Three-spined stickleback

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Although sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculaeatus) are unlikely to feature highly on the wish-list of a serious angler, they are one of the most common freshwater fish in the UK canals and rivers. Find out more about this fish.

Stickleback, courtesy of Jack Perks Stickleback, courtesy of Jack Perks

"Your best chance will likely be with the use of a fine mesh landing net or children’s dipping net."

Carl Nicholls, fisheries & angling manager

Appearance: Outside of the spawning season the male & female stickleback are very similar in colour and shape. However, come the spring the male develops a bright red throat and belly and dazzling blue green eyes and flanks. The female becomes silvery and very plump.

British record: 4dms (British record committee 2015)

Lateral line scale count: Sticklebacks don’t have proper scales and are usually smooth along the body or sometimes covered with bony plates.

Lifespan: 3 to 5 years

We like stickleback because of childhood memories catching them in hand nets while pond-dipping in the local canal

How to catch a stickleback

Once abundant, now location is key if you want to catch a stickleback. In shallow, weedy and clear water, careful observation will reveal this tiny fish. Your best chance will likely be with the use of a fine mesh landing net or children’s dipping net. If you only have use of a rod and line, then an extremely fine approach is required. Lines of 6oz and hook sizes of 26-28 are required. Very small baits like squats or very small pieces of red worm are a good choice.

Where to catch a stickleback

Can still be found in the clear canals of the Midlands and in small irrigation watercourses.

Last date edited: 15 March 2018