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Urban fishing - the new trend?

As people look for healthy ways to de-stress after a busy day at work, we’re seeing a huge rise in questions about canal fishing in towns and cities. How easy is it? What do people need? Here are our tips for you budding urban anglers.

Urban fishing on the Regent's Canal
Credit REUTERS: Urban Fishing interview with John Ellis

Thank you to REUTERS for sharing this with us.

With over 2.5 million people working within 250 metres of one of our canals or rivers, there's every chance that your new favourite fishing spot is a stone's throw from your office. Find your nearest canal or search for a place to fish that's perfect for winding down after work.

What you need

The kit

  • travel light - to fish in more built-up areas, you're best to opt for a lure fishing kit or a short pack away pole. A lure fishing kit includes: a reasonably short light weight rod, reel, line (most anglers prefer braid to monofilament), landing net and unhooking mat. Finally, there's the actual lure itself and on many canals small lures designed for targeting perch are a good choice. If you are opting for the short pole, you will need two or three pole rigs, a landing net, a plummet, a disgorger, some spare hooks and shot and something to sit on.
  • the bait - big maggots, squatts or pinkies might not be welcome stored in the works' fridge at most employers but never fear – you could recycle your lunchtime sandwich bread to use as bread punch. It's brilliant for roach and bream, and gudgeon are happy to nibble it too. Another option that's worth considering is the recently introduced Fjuka Bait. Believed by some to be a gimmick to catch anglers rather than fish, John Ellis was taken by surprise as to how effective the bait was on the Shropshire Union Canal.

What will I catch?

You'll be surprised how many different species of freshwater fish are in our canals. But if you are using a lure kit then you're most likely catch:

  • perch – a common species easy to identify by its stripes. You can catch small and large perch alike using small spinners and lures but they're also partial to maggots and worms
  • pike – a large predator that's surprisingly fragile and must be handled with great care. If you're using the lure you're very likely to catch a pike. They're found in most of our canals and rivers. And there's some pretty large specimens in our urban waterways too so a wire trace is recommended

Plus, as we said above, if you're using bread or various kinds of maggots you are most likely to catch roach, bream or gudgeon.

Where to fish

As the waterways and wellbeing charity, we own the fishing rights for much of the 2,000 miles of our canals and rivers. Our local waterways teams, towpath volunteers and fisheries and angling team, work to make sure each stretch of water is a healthy environment for fish to thrive.

We're supported by hundreds of local angling clubs who manage various stretches for us. You can check to see which area is managed by a local club using our fisheries list. Just add the postcode or town name of where you want to go fishing. The local club may issue day memberships, typically priced at around £5, but if you want to go fishing regularly it's better value to join the club.

Where a club doesn't yet manage the stretch you can still go fishing by buying a yearly Waterways Wanderers permit from us and it too will cover you for hundreds of miles of fish-filled waters.

Popular spots include:

Where not to fish

You can't fish:

  • in lock chambers or within 25m of a lock (that's about one boat length)
  • within 25m of a boating water point tap
  • near overhead powerlines (there's usually loads of signs warning you about these anyway)
  • from the offside bank – that's the side opposite the towpath – please stick to the towpath to stay safe
  • turning or winding circles
  • in rivers during the close season – but you can fish in most of our canals all year long
  • and of course, anywhere you see a ‘no fishing' sign – it's there for a very good reason

See our guide to good fishing with loads more information you need to know where ever you're fishing.

Win our Catch of the month

Why not share your urban catches with us on our Facebook group? You could win one of our catch of the month vouchers.

Last Edited: 14 July 2021

photo of a location on the canals
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