In 65 years of Angling Times, tens of thousands of big fish have passed across the newsdesk.
They range from records that still stand today through to specimens that started a mini revolution in fishing. Inevitably, wading through that mass has created an ultimate list of greatest captures.
Even with that list drawn up, argument still rages among Angling Times staff, let alone anglers, as to which fish should make it.
Are the Norfolk Broads record pike of the 1980s more important than Llandegfedd’s trout water fish, and should the carp of Holme Fen earn more plaudits than Dick Walker’s record? You decide...
Schoolboy perch record shock - 2002
It’s the stuff of fishing fantasy – a schoolboy fishes a tiny pond and catches a British record perch. Fantasy then? Not a bit of it, as Oxfordshire 11-year-old Dean Rawlings stunned the angling world with the capture of a then record 5lb 9oz 8dr stripey from a small day-ticket lake in his home county.
A perfect example of the unpredictability of angling, Dean took the fish most specimen hunters die for by floatfishing a bunch of maggots on a lake that no-one would spare a second glance. The perch grabbed his hookbait as he reeled in to recast.
Not only did the capture get the big-fish world in a bit of a tizz, but it also showed the promise of commercial-style day-ticket waters for big perch. Today, such lakes are targeted for their massive perch but back in 2002, they wouldn’t have been on the hit list of anglers planning their campaign.
“The catch was 90per cent luck and 10 per cent skill, we know that, but nevertheless we’re all very proud of Dean,” said his dad at the time.
Although the UK record has since eclipsed his fish, the schoolboy’s record perch is still a story that comes up immediately when talking about memorable catches.
Chris Yates & the carp that didn’t count - 1980
There are a select few waters that you’d fish today in search of a record carp, but back in the 1980s, this branch of the sport was still in its infancy.
It was seen as very ‘secret squirrel’, and of all the lakes to fish for a massive carp, the tiny Redmire (Bernithan) Pool on the Welsh border was THE one to get on.
Steeped in history, having produced Dick Walker’s record Clarissa in the 1950s, it was the turn of angling legend and writer Chris Yates to show what the pool was capable of. At the start of the decade he landed a 51lb 6oz mirror to beat the then UK best.
Unfortunately for Chris, his application for a new record was cut down by British Record Fish Committee red tape, as the carp was ‘not made available for inspection’ by committee members.
This would have meant taking the fish away from the lake but Chris wasn’t prepared to do that and so the carp, which he named The Bishop, was weighed, witnessed, photographed and returned.
In an age of hi-tech tackle, rigs and baits, Chris caught the monster using nothing more complicated than a grain or two ofcorn on the hook, with a piece of Plasticine as a casting weight. The fish showed anglers that the 50lb carp benchmark was now possible to attain. Since then the record weight has gone up and up!
Llandegfedd pike revolution - 1988 - 1992
Trout reservoir pike fishing is big business today, but back in the late 1980s the phenomenon got underway with a series of pike fishing trials on Welsh trout water Llandegfedd.
Countless 30lb fish were caught and Welsh rugby legend Gareth Edwards set a new British best with a 45lb 6oz fish in 1989, beaten a few years later by Roy Lewis’ 46lb 13oz pike in 1992, a best that still stands today.
Roy was just 15 minutes into his first day on the reservoir when the massive pike took his lure fished from a boat. The pike had to be weighed on a set of scales procured by a local farmer, and delivered to the bankside in a JCB!
Ray Clarke’s river record roach - 1990
There’s always something special about a UK record being caught from a river, and no species is more evocative in this respect than the roach.
So Ray Clarke’s 4lb 3oz new best, caught in October 1990, was one that really struck a chord with anglers around the country.
He took it from the Dorset Stour, a venue famed for big roach and chub, using trotting tactics with double caster – that most classic of roach approaches.
Ray had visited the southern river in the hope of chalking up his first 2lb roach. That would have been a fine achievement in itself, but to catch a fish double that size and a record to boot staggered the Hertfordshire angler and the fishing world as a whole.
The UK’s first 20lb barbel - 2004
As the millennium dawned it was easy to dismiss 15lb barbel, such was the growth rate of this species. All bets were off as to whether a 20lb fish would be taken.
It was only a matter of time, given the domination of the Upper Grest Ouse at Adam’s Mill, which had produced a string of record breakers. Northampton’s Tony Gibson finally got over the line with a 20lb 6oz new British record.
Tthe record went a few times after that historic catch and Grahame King enjoyed a fine run of form, but this was the last breath of a dying giant as the river went into decline. The angling world now awaits the next record barbel – could it come from the Trent? Only time will tell.
Alan Wilson’s Wilstone wonder - 1985
BIG-fish hunting was seen as a bit niche in the mid-1980s. Who but a crazy man would spend weeks on end in all weathers under an umbrella in search of a record-breaking specimen? However, Lancashire rod Alan Wilson showed how rich the rewards could be when he landed a new UK tench best, a 12lb 8oz 11dr fish from Hertfordshire’s Wilstone Reservoir.
Triple Drennan Cup winner Alan, who is sadly no longer with us, caught the fish on feeder and corn tactics in the early morning before retaining the fish in a keep sack and contacting both the British Record Fish Committee and Angling Times for authentication and photos.
The eel record that’s still standing - 1978
Since the early 1990s, almost every British fish record has been bettered. But one remains that no angler has even come close to matching – the eel.
Hampshire angler Steve Terry broke the record way back in 1978 with a massive 11lb 2oz snake from a local lake. He took it on a legered boilie intended for carp, and since then, even though eels claimed to be bigger have been caught, none have passed the stringent requirements needed for a record.
In fact, 10lb eels are rarer than the anglers who deliberately fish for the species, which makes Steve’s capture all those years ago all the more remarkable.