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The Species that can be caught at most WDNAC waters and how to identify them!

With the diverse range of waters the club offers, new and prospective members ask where the best venues are for certain species, and their main question is, how big do they get?

Well, I have listed below the main species in alphabetical order with some notes.  However I hope that with help from you the members we can expand upon the list and make it more accurate. I understand that there are those who do not wish to have their catches disclosed, that is their choice, however as a club we also have a duty to point our members in the right direction so that they can at least have a chance of that personal best. With your help I would like to compile a best fish list for each venue, this will be intended as a rough guide, if you have caught a specimen or had a big catch or landed something rare such as a  grayling etc. from any of our waters then let us know, and please not too much exaggerating!


Not a fish that you would readily associate with the area, indiginous to the faster flowing rivers such as the Thames, Severn, Yorkshire Ouse the Swale etc. However, barbel were introduced into the upper reaches of the Great Ouse during the 1970’s and have thrived. Our two stretches of the Great Ouse near Harrold hold big barbel, these are difficult fish to catch and best times are when the river is up and coloured and in hours of darkness. I have heard of fish to 16lb, but have seen no pictures. The Nene also had a stocking of barbel during the 1980’s at various locations between Northampton and Thrapston. These have not fared so well, maybe because of the nature of the river, however I have had recent reports (December 2010) of fish to 9lb from Barnwell back brook, and not just the odd fish but several around the 5-6 lb bracket. We don’t get many reports from Barnwell back brook as access is not great, however if there are big barbel to be had then a few more of you might give it a try! Finally Mill Cotton has had several stockings of small barbel over the years, they come out occassionally and some are currently up to 3lb.



To be found in all of the clubs water with the excepton of Grendon Carp Ponds. River bream occassionally caught in great numbers almost anywhere between the Embankment and Ditchford. Also in the slower stretch of river adjacent to Brightwell’s. I had a report from the summer of several bream to 7lb from the main river at Hardwater between Great Doddington and Wollaston.The biggest fish are  in the stillwaters of Barker’s, Brightwell’s and Duchess Lakes they  all hold plenty of fish in the 7-10 lb range with the odd specimen even heavier. Try also the canal and Swanspool Lake in Wellingborough plenty of skimmers and some bigger ones to be had at both venues.




The Chub can be found in most of the WDNAC waters .The Chub is a predatory fish and tends to live together in shoals, although larger specimens usually become solitary. The staple diet of the young fish are small invertebrates with older Chub also feeding on small fish, insects, small crayfish, fruit and berries. The Chub can often be found under overhanging trees and bushes but also in faster water on gravel beds where they can be often be seen feeding voraciously on anything that is edible! The Chub can be distinguished from its smaller relation the Dace. Points to note are the convex anal fin which is orange in colour, Dace’s fins are grey-blue. It has a long, cylindrical, streamlined body with grey or black-bordered scales, it's back is greyish brown in colour, tinged with green, it's sides are lighter and often golden blending into a white belly. Chub are distinguished by their huge mouths and are unmistakable in this respect.



Crucian Carp:

There are some fantastic fish of personal best size in both the Mill Cotton fisheries and there are also a few goldfish variant but both put up a wonderful fight and can turn an average days fishing into a fantastic one. The British rod-caught record for largest crucian is four pounds, nine ounces, landed by Martin Bowler in 2003 and  tied by Joshua Blavins in 2011 There have been various bids for a breakage of this record since, but they were rejected as not "true" crucians" but rather, e.g. a "brown goldfish variant"  this year at Mill cotton i have seen several up to 3lbs.



Mirror Carp:

The difference between mirror and its wild ancestor, the common Carp both genetic and visual - biologically they are similar. The mirror carp was the first mutation of common carp, owing to two alternative genes, the S allele and the N allele. The genetic term for a mirror carp is "ssnn" (all minor). Common carp have an even, regular scale pattern, whereas mirrors have irregular and patchy scaling, making many fish unique and possible to identify individual fish by sight, leading to most carp in the UK over 40 lbs being nicknamed. Mirror carp usually belong to the common carp's subspecies carpio. This lack of scales is widely believed to have been bred in by monks  in order to make the fish easier to prepare for the table. The current British record (as of 13 December 2009) is a carp known as 'Two tone' due to its colouration, caught from Conningbrook Lakes in Kent and weighing in at 67 lbs 14oz (30.45 kg).'Two Tone' was found dead in his lake on 14 August 2010. The current world record (as of June 2012) stands at 101 lbs 4oz, caught from Aqua Lake in Hungary by Roman Hanke.  Mirrors can be found in just about all the WDNAC waters


Common Carp:

Probably the most sought after species of all, now a very common type but once a rarity in this neck of the woods. If you just want to catch a carp then go to Mill Cotton, well stocked with fish to double figures, not too difficult to catch (particularly in the warmer months) bread, meat, paste, pellets, maggot and worm all work. For the more serious specimen hunter Barker’s (see picture of 40 pounder taken in the Autumn of 2015 in latest catches).  and Brightwell’s both hold fish to 40lb (no kidding), not that easy to catch, I would say that buying the night permit is a must if you want to catch a big ‘un. Also try the river, the pool by the footbridge at the back of Chester House has always had a head of genuine Nene strain carp. Grendon Carp ponds has a few, the clue there is in the name! and Spinney lakes also has a few Finally the canal near Theddingworth is sometimes targeted by the carp boys, if you walk along the towpath on a hot sunny day you can often see them basking under the bushes on the far bank.





Plenty of stripey’s throughout the main river Nene and its backwaters, not particularly noted for big perch a fish of say one and a half pounds would be very good, however there are some seriously big perch in the Great Ouse in our Harrold stretches, also try the canal where fish in the 2-3lb region are not rare. Mill Cotton has a lot good size perch, This year a 3lb 6 oz perch was caught at Ringstead and witnessed by Terry Freeland the bailiff so they are about!!. Perch can be found in all our other waters apart from Grendon.




Pike can be found in most water bodies provided it is well oxygenated being found in freshwater lakes with plenty of vegetation, rivers and canals throughout the UK.  Whilst Pike are believed to grow for between 10 - 15 years the maximum age is difficult to accurately know, because as they approach maximum size their growth slows down and eventually stops. They have always been the source of folklore and rumour, with the largest weight achieved having long been the subject of speculation. The current British record in currently 46lb 13oz,, although fish to over 50lb are caught in continental Europe, with the largest authenticated being one of 58lb 6oz from Grarup Lake in Denmark. Due to more settled winter weather conditions, the Pike are able to maintain winter feeding: the unpredictable British weather does not allow this to happen. The Pike is the perfect predator, fossils providing clear evidence of it remaining in its present form for over 60 million years. Both their Latin name and the name for the small males, Esox lucius and Jacks respectively, provides interesting insight into human views of this species of fish, with Jack being a name for the Devil !



Probably the most prolific of all species, found in all our waters except at Grendon. A fish of over one and a half pounds would be considered quite large by local standards. There are some very nice Roach now in snake lake at the Mill cotton fishery. The canal often produces a ‘biggie’and several have been caught this year. 



There are some beautiful specimens in both the Mill cotton lakes also the canal is a good bet for a decent sized rudd, also try Spinney Lakes. For the youngsters the easiest way of telling them apart from roach is the mouths a Rudd's lower lip is more forward than its top lip as it tends to feed off the top of the water. There are several strains of Rudd and they can all be caught at mill cotton.




  Tench can be found almost anywhere in both our Nene and Ouse stretches of the river, but the bigger ones are in Barkers where fish of 7-8lb are not uncommon, with the occasional 10 pounder putting in an appearance. These can be found in most of our waters, Barker's and Brightwell's the best bet for a near double, but both the Nene and the Ouse can produce the odd fish as well as Swanspool Lake Wellingborough and Spinney lakes. 





The Dace is a freshwater or rough water fish, inhabiting streams and rivers of northern Europe it prefers cool clear water flowing over gravel bottoms, in summer they are often seen darting up a streams surface whilst taking small flies. Such behaviour has led to the fish also being known as Darts. Whilst closely resembling Roach, in both size and shape, the Dace has shiny silver sides without the blue hue that Roach have they can also be mistaken for Bleak. The fins of Dace are white, but have a pale red tinge to them, whilst the dorsal, pectoral and caudal fins are tipped black. Small Chub can be distinguished from Dace by the fact that their anal fin is convex, whilst that of the Dace is concave, added to which their mouths are much smaller.




Gudgeon have quite a large head with a slim, streamlined body with a flat belly, its mouth being under-slung with one pair of barbules. It has a mid-brown coloured back, whilst it has dark bars along the flanks which have metallic blue sheen fading to a white belly: fins being pale brown with dark speckles. Gudgeon are small and average 8-12cm in length and a 3oz fish would be very large. The fish is somewhat more thickly set than Barbel with which they could be confused when Barbel are very young: the easiest way to distinguish them is remembering that only Barbel have two pairs of barbules.




Eels have a long,body with only one pair of fins,  with both the dorsal fin and the ventral fins running almost the entire length of its body to merge together at its tail end. The European Eel tends to be referred to as the Brown or Yellow Eels. When in freshwater as they take on colouration to best suit their habitat which is normally at the bottom of rivers and ponds, having a dark grey back and head, with a pale brown/brass or yellow/green sheen to their flanks giving way to a white belly.  Whilst the Eel appears scaleless, they do in fact have microscopic scales that are embedded in the skin, and they allow the exchange of respiratory gases whilst travelling across land: famously well known for having a very slimy body. Eels grow quite slowly in the wild, and usually take many years grow to full size.