Anglers have always placed high value on scarce and unusual fish. These creatures certainly appeal to angling’s obsessives and romantics. Whether it’s fish of a unique genetic strain, or survivors from dark, distant ages, they tend to lead us to deep water.
As wild habitats disappear and man-made fisheries proliferate, some fish can be scarcer than ever.
Far from being a turn off, however, this tends to make anglers even keener to catch – and conserve – a handful of spectacular species. So which are our main contenders, and how many have you encountered?
True crucian carp
With its butter-gold scales and a shy cunning, the crucian carp is a cult species anglers love for very different reasons to the rest. Part of their appeal could be about nostalgia, and a fish once caught right across England by young anglers.
Shy-biting and disarmingly hard-fighting, they’re more than just cute looking cousins of larger carp.
These days, the “original” crucian has been in a spot of bother. Unfortunately for Carassius carassius, it has the nasty habit of interbreeding with common carp, and quickly losing its genetic purity. Recent times have seen a revival, however, in part thanks to the Angling Trust’s National Crucian Conservation Project, led by Peter Rolfe and Hugh Miles.
For more information and a full list of “true crucian” waters, see www.crucians.org
Challenge rating: 3/5
A true crucian of good size is a wonderful fish for any angler’s PB list. Finding the right water is key.
Britain’s biggest, deepest lakes have always spawned stories of monster fish. Besides pike and salmon, many great lochs still have an ancient lineage of predatory trout.
These are fish that eat their own kind and live undisturbed in remote depths that may as well be outer space to most humans.
It can take serious dedication to find such fish, let alone hooking and landing one. Trolling for days between takes isn’t usual – but should you catch one, this is among the meanest and most spectacular fish found anywhere in British waters. They can live for over 20 years, with waters such as Loch Awe producing them to over 30lb.
See wildtrout.org for more info on Ferox and all wild trout.
Challenge rating: 5/5
An epic challenge for the keen predator angler! This could involve days of trolling, and a long hike to Scotland or Ireland, but a big ferox is a truly rare and special fish.
Long before carp syndicates and 50lb mirrors were even a thing, Britain’s earliest carp were very different creatures. Finding their way into myriad lakes and ponds were supremely wiry, muscular strains of fish.
In spite of the modern influx of fatter, faster-growing fish, pockets of these original ‘wildies’ survive to this day, and they are slimmer, very different creatures.
Wales is probably the safest bet for today’s carp adventurer, with Pant-y-Llyn just one of several remote lakes that hold stocks of these stunning, leathery-gold warriors.
They thrive in fantastically wild, weedy settings, where traditional tackle is the perfect match for the heritage of these fish. For more on the world of wild and feral carp, visit: www.wildcarptrust.org
Challenge rating: 4/5
Finding a suitable water to catch Britain’s wilder strains of carp is the biggest barrier! Wily and weaned on natural food, any ‘wildie’ of more than 6lb should be regarded as a specimen.
It’s a tragedy in miniature just how scarce this little customer has become, compared with how things were decades ago.
Small they might be, but the species still commands a huge amount of affection! While they can still be found in some of our rivers and canals, they’ve taken a hammering in many of their original strongholds.
Habitat loss and the explosion in zander numbers are both key factors in their demise. Today’s best gudgeon waters are often unexpected. Commercials are often as likely a place as any, with river strongholds such as the Dorset Stour and London’s River Wandle having some right beasties! They even have their own fan club in GUGGS (The Grand Union Gobio Gobio Society), for whose members the ultimate target is a “thirty” – a gonk of 30g in other words.
All great fun, as their website www.guggs.net reveals.
Challenge rating: 2/5
Find the right water and gudgeon are easy fish to catch, although one of 30g plus is a worthy challenge for any gonk fan! If only they grew to the size of barbel...