Huge river barbel caught during the severe cold snap

Taking advantage of a slim window of opportunity as the temperatures rose, but before the melting snow dumped cold water into the rivers, specimen hunter Keith Speers managed the near impossible - a 17lb 15oz barbel during one of the coldest Decembers ever recorded.

Fishing a Bedfordshire river, the Verulam Angling Club member watched the mercury reach 2 deg Celsius before venturing out on to the bank to fish a swim he’d winkled an 11lb barbel out of just a fortnight before.

“The fishing started very slow,” Keith told AT, “but I fed consistently and after an hour a few patches of ‘fizz’ started to show in the swim as the barbel got feeding.

“I had a few tentative bites but no fish, which I put down to the river being very clear, so I went for a walk down to my mate’s swim who was fishing lighter and getting a few fish on the stick. So I went back, set up a 15ft rod with a centrepin and fished a wire-stemmed Drennan stick float and a 3lb 6oz hooklength to a size 18 hook.” Presenting double maggot on his hook, Keith made just a few casts before his float buried and it all went solid.

“I was convinced it was the bottom before the line started to kite back to the middle of the river and then move slowly downstream,” Keith continued.

“It hugged the bottom and took me all over the river before I finally got it into the net.

“I never expected to see a fish that big on the bank - it was an unbelievable catch,” he added.