Experts have predicted that 2013 could be the best year ever for big barbel.
An unprecedented number of specimen sized fish have already been taken from waterways all over the country, and sport is expected to improve even further over the coming months as the fish reach their peak weights.
Back in March Dave Currell came within 10oz of breaking Grahame King’s 2006 British record of 21lb 1oz with a 20lb 7oz specimen from an undisclosed river. It was the first barbel over the 20lb-barrier to be banked from a UK river since the capture of a 20lb 12oz fish from the River Wensum by Mark Rylands in 2008.
At the time Dave told Angling Times that he wouldn’t be surprised if the fish topped the British record weight by the end of the year, a view shared by some of the sports leading names.
Phil Smith - who has caught double figure barbel from 23 different rivers and 15lb-plus fish from five of these – expects even bigger fish to be landed in the coming weeks. “At the moment we’re seeing big fish getting caught in conditions that aren’t really conductive to producing large fish. If we get some rain and a bit of water pushing through then it stands to reason that these fish could easily gain a couple of pounds in weight and it wouldn’t surprise me if the record was broken.”
In recent years many people have expressed fears for the future of specimen barbel fishing in the UK with factors such as otter predation leading to the demise of some of the county’s biggest fish – including the record fish The Traveller from Adams Mill on the Great Ouse and The Beast from the Wensum. Despite this, there are now more rivers than ever before capable of producing 16lb-plus barbel with the River Nene and Derbyshire Derwent being two of the most prolific in recent months.
A river record of 17lb 4oz was recently caught from The Earl of Harrington’s Angling Club controlled stretch of the Derwent and club treasurer Teresa Parr said: “I have no doubt that the barbel have always been in the river but we’ve done a lot of work over the last year to build and improve pegs on our stretch. This season, our members have been able to fish from pegs which didn’t even exist last year which gives them a much better chance of catching.”
Barbel Society chairman Steve Pope believes there has never been a better time to target the species: “There’s too much doom and gloom from a lot of people. Yes otters eat some barbel and certain rivers have suffered more than others. But they can’t eat all the barbel and you only need to look at the fish that are being reported to see this. You can fish some parts of the Trent, for example, and catch over 20 barbel in day now which is something you simply couldn’t do years ago.
“I’ve also been around long enough to realise that a lot of rivers are cyclical. There are waterways that are in the doldrums at the moment but in the future will no doubt be producing big fish again. And vice versa.”
**2013’s Biggest Barbel**
- Chad Critchley: 16lb 15oz Derbyshire Derwent
- Steve Russell: 16lb 6oz and 15lb 1oz River Nene brace
- Paul Garner: 16lb 8oz River Dove
- Steve Russell: 15lb 5oz, River Nene
- Tommy Rowe: 15lb 9oz, River Nene
- Barry Jarvis: 16lb 4oz, River Ivel
- Justin Beale: 15lb 9oz, River Thames
- Wayne Tooth: 17lb 4oz, River Derwent (record)
- Ian Hartley: 16lb 12oz, River Derwent
- Duncan Kay: 16lb 8oz, River Nene
- Michael Sables: 16lb, River Dove
- Andy Cartlidge: 15lb 14oz, River Dove
- Ivan Tee: 15lb 1oz, River Nene
- Trevor Pole: 16lb 2oz, River Great Ouse
- Dave Currell: 20lb 7oz, undisclosed river
- Alan Cornwell: 17lb 1oz, River Dove
- Christophe Pelhate: 15lb 6oz, River Arun
- Dean Derbyshire – 15lb 6oz Dorset Stour
- Ashley Burton: 14lb 3oz, Warwickshire Avon
- James Crameri: 17lb 7oz and 16lb 10oz, midlands river
**Rivers to try**
- River Trent – Collingham Angling Association, 01636 892573
- River Dove – Stoke-on-Trent Angling Society, www.sotangling.co.uk
- Derbyshire Derwent – The Earl of Harrington’s Angling Club, www.theearlofharringtonsac.co.uk
- River Nene – Peterborough and District Angling Association, 01733 380768
- River Ouse – Milton Keynes Angling Association, www.mkaa.co.uk
- Hampshire Avon – Davis Tackle, 01202 485169
- River Stour – Ringwood and District Anglers Association, www.ringwoodfishing.co.uk
- River Ivel – Ivel Protection Association, 01992 558902
- River Lea – The Fishers Green Consortium, www.fishersgreencon.co.uk