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Three-spined stickleback

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.

Stickleback, courtesy of Jack Perks
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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 and 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, location is now 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 squatts or very small pieces of red worm are a good choice.

Where to catch a stickleback

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


Find a place to fish

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

Last Edited: 24 December 2020

photo of a location on the canals
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