‘Golden-Mile’ pik­ing

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…

Angling Times (UK) - - WELCOME -

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.


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!


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.

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