The new year has well and truly got off to a bang where big fish are concerned with multiple species of specimen sizes falling in just the first week of 2019.
Arguably the pick of the bunch fell to Oxford DAA and Kidlington AS secretary Billy Burnell – who slipped the net under a rare 3lb 4oz 8dr roach during a match on the River Thames at Donnington.
The stunning redfin was the jewel in the crown of a 40lb net of fish Billy accumulated during the match, which boasted mainly sizeable bream.
He said: “I fished the Masons Angling Club Christmas match on the Donnington stretch of the Thames in Oxford and managed to win it with a good haul of slabs.
“The catch was not a lot in itself but among them was one special fish in the form of a 3lb 4oz 8dr roach which took a double maggot fished over groundbait.
“It is by far my personal best because I don’t actually fish for roach, I’m more of a chub and barbel angler, but this catch was a very welcome surprise.”
Barbel - Jamie Coley, 17lb 10oz
Jamie Coley fished the famous Gunthorpe stretch on the river Trent when this 17lb 10oz barbel, a new personal best, devoured his hookbait, a 15mm Mad Baits boilie. This barbel also sets a new record for the stretch.
Chub - Tony Gibson, 7lb 2oz
This clonking 7lb 2oz 5dr chub topped a three-fish Great Ouse haul for Tony Gibson who primed multiple swims with 12mm Dynamite Baits CompleX-T boilies. The same boilies, tipped with Enterprise Tackle’s artificial pop-up corn and wrapped in matching paste were the hookbait.
Pike - Graham Mabey, 26lb
This fat personal best 26lb pike made Graham Mabey’s five-hour drive from Hampshire to Devon worthwhile. Fishing the Top Lake at Simpsons Valley Coarse Fishery, he presented a trout bait under a 40g Clearwater Slider Float.
Zander - Ian Wilson 14lb 11oz & 15lb 1oz brace
Zander expert Ian Wilson took advantage of rising water on the River Trent to land an incredible brace of zander.
He said: “They came from a swim that produced a brace of smaller doubles for me three years ago. I had a big brace last season and to do it again is a dream come true.”
Ian caught the toothy predators on small roach mounted on size 10 trebles to a 20lb Drennan Trace with 50lb Whiplash braid mainline.
Perch - Sam Edmonds, 4lb 1oz
Fox Rage-backed lure ace Sam Edmonds caught this belting 4lb 1oz perch while testing new Fox Rage lure rods with his Dad.
The giant stripey took an 8cm marble patterned Fox Rage Pro Grub fished on an offset jighead.
Roach - Rich Wilby 2lb 10oz roach (plus others over 2lb)
Airfield Lakes Fishery owner Rich Wilby has been enjoying some incredible sport from big roach with his most recent session producing a stunning 15lb bag – topped by this 2lb 10oz specimen.
Rich cast 30-40 yards on a undisclosed Midlands gravel pit and alternated between maggot and boilie hookbaits to tempt the roach. He told Angling Times: “They were very finicky and I had to alternate between fluorocarbon and braided hooklinks to ensure my presentation was perfect.
“In the feeder I also used a fine, dark fishmeal groundbait and mixed my maggots with krill powder to give them extra flavour.
“l ended up with five roach over 2lb and all others well over 1lb.”
It’s not often that a chub is mistaken for a carp, but Alan Grimwood’s 8lb 4oz beast of a chevin was so big that it almost fooled the Stevenage-based angler.
Targeting the famous Kings Weir Fishery on Hertfordshire’s River Lea, Alan had a bite around 8pm and instantly connected with his fish of a lifetime.
He said: “It’s an amazing fish and a new personal best for me, beating my previous best of 5lb 10oz.”
A 15mm The Source boilie wrapped in matching paste was the bait that fooled the chub, and this was cast over a scattering of chopped boilies just a few rodlengths out.
On the same night that Alan landed the 8lb 4oz fish, fishery manager Andrew Tredgett also
got in on the Kings Weir chub action, landing a stunning 7lb 4oz fish.
Just a few days later, Andrew returned to the fishery and added another chub weighing an immense 7lb 8oz. This was his third 7lb chub of the season, adding to another four fish over the 6lb barrier.
When asked about why the fishery has produced so many big chub, Andrew said: “The Lea has always had big chub, if you look on YouTube there is a video of an electro-fish survey done in 1992 and there were massive fish way back then. It’s difficult to say exactly why chub get so big here, maybe the habitat is right for them to grow big, or maybe there’s something in the Lea’s water.”
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The biggest chub of the season at 7lb 15oz has fallen to specimen rod Phil Mapp, who had a superb week on the Great Ouse.
Breaking his personal best twice in five days, Phil started his week with a 7lb 13oz fish on breadflake from the Great Linford Lakes stretch of the river.
“It was the fish of a lifetime,” said Phil, “But I knew of a different stretch that I reckon held an 8lb-plus chub – so I decided to make a move”
That decision paid off when the first session on the new water delivered another pb and the biggest reported chub caught by design this season at 7lb 15oz.
“After about 35 minutes the tip went round very slowly, almost as if debris had caught my line. When I struck it just felt solid out in the crease.
“Fifteen minutes later she slid over the net and then I realised why the fish was so heavy – its fat belly in the bottom of the mesh was an amazing sight,” he said.
Phil’s Ouse monster was caught on simple traditional leger tactics with a 6lb Maxima mainline tied direct to a size 4 Kamasan B983 hook and a lobworm hookbait.
Martin Gray also took advantage of the Ouse’s great form for chub and put in the effort to catch a 7lb 4oz specimen.
The fish was a new personal best for Martin and was caught on a Complex T boilie presented on a size 8 hook.
Kings Weir fishery manager Andrew Tredgett is no stranger to big chub and spends plenty of time learning the habits of the fish on the famous River Lea weir pool. This knowledge paid off in handsome fashion when he landed a new pb of 7lb 10oz from the day-ticket water.
The exceptionally long chub was caught on a 15mm dumbell boilie which had been in a glug since the start of the season.
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Britain’s barbel anglers ended 2018 in style with another week of huge river fish topped by the biggest Trent specimen reported this season weighing 18lb 8oz.
That incredible fish was caught by Matt Hughes during an overnight session on a pressured stretch of the river.
Recalled Matt: “I decided to take advantage of the warm spell in between the frosts and arrived at the river just after dark.
“Unfortunately my desired swim was taken so I headed off downstream away from the angling pressure. At around 1.30am my right-hand rod doubled over with a fish that once I’d lifted into it I knew was bigger than my previous best of 16lb 12oz.”
Matt tempted the Trent big girl on a hair-rigged boilie presented alongside a mesh bag of pellets soaked in salmon oil.
The River Lea in Essex has produced some monster specimens of all species already this season, but now has potentially had its barbel record smashed with a 17lb 11oz fish caught by Robert Dowsett.
The barbel, which is yet to be ratified, would beat the river’s best by 3oz. It was caught from the Waltham Abbey area.
An over-the-moon Robert told Angling Times: “After a frosty morning and low temperatures throughout the day, conditions were not ideal. A friend I was speaking to was surprised to hear that I was even fishing. The effort proved worthwhile, though, as at around 6.30pm I hooked into my new personal best, which gave a great account of itself.”
Pete Hutton also made the effort to target barbel and tackled the strong flow of the tidal Trent with a 6oz lead to land a specimen of 16lb 8oz. Pete’s two-night session resulted in four other double-figure bertties and some big bream, all falling to Nutrabaits Trigga boilies.
Ryan Hayden has enjoyed the roach fishing session of a lifetime, landing three redfins totalling nearly 10lb.
Targeting a southern stillwater, Ryan’s first specimen weighed 3lb exactly – a roach that would be widely regarded as the fish of a lifetime.
But there was more to come. Shortly afterwards he added another of 3lb 3oz and topped off an unbelievable day’s sport with an immense 3lb 10oz specimen which is the largest roach caught by design this season.
Because he works for Drennan, Ryan is unable to claim a weekly Drennan Cup award for his fish, but this didn’t stop him from braving some rough conditions.
“There was a strong south-westerly blowing, and heavy rain,” he said. “In my book these are perfect conditions for roach, so I fed a pint of hemp and presented 50g maggot feeders over the top.
“These heavy feeders allowed me to hit the distance easily as well as maintaining a tight line to the rod-tip, maximising hooking potential.
“I waited all day from just before first light without any signs. Then I had a liner at 3.30pm, followed by the first proper bite. This resulted in the 3lb fish, and knowing that big roach feeding spells can be tiny I was eager to get the rod back on the spot.
“Sure enough, a second fish weighing 3lb 3oz came as I was clipping the bobbin on. Ten minutes later, the third and biggest roach came on the same rod, rounding off a session where my personal best was broken not once, but three times!”
Ryan used simple heli-rigs, incorporating 2ins hooklinks of 5.4lb Drennan Supplex Fluorocarbon and size 18 Wide Gape Specialist hooks.
After losing a big perch while chub fishing the week before, seven year old Josh Mitchell returned to the River Severn at Bridgnorth with his father to settle the score – doing so with this 4lb 4oz perch!
The keen youngster’s proud dad, Robert, said: “He was over the moon once he realised what a size it was. His face after we weighed it will be something I’ll always remember. He’ll never let me forget how his pb smashes mine well and truly out of the water!
“Josh is possibly one of the youngest specimen anglers in the UK and over the last few years has landed double-figure barbel and roach over 2lb, but this fish may top the lot.”
Josh was targeting the perch with a lobworm fished under a waggler float on a Browning centrepin reel and Derwent Valley specimen rod.
A week of incredible roach catches has been topped by Darryn Stolworthy’s 3lb 3oz giant from a Cambridgeshire stillwater.
Darryn is one of many anglers taking advantage of the resurgence of redfins in UK waters, and has enjoyed a remarkable month on the bank.
Speaking exclusively to Angling Times, he said: “What a few weeks I’ve had! I’ve never caught a 2lb roach before but over this time I’ve had seven 2lb-plus fish and now this beast of 3lb 3oz.
“Big roach fishing is a bit of a learning curve, and I was getting bites but not converting as many hook-ups as I wanted. I decided to change things, including my hooklink and hook, and I seem to have managed to fool them.”
Darryn’s successful set-up for the shy-biting species consisted of a size 14 Drennan wide gape hook and a 5lb Supplex hooklink. Hookbait was three or four maggots in conjunction with a maggot feeder, cast to the bottom of a drop-off at 30 yards range.
A part of what makes the consistent catches of roach so encouraging is that reports are flooding in nationwide.
It was an Oxfordshire stillwater that provided Coventry rod Dave Brice with a dream personal best-equalling roach of 2lb 13oz.
He told Angling Times: “I had already taken a smaller roach of 1lb 7oz earlier on in the session but this fish felt altogether different. It was a wonderful sight to see as the fish slid over the rim and was engulfed in the mesh. I’m full of anticipation for my next trip.”
Dave’s lovely fish was caught on a Kamasan Black Cap maggot feeder with maggots on a size 16 hook, a presentation that he cast to a patch of gravel alongside a weed bed at 45 yards.
It’s not just big individual specimens being caught either – incredible match hauls of redfins are being reported too.
One match venue in fine roach form is the River Wye in Hereford, where 30lb-plus bags have been taken. One angler who knows this river inside out is Hadrian Whittle, and commenting after this year’s Wye Festival he said: “The roach are an enigma. Recent conditions have been perfect for these fish – which I believe are always present in the area.
“I also believe that the large numbers of chub and dace in the river have caused an increase in competition for food – which forces the roach into feeding.”