boat has turned out to be the perfect home, affordable and ideal for fishing from. The canals around Oxford are stuffed with fish, especially double-figure carp. The only problem is that I recently lost the rest of my pole when overhanging vegetation swept it off the top of the boat,” he explained.
And our investigations this week suggest that there are far more barbel residing in the UK’s canals than would at first appear, with specimens both big and small moving from rivers into canals and back wherever the two types of waterway meet.
“It’s not uncommon to hear of barbel being caught from canals connected to those rivers where the species is common. Fish are inquisitive and I’m sure they’ll move backwards and forwards through the locks,” claimed Doncaster-based Bob Roberts, whose recent underwater filming efforts have revealed new insights into the species’ behaviour.