July 12th, 2013: EARLY SEASON BARBEL CARE
The long awaited arrival of summer is finally allowing us to cast away the memory of a prolonged winter and spring but will it improve sport is the big question. The answer, sadly, is probably not. It’s too late, too hot and too bright! Talk about a contradiction.
Fishing folk are a bit like farmers, conditions are never quite right and I’m sure there’s a best-selling book waiting to be written called ‘The Anglers Bedside Book Of A Thousand Excuses’. But seriously, the biggest impact of the spring has not been so much on anglers but on the fish. During late summer and autumn fish feed strongly to build up their body mass before winter sets in. Believe it or not a fish can easily go weeks or even months without feeding over the winter period. This usually occurs when the water temperature has fallen below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As the temperature gets cooler so the fish go into a state of semi hibernation. They pretty much find a spot that suits them and they will lay-up until the weather improves expending minimal energy. Being cold-blooded a fishes entire metabolism slows down to the point where it is barely ticking over. We frequently see evidence of this in the form of leeches on the flanks and belly of a pike caught after a cold snap.
It is not a problem in a normal year. Through March and April temperatures will begin to rise again, the weed starts to grow, vertebrates multiply and there are all manner of insect hatches to provide easy pickings. This is when the fish have a proper old munch because they have to get themselves fit for the upcoming rituals of spawning which is no small deal. No comfy beds and mood lighting for the fish. It’s more like warfare and each year sees numbers of fish fall casualty to the rigours. Sex can be bad for a fish’s health!
Unfortunately when winter drags on the recovery takes longer.
Spawning tends to be triggered by water temperature and, of course, this was delayed, too. So much so that despite anglers giving up the river banks for 3 whole months during the archaic and out-dated closed season imposed by the Mundella Act, which by the way was aimed to keep riff-raff off the rivers during the salmon season rather than to protect coarse fish, many species hadn’t spawned before the ‘glorious sixteenth’ was upon us.
Sensible anglers were then faced with a dilemma. It may have been kinder not to fish at all in the opening weeks of the river season but the high protein baits used by most anglers these days genuinely benefit the fish we target. They promote high growth rates but more importantly they help the repair process caused by the exertions of spawning, especially in a year when weed growth and natural food bounties appeared late or n some cases, not at all.
As anglers we have a responsibility to the fish we catch. After all who can argue with the good angler’s mantra of take only photographs, leave only footprints? But looking after the fish we catch should be our number one priority. This is no time of year to be retaining fish in keepnets or sacks and don’t be too eager to lift the landing net out of the water. The fish you just caught has just run a marathon so et it get its breath back before you hoik it out and unhook it.
Hard fighting fish like barbel need to be kept out of the water for the minimum amount of time possible and then rested for ten minutes in a deep landing net to recover in a position where there is good flow and high oxygen content. Little things like this are so important.
Last week I fished a local river and was fortunate to catch one of the biggest barbel in there. When I saw her in the landing net I felt a little guilty. Where in the past she had been thick set and muscular she now looked emaciated, all head and a skinny body like a talent show judge! She will recover, of that I’m sure, and the protein content of the pellets we anglers introduce will speed that along but my task was to grab a few quick pictures then get her back as quickly as possible, fully rested and none the worse for the experience.
All the barbel I’ve caught this season have shown signs of recent spawning activities and will do for a while yet. Make sure you treat them with proper care because the future of your river depends on how well you treat the fish you catch today.
Bradshaw Hall Fisheries
One of the North West’s premier fishing venues boasting 9 fully stocked lakes set in over 50 acres The lakes contain carp, roach, tench, rudd, bream, barbel, chub and perch.Five are available for match fishing and popular weekly open matches are held each Wednesday and Sunday. An on-site cafe serving hot fresh food is open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. On other days it’s just drinks and snacks so don’t forget your sandwiches!
Radshaw Hall is situated on Slack Lane, off Bradshaw Road, Bradshaw, Bolton. Post Code: BL2 4JW
Web Site: www.bradshawhallfisheries.co.uk
Contact Tel: 01204 307197