Record Breaking Fish

There was a period between 1990 and 2006 when it almost seemed like the angling press (and I’m not singling out any particular publication here) was reporting the capture of a record fish every other issue in a blizzard of superlatives. For instance the barbel record was ‘smashed(sic)’ umpteen times, increasing from a vacant 13lb 12oz to over 21lbs in what seemed like stuttering increments as a couple of fish with gradually expanding waistlines and swelled up by a few more ounces.


Of course the nature of modern specialist angling means the same old fish get hammered by the same old anglers, each basking in the limelight for a few weeks until it is someone else’s turn to carry the mantle. That may sound a little jaundiced, or even jealous, but trust me it’s not. I’m merely observing facts. Modern communications, angling techniques, tackle and baits combined with two cars for every household mean no fish is safe from the glory hunters. There are few surprises left out there and perhaps it’s just me, but there’s something unseemly, dare I say unsporting about the whole process of hunting down specific fish just to say you’ve caught it (too)?

Times pike hunt

The thing I struggle to get my head around (and I do apologise for digressing) is it’s deemed okay when ten different anglers deliberately set out to catch exactly the same fish from the same place using cloned methods, each taking their turn, yet it’s an outrage if one individual decides to do it ten times over. Apparently he’s supposed to abandon what might be his favourite river and go chasing some other specimens that the circus deem to be worthy. Is this the magic we’re all supposed to believe in, I ask?

Record Pike

Time was when records mattered to me. I think I was fifteen-years-old. I could recite the names of every record holder, the weight and location of capture for each species. I carried around with me the specimen fish entry forms published in the Times and Mail, a pen and a Little Samson spring balance (4oz divisions), just in case. Well, in those days you never knew. Incredible dreams and fantasies were part and parcel of my fishing world.

Little samson

The majority of records in those days were caught before I was born and subsequent reviews threw most of them out anyway because the supporting evidence of capture, weighing and witnessing failed to stand up to latter day scrutiny. Even so I feel they were far more inspirational, at least to me, than today’s list.

1966 record list

Let’s say that by some miracle my favourite little river threw up a record. There I am with knees-a-knocking and a 23lb barbel in my landing net. What should I do?

Would I wish to tell anyone? Blimey, would I even want those who sit on the judging panel to know where the fish was caught? Would I risk them telling their mates or heaven forbid, turning up themselves? Would I want the venue named in the press, because rest assured, whether it was revealed this time or not, someone in the circus would soon catch this fish and the secret would be out because they wouldn’t care, they’d be off to pastures new, vacating the going swim just long enough for the next in line to take his turn.

clown fishing

Would I really like to share my little paradise with a bunch of fishmongers? Would the banks get flattened, the vegetation and cover destroyed, those fish chased around the clock, would increased demand push ticket prices through the roof – possibly even lose the stretch to a syndicate?

And for what? A fleeting glimpse of recognition. It’s not the X Factor, that’s for sure. It’s merely a historical record of sorts.

But is the entire process flawed? Probably. Humans are involved. Humans tarnish most things they touch. And does it matter? Well, if your name’s on it then absolutely. But even if it is, then don’t get too wrapped up in that warm glow because someone, probably on the Internet, will be casting doubt and aspersions about your achievement, for that is the world we now live in. We eventually have to ask, is it really worth it?

I’d like to think so. I’d like to think youngsters today might derive the same enthusiasm and ambition the old records gave me, however flawed they were. It was probably good that no-one questioned them back in the Hovis advert days.

Unfortunately the few youngsters that are coming into our sport today care little about the record list. They seek just one species in the main; it could be carp, or barbel, perhaps pike, or most likely they are into bagging up on commercial fisheries and the only records that matter are who filled the most keepnets in five hours.

Somewhere it all went wrong. Angling lost its way. Society changed. The way we report things, the way the news spreads is all so different. Papers sensationalise. The audience expects nothing less. How else can they compete. We’ve become desensitised, sceptical and aggressive. ‘That’s never 16 pounds! He’s lying, pushing it out to the camera, look at his fingers…’ You know the score.


But there is a record list and because it exists some will aspire to be part of it. If that’s you then here’s the current list (accurate as at January 17th, 2014). Beneath the list you’ll find details of the process to follow if by chance you land a record breaking fish. Good luck! Just remember though, the fish is the record, not the captor. Only when we finally recognise and accept that does everything begin to make a little sense.


ALLIS SHAD 4-12-7 P B Gerrard, off Chesil Beach, Dorset, 1977

BARBEL 21-1-0 Grahame King, Great Ouse, Adams Mill, 2006.

BITTERLING 0-0-12 Dennis Flack, Barway Lake, Cambridgeshire, 1998.

BLEAK 0-4-9 Dennis Flack, River Lark, 1998.

BREAM  (common bronze) 22-11-0 Scot Crook, Ferry Lagoon, Cambridgeshire, 2012.

BREAM (silver) 3-4-0 Gareth Evans, Mill Farm, Pullborough, 2012.

BULLHEAD (Miller’s Thumb )0-1-0 R Johnson, Green River, Nr Guildford, 1983.

CARP (mirror/common/leather) 67-8-0 Austin Holness, Conningbrook, Kent, 2008.

CRUCIAN CARP 4-9-0 Phil Smith, Yateley lake, Surrey, 2004; Martin Bowler, Yateley lake, Surrey, 2003; Joshua Blavins, Verulam AC lake, Herts., 2011. (DNA-tested claim open at 4-8-0)

CATFISH (Bullhead, black) 1-3-1 K Clements, Lake Meadows, Essex, 2001.

CATFISH (Wels) 62-0-0 Rich Garner, Withy Pool, Beds, 1997. (List Closed. No further claims considered)

CHUB 9-5-0 Andy Maker, Southern Stillwater, 2007.

DACE 1-5-2 Simon Ashton, River Wear, Co. Durham, 2002.

EEL 11-2-0 Steve Terry, Kingfisher Lake, Hants, 1978.

GOLDFISH (Brown) 5-11-8 Dave Lewis, Surrey Stillwater, 1994.

GRASS CARP 44-8-0 Phillip Kingsbury, Horton Church Lake, Berks, 2006. (List Closed. No further claims considered)

GUDGEON 0-5-0 D H Hull, River Nadder, Wilts., 1990.

MINNOW 0-0-13.5 J Sawyer, Whitworth Lake, Co. Durham, 1998.

ORFE (Golden) 8-5-0 Michael Wilkinson, Lymm Vale, Cheshire, 2000.

PERCH 6-3-0 Neill Stephen, Stream Valley Lakes, E. Sussex, 2011; Ken Brown, Wilstone Reservoir, Hertfordshire, 2012.

PIKE 46-13-0 Roy Lewis, Llandegfedd Reservoir, 1992.

PUMPKINSEED 0-14-2 Bill Rushmer, Tanyard Fishery, Sussex, 2003.

ROACH 4-4-0 Keith Berry, Northern Ireland Stillwater, 2006. (DNA-tested claim open at 3-12-0)

RUDD 4-10-0 Simon Parry, Freshwater Lake, Co Armagh, 2001. (DNA-tested claim open at 3-12-0)

RUFFE 0-5-0 R J Jenkins, West View Farm, Cumbria, 1980.

SCHELLY (Skelly) 2-1-9 S M Barrie, Haweswater Reservoir, Cumbria, 1986.

STICKLEBACK (3-spined) 0-0-4 Dennis Flack, High Flyer Lake, Cambs, 1998.

STONE LOACH 0-0-13 Geoffrey Green, Windmill Fishery, 2005.

TENCH 15-3-6 Darren Ward, Sheepwalk Big Pit, Middlesex2001

WALLEYE (Pikeperch) 11-12-0 F Adams, Delph, Welney, 1934. (List Closed. No further claims considered)

ZANDER (Pikeperch) 21-5-0 James Benfield, River Severn, Upper Lode, 2007.



Okay, fun over, let’s get serious. What if you did catch a record fish, what should you do? Here’s the official procedure. Good luck.

1. The claimant should contact the Committee Secretary by Telephone: 0844 7700616 Fax: 01159 819039, or by post to BRFC,  Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire, HR6 8DQ E-mail: Advice will then be given concerning preservation, identification and the claims procedure.

2. Claims must be confirmed promptly in writing to the Secretary stating:

The species of fish, the weight, the date and place of capture and the tackle used. The names and addresses of witnesses, preferably two, both as to the capture by the claimant and the weight, who will be required to sign the forms supporting the claim. (If no witnesses to the capture are available, the claimant must verify his claim by affidavit).

Photographs of the fish must be made available which should be of good quality and preferably in colour. They should include shots of the angler, holding the fish in a normal manner, or in the case of a very large fish, standing alongside it, and also the fish lying on the ground on or next to, an identifiable object.

3. No claim will be accepted unless the Committee is satisfied as to species, method of capture and weight. The Committee reserves the right to reject any claim if not satisfied on any matter, which the Committee may think in the particular circumstances to be material. The Committee requires a high degree of proof in order to safeguard the integrity of the list. As a high degree of proof is required rejection of a claim imports no reflection on the bona fides of the claimant. All costs of submitting a claim must be met by the claimant.

4. Claims can only be accepted in respect of fish that are caught by fair angling with rod and line. Fair angling is defined by the fish taking the baited hook or lure into its mouth, and must be in accord with the rules of the respective angling discipline.

Fish must be caught on rod and line with any legal hook or lure and hooked and played by one person only. Assistance to land the fish (i.e. gaffing, netting) is permitted provided the helper does not touch any part of the tackle other than the leader.

5. The fish must be weighed on land using scales or steel yards which can be tested on behalf of the Committee. Where possible commercial or trade scales which are checked regularly by the Weights and Measures Department should be used. The sensitivity of the scales should be appropriate to the size of the fish, i.e. small fish should be weighed on finely graduated scales and the weight claimed for the fish should be to a division of weight (ounce, dram, gramme) not less than the smallest division shown on the scales.

A Weights and Measures Certificate must be produced certifying the accuracy of the scales used and indicating testing at the claimed weight.

In the case of species weighing less than one pound the claimed weight must be submitted in grammes.

The weight must be verified by two independent witnesses or one and a sworn affidavit who, for example, should not be relations of the claimant.

6. Identification of Species: The Committee is required from time to time to consider claims for fish of species which cannot be determined to its satisfaction without inspection. For this reason and others, claimants are strongly advised not to liberate or otherwise dispose of a fish for which it is intended to enter a claim until an inspection of the body, dead or alive, has been made by a representative of the committee and permission given for disposal.

While claimants should recognise that failure to produce the fish for inspection may prove prejudicial to the acceptance of a claim, the Committee does not bind itself to reject a claim solely because inspection has not been made.

All carriage costs incurred in production of the fish for inspection by the committee must be borne by the claimant.

7. Claims cannot be made for species not included in the Committee Record Fish List.

8. The Committee will issue at regular intervals its list of British Record (rod-caught)Fish.

9. No fish caught out of season shall be accepted as a new record.

10. A fish for which a record is claimed must be normal and not obviously suffering from any disease by which the weight could be enhanced.

11. All species of freshwater fish listed in the Record List are regarded as native or as established aliens and a Section 30 Consent (under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975) will not normally be required, unless the established alien specie has not previously been caught in the water of capture.

In the case of a specie which is an established alien not known to have been caught in the water of capture before or is a specie for which no previous record has been awarded, the Committee reserves the right to request the production of a Section 30 consent and/or a Cefas ILFA Species Licence to hold and keep specific species of non native fish (under the Import of Live Fish Act). The possibility of freshwater fish close to, or above the British Record Weight being imported into the UK and claimed as a British Record has been considered by the Committee, which is of the mind that such claims should not be considered.


Certain species of British coarse fish are particularly prone to hybridisation. In these cases it can be very difficult if not impossible for a positive identification to be arrived at from photographic evidence alone. As a consequence the BRFC is inviting record claims for roach, rudd and crucian carp to be ratified by DNA testing.

To have a DNA test performed remove a single scale from the fish in the area between the dorsal fin and the lateral line. The scale should be cut in half, using a clean blade to avoid contamination with unwanted DNA or other contaminants which may confuse the test results.

The captor should notify the BRFC Secretary, Nick Simmonds, as soon as possible following the capture by telephone (01568 620447) or by email (

The angler should retain one half of the scale and send the other half to the BRFC Secretary, Nick Simmonds at The Angling Trust, Eastwood House, 6 Rainbow Street, Leominster, Herefordshire HR6 8DQ with details of the capture as outlined in the claiming procedure above.

The BRFC will arrange for the DNA test to be carried out and will inform the captor of the outcome.

The BRFC will maintain a separate record list for fish verified by DNA test.


The following species are deemed to be rare or threatened in Great Britain and protected under the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) and later Orders. This protection results in it being an offence to capture any of these fishes intentionally. Anglers who believe they may have captured one of these species are advised to unhook and release the fish unharmed as soon as possible after capture.

Allis shad (Alosa alosa)

Burbot (Lota lota)

Schelly, powan or gwyniad (Coregonus lavaretus)

Sturgeon (Acipenser sturio)

Vendace (Coregonus albula)

No claims for records of these species will be entertained by the BRFC

(Note: The entries for Allis shad and Schelly in the List of Records are presented as historical records only).

2 thoughts on “Record Breaking Fish

  1. Way back in 1988 the then Wessex Water Authority in pre EA days dredged the tidal Dorset Stour and the following season the fishing was very good, possibly due to a lack of natural food! Anyway, a lot of good silver bream showed amongst the roach and bream and the current silver bream record was one of 15oz by Denis Flack. Both Martin Hooper and myself (and probably others) caught (several) silver bream of 1-0 but we discussed it and came to the conclusion that given the chances that any weighing errors would knock off the odd ounce and that we probably had to kill the fish to get a positive id and that we really weren’t THAT desperate for glory then it was best to just have the satisfaction of what was and still is a decent fish and leave it at that. I’ve been witness to some fish-chasing on one of my local waters recently, one that I rarely bother to fish now although I misspent my youth there when the fishing was good (better in many ways) but generally lacked exceptional specimens, and quite honestly it’s a bit pathetic to see such a combination of lack of skill and time banditry. Happy Christmas!

    • I, too, caught silver bream way in excess of the record weight. Indeed we used to call them hybrids on the Trent and it was only later that it was proved they were genuine silvers. Whether mine were, or not, will remain a mystery – and I quite like that. My step-grandfather also broke the record many, many moons ago. The fish was dispatched to the taxidermist, later sent to London Zoo for verification, I believe. Alas it was washed away in the great floods of 1947. Just shows though, here I am writing about it nearly 70 years later. No-one remembers the fish that was the actual record back then, do they? Hate to voice this but maybe the solution is to knock records on the head like they used to. That way there’s absolutely no doubt about size or identification. The real plus is you don’t get the circus camping out trying to catch it weighing an ounce more. Mind you, folk already get hung, drawn and quartered for not using an unhooking mat. Christ knows what the reaction would be to a smart tap on the bonce with a priest! 😉