Saturday 2 July 2022

Small Barbel River

I manage to land 34 Small River barbel in June, not bad but none over 5lb in weight. The average size of barbel has never been high (as long as I've fished it), but the average is getting smaller; an average size of 5lb 0oz in 2016 down to 2lb 15oz last year. I have blogged about this before and I have a couple of theories:

Natural Cycle: All river go through a natural cycle, big fish die off and some of the small barbel will grow on to replace them - the new doubles. And in a few years the balance will have turned.

Pollution Effect: The river used to suffer pollution every 2-5 years. The pollution killed off 90% of the barbel, leaving the survivers with little competition to grow on. Perhaps this kept the old balance?

Percentage of Small River barbel over 5lb (last 8 seasons).

Percentage of Small River barbel over 7lb (source).


  1. What about angling pressure? I assume more people fish in summer months, than winter. So is that pressure there during the feeding time? Have no idea, just a thought. I guess it wouldn't show so quickly on the weights

    1. Angling pressure and lots of other factors are having an impact I’m sure. Just year on year there seems to be more and more barbel in the river (not complaining). But only time will tell if the river can still produce the size of fish it used to - it’s a small river with limited food.

      I’ll keep fishing it, and keep detailed records - be interesting to see if there is a tipping point (less barbel but bigger).

    2. Is really interesting. I have the same thoughts up here. The section of Swale I fish has lots of chub but they stay around the 4lb mark, I love catching a 4lb chub but wold love some bigger fish, its the quantity that keeps the quality ( my interpretation of size) down.

    3. Each river must have limited resources, which must dictate how big the fish in them can grow (also water temperature and quality play an important roll). But it seem to vary how each species takes advantage of those limited resources. For example as the barbel seem to be getting smaller the chub seem to be getting bigger - ten years ago a 4lb chub was a monster - now it throws up a few sixes each year.

      Does the Swale have a history (even distant history) of big chub? If so hopefully the natural cycle of rivers means hopefully they will return!

    4. I think certain areas of the Swale does. There has been a 6lb 10oz caught from my section a few times, so its possible but the density of 4lb'ers means its always a struggle. Guess we think of all fish like the commercials, constantly putting on weight, but in the rivers life is hard!

    5. I always think if one fish can manage to become a six other can as well - they must! River fish are soooo much more rewarding than commercials. Plus it’ll happen when you least expect it..!

    6. Similar with my river Anker barbel quest. The river looks bang on for barbel in lots of spots but the population is very sparse. The river looks healthy enough to support a much fatter ecosystem but has been knocked back hard by man and the fish population is yet to catch up and respawn, literally.

    7. Could be at a low point in it’s natural (or man-influenced) cycle. Let’s hope the few remaining barbel spawn and the system is reborn. Time will tell…