The steep rise in the number of juvenile barbel being caught this season from Britain’s rivers is a fantastic sign for the future of the species, according to experts.
Anglers fishing the prestigious RiverFest final on the River Trent a couple of weeks ago reported a far higher than normal number of small barbel in their catches – fish around the 1lb mark – but it’s not just on Midlands rivers where these fish are showing up. Far from it, in fact.
Recent catch reports from the Wye have also shown there to be plenty of young fish coming through, with similar trends apparent on many other popular rivers including the Don, Great Ouse and Wandle.
To most anglers, catching a barbel of such a size is a rare treat, but Alan Henshaw – manager of the Environment Agency’s Calverton Fish Farm which stocks many of our waterways – says that barbel of such a size are exactly what we should expect in a healthy river.
“I was on the River Trent the other night and the first fish I had was a beautiful little barbel around the 1lb mark,” he told us.
“Catching fish of this size is fantastic to see, and they’re a great sign of the overall health of a river. They indicate that the natural recruitment is good, and in the long term this is crucial. In fact, if the only fish you’re catching are ‘doubles’, it can be a sign of concerning times ahead.”
Alan also explained why we might be seeing a recruitment boom in the species on many rivers across the country.
“These barbel are probably around three years old, so 2018 could have been a very good year for recruitment,” he added.
“This could be down to them spawning early in the year, meaning that the fry were at a better size going into winter, which increases their chance of survival. We could also have had a mild and dry winter, which also boosts their chances.
“Whatever the case, anglers should rejoice in these small barbel.”