There might be those among the readers of this blog who will wonder why I have given the diminutive gudgeon his own little chapter. Can I be serious? Yes, deadly serious. They are beautiful little fish. Colourful, free-biting and fun, gudgeon are a delight to any true angler.
‘Gonks’, ‘gobios’, call them what you will, gudgeon are one of Britain’s forgotten coarse fish. Populations have diminished and anglers have become too obsessed with pounds and ounces to worry about such a small fish. And yet in more innocent moments of our past they were highly valued. We once ate them, treasured them and even held gudgeon fishing parties.
How To Fish Canals Photo Gallery
In the not-so-distant past, gudgeon fishing was refined into an art form by match anglers looking for winning weights on hard canals. When you consider that the average ‘gonk weighs next to nothing, you start to appreciate the kind of feat catching half a stone of the whiskery little blighters represents.
And what splendid creatures they are. Anything but ‘brown as some blogs describe them, look closely at the gudgeon and you’ll find a brocade of silver, blue and gold. They also give a pleasant, juddering fight on light tackle such as a whip and will eagerly take just about any bait they can fit in their whiskery mouths, which are pretty big considering the tiny size of the fish.
Gudgeon fanatic Neil Williams displays a typical canal ‘gonk’.
Catching gudgeon from a canal is refreshingly simple. They can be widely distributed on certain canals and are not fussy. The canal angler in search of gudgeon-based gratification needn’t look far from the bank to catch them, for starters. They occupy the central track avidly, but are also present in the shallowest water right by the bank in all but the bitterest of the seasons. The short pole or whip is king, along with a lightish rig and regular helpings of maggots, pinkies or squats. The match men of the past would also mix up plenty of potent dark groundbait, often with a slightly bitter edge, and add a little thumbnail sized chunk at regular intervals to start what might be described as a ‘gobio frenzy’.
If you find the fish in numbers however, do be kind. By setting your bait at dead depth, hitting bites early and going barbless, you’ll have plenty of fun without harming these speckled little beasties.