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Ask any group of coarse anglers which species they would most like to catch, and barbel (Barbus barbus) would be the choice of many. This bronzed fish is prized for its beauty and for its impressive resistance once hooked.

Barbel, courtesy of Jack Perks
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The powerful nature of this fish means a strong rod and line are a must.
Carl Nicholls, fisheries & angling manager

Appearance: usually golden bronze, fading to a creamy white on the belly. The fins are reddish brown, sometimes with an orange tinge. Very small barbel can often be confused with gudgeon, but the fact that barbel have four barbels around their mouth and gudgeon only have two makes them easy to tell apart.

British record: 21lb 1oz (British record committee 2015)

Lateral line scale count: 55-65 (this is the dark row of scales along the central length of the fish's body)

Lifespan: 15 to 20 years

We like barbel because: this bronzed fish is prized for its beauty, power and for its impressive resistance once hooked

How to catch a barbel

Barbel are primarily found in rivers, but they can be caught in the canal system in certain areas. A number of canals have a confluence with a river or are fed primarily by a river and in these areas it is highly possible that there are barbel present. The powerful nature of this fish means a strong rod and line are a must. It is not uncommon to use 10lb+ main line. The old style of fishing for barbel was a hemp laden swim feeder with a large piece of luncheon meat on the hook. While these tactics still work, modern thinking now uses bolt rig tactics and feeding using pellets on a hair rig.

Where to catch a barbel

The weir around the lock islands on the River Severn and River Trent hold good numbers of fish. The Kennet & Avon Canal in the Kintbury to Reading stretch is also worth a try.


Find a place to fish

Enter a town or postcode into our fishery search tool to find good local fishing spots

Last Edited: 17 June 2021

photo of a location on the canals
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