Even the most grim-looking canal can hold hidden gems, as Brummie Tom Synnott and pal Sean Edwards prove with pike growing fat on neglect…
Why you should try your local canal for predators
ROUND 150 years ago, Birmingham was the centre of the UK industrial canal network.
This hub of waterways linked all four corners of the country and helped to distribute everything from coal to pottery.
Today, many miles of these canals lie mostly unused apart from the occasional holidaymaker or canal boat enthusiast.
As anglers, Sean and I just assumed the canals were mostly lifeless and polluted and that they didn’t really serve a purpose any more. How wrong could we be…
When we first started exploring the Grand Union Canal system in the centre of Birmingham we knew it wasn’t going to be easy... or pretty!
We came across litter like never before, with plastic bags everywhere, shopping trolleys, wheelie bins and more.
We quickly learned that fishing anywhere near the bottom of these canals was a waste of time – it was snag central.
Even letting the lure touch the bottom is a risk – you’ll more than likely end up with a plastic bag on the bank – and we spent a lot of time disposing of our ‘catches’ in the local recycling centres.
So why go fishing in such a place? We had our reservations at first, even wondering if there were any fish at all, but when we saw that first pike come out, we were hooked!
The pike we have caught in these urban waters have been the prettiest we’ve ever seen – a vivid gold that we haven’t come across in any other UK waters – and there’ve been some big fish too.
Sure, we’ve been there and had many blanks, but the thrill of netting one of those golden beauties is second to none!
With such a hot summer this year, we hadn’t even considered throwing a pike lure around, even if they would have been active enough to bite. We doubted a pike on the bank in sweltering heat would ever recover with such low oxygen levels.
But with summer coming to an end, the temperatures dropping and the nights closing in, we headed out for our first urban pike session of the season.
STARTING IN STYLE
The first trip was to a mile-long stretch where we’d caught some beautiful golden doubles the previous winter. We fished most of the afternoon
with no luck, until I gently twitched my copper red hybrid pike lure underneath a bridge to get us off the mark with the first pike of the season. Edging towards double figures, it was a great start to our autumn campaign.
A few days later we tried another stretch of canal beneath a very busy section of motorway. Again, it was far away from the most picturesque place we’d ever fished, but the noise didn’t seem to put the fish off and we found action quickly, with Sean netting a hefty jack just a short while into the session.
By now we’d got the predator bug again and we made a return to the original stretch that we call our ‘golden mile’.
The water wasn’t very clear, which isn’t unusual for the stretch as it does see the occasional boat, so we put on spinnerbaits and tried our luck.
It didn’t take long for Sean to get a take. We seemed to have found an area where some hungry pike were keen to have a go at our double-bladed spinners.
As we moved up the stretch, walking our spinners like poodles, my spinnerbait got smashed but the fish wasn’t hooked!
Luckily, Sean was close behind, immediately moved in for the steal, and succeeded as the fish smashed into his lure.
To my dismay, this was the biggest fish of the season so far!
GIVE IT A GO
Out of three short sessions we had netted four pike to near double figures, and for a collection of canals where you’re more likely to snag a bike than catch a fish that’s not a bad ratio.
We also meet some interesting characters while fishing the town stretches.
People seem almost shocked at the fact we’re even trying. “What? There’s fish in there?” is usually the first question, followed by, “what’s that you’re using to catch them?”
Lure fishing isn’t the most common type of fishing done in this country, so to see it in such an urban environment may come as a shock to some people, especially when combined with two guys walking around with GoPros on their heads, nets hanging off their back and baitcasters in their hand.
Sure, it’s nice to get out in the countryside, listen to the water flowing and the birds chirping, but if truth be told we’ve had some of the best sport and some of the best fishing experiences in these concrete jungles, catching some of the most beautiful pike we’ve ever seen.
Urban canals are often not regarded as fisheries and are frequently unpressured, so if you live near one, throw a lure in – you could end up with a shopping trolley or an absolute monster!
Urban ‘art’ and another canal pike netted.
Tom’s first pike of the season, and it’s a beauty!
This one from came from under a bridge.
Sean with a real lump from the canal.