Salasco Lake, ItalyPasta, Pizza, AC Milan and the leaning tower of Pisa are all things that come to mind when you think about Italy, however if you fine tune your mind to fishing, then monster Catfish from the rivers Po or Mincio are top of the list, closely followed by stories of very big Carp from those very same waters.

Well if you look a little harder and do a spot of research, you will be able to find lakes that are on a par with some of the best waters in France, lakes that are just lying untouched and unfished by English anglers.

Lakes that are full to bursting with very big and hard fighting Carp, Mirrors, Commons and Grass Carp, lakes that are set in fantastic countryside with amazing views and scenery all around them, and owned by some of the most helpful and hospitable people you could ever wish to meet.

I write this, sat on the banks of one such lake, a truly stunning lake of around 20 acres, situated in the foothills of the Alps, a short 1 ½ hour drive from the Mont-Blanc tunnel to a small town called Salasco.

The lake is run by Mauro and Luisella, an Italian couple, who both sponsored by Daiwa, are very good Carp anglers themselves, and their partners Stephan and Jessica and who all speak very good English. and have started to make this a very good fishery indeed.
The lake has ten swims along the far bank, all reachable by car, and big enough for any large bivvi, there are very few snags in the lake and both distance and margin fishing can be recommended. The opposite bank is reserved for trout fishing so there is no problem from any anglers on that bank; it is 200yds away so well out of the way.

So why not try out our one week Salasco Lake tour and see for yourself just how good fishing in Italy can be.

One of Kevin's many catfish

The time was 2pm, the date 27th October 1880 and on a chilly autumnal afternoon a small group of gentry, hosted by the 9th Duke of Bedford watched as 70 Wells Catfish were introduced into the Shoulder Of Mutton lake at Woburn Abbey after travelling all the way from a Berlin fish farm.

If only those gentlemen knew what pleasure those small Catfish fry would give to thousands of anglers all over the country in the years to follow, and it was this lure of History that made me want to fish the waters at Woburn Abbey.

My first visit to Lower Drakeloe lake was on Tuesday 9th May 2006, I had waited for a couple of weeks since applying to join the syndicate for a meeting with the Duke of Bedford, I had now had the two meetings required, filled out all the relevant forms required for police checks etc, paid my sum of £1,175.00 and I was now a fully paid up member of the Woburn Abbey fishing syndicate.

I unlocked then drove through the two gates that border the grounds, and down the road that runs along the side of the lake, it was a fantastic site, a beautiful lake surrounded by acres of Rhododendron in full bloom, dozens of different shades and colours everywhere the eye could see, nestled in thick deer filled woodland, but with all this beauty around me it was only one thing I was really interested in and that was the lake itself, and a lake that I knew held what it was all about, Catfish! and not just any Catfish, these were offspring from the original stocking by the old Duke of Bedford on that very same Octobers day, over 100 years ago in these very waters.

I spent a couple of hours just wandering, sitting, dreaming etc, then I saw my first fish, among the roots of an old tree on the far bank was a small Cat of around 15lb, it moved slowly among the roots for ages before moving out into deeper water, I was to see and feed this fish for the next few weeks to come, it was always there, I would drop some pellets or chopped fish etc into the root system and come back at the end of my session to find it all gone, I never tried to catch it from this area, didn’t seem fair as there are plenty more in the water, or so I was told.

I couldn’t wait to get some rods out in the hope of catching my first Woburn Catfish, but had to wait until the 25th May for my first session, I got to the lake at around 3pm and set up on the dam wall at the far end of the lake, the weed in the crystal clear water was terrible, the whole lake was full of thick weed from top to bottom, so for the first 4-5 hours I busied myself raking a clear patch in the weed with a hope of being able to present a bait in a clear area.

I baited the raked area with around 5 kilos of Halibut pellet, and baited each of the three rods with double 20mm Halibut pellet on a simple hair rig and settled down for the night.

There is a cabin at the far end of the lake by the dam wall which has mains electricity, a toilet etc, so whilst I was setting up, raking and baiting etc, Tracey my wife was cooking dinner in the microwave, it’s surprising just how much difference a proper toilet, washroom and cooking facilities make for a comfortable session.

We awoke at 2am to the sound of my left buzzer screaming off, as quick as a shot I tightened to the fish and immediately knew it was a cat, It was landed fairly quickly as I was only fishing 30 yards out (the distance I managed to rake), but a hard fight all the same, and there she was 27 ½ lb of beautiful Woburn Catfish, a fish probably never caught before as there are only seven syndicate members, all the other six are Carp anglers and it is only the second season that the lake has been opened up for fishing for a long time.

No sooner had I landed the Cat when my right hand rod screamed off also, another short but hard fight and another fish of just under 20lb was in the net, two fish on my first night, what a fantastic result, and what a start to my first season on Woburn.

A quick photo session and they were both slipped back into the water, none the worse for their ordeal, I was like the cat that had the cream, grinning from ear to ear and to say well chuffed would be an understatement.

The rest of the night was uneventful, apart from the odd roar from the lions or the howling of the wolves in the woods behind where I had set up my bivvi, with the moon peeping out from behind the clouds it made for an unusual experience I can tell you, I thought I was the hunter not the hunted!!

The following day was spent between relaxing in the sunshine or raking the swim some more, it certainly hadn’t spooked the fish with all the noise and disturbance of the previous days raking and may even have worked in my favour by churning up the bottom and giving the fish clearer areas to root around in searching for food, Although there was one drawback though, being waist deep in muddy, silty water for hours on end is the horrendous smell, and boy did I smell.

Baits were re cast at around 5pm, the clearer area was now approximately 30 metres in diameter, and very clear, huge mounds of Canadian pond weed towered either side of the swim, crawling with fresh water shrimp and all manner of bugs and insects that had been dragged from the water, I had visions of shoals of silver fish mopping up all the insects from the bottom now they had no hiding place, and Cats prowling around looking for an easy meal too, hopefully the beds of pellets that had been scattered around should do the trick again.

7pm saw my first and only action of the evening, a fast powerful run straight into the weed on the far side of the cleared area, I managed to ease the fish back into open water fairly quickly and into the waiting net, another fantastic fish of 29lb, as it was still light a photo opportunity in front of the blooming rhododendron bushes was too good to miss, so after a few snaps the fish was slipped back into the water.

My next session on the lake was 5 days later, one of the rules of the syndicate is that you can only fish two consecutive nights, then you have to wait 5 nights before you can night fish again, just as well really as if not I may have spent more time at the lake than at home, you can still fish daytime sessions up until dark in between the nights, but as I was to find out several weeks later, the fish very rarely come out during the day anyway, and of all the fish I was to catch only one was during the daytime.

Another Cat of around 18lb was caught but that was the only action for the evening, 4 fish already and only my second session, I was really enjoying my fishing here, the peace, the scenery and the quality of fish made it a majestic place.

For the next two weeks I fished another syndicate water, Bassingbourn barracks, a lake within the Army training area in Hertfordshire, I have fished here on & off for the past 10 years so know the lake intimately, and know that it holds a few Cats, four were stocked in 1998 at around 20lb and were growing fast, several of the carp anglers on the water had lost big fish, and a 57lb fish had been caught by the only other serious Cat angler on the lake.

My first weekend saw me catch a tremendous Cat of 41lb 4oz on popped up Squid boated out to an island around 80 yards away under a dead tree, The next weekend on the water ended up without a run, apart from a pike of around 5lb that picked up half a tin of luncheon meat.

Thursday 9th June saw us back at Woburn, we arrived around lunchtime and was just in the process of setting up when out of the corner of my eye I noticed something huge in the water by the dam, now when I say huge, I mean huge and it was in fact two of them splashing around together instead of just the one, and these were most definitely the two biggest things in the lake without any question, splashing around in the sun like a couple of kids in a paddling pool on a hot summers afternoon.

What a sight it was, no further than 50 metres from my bivvi was a pair of fully grown Elephants in the lake, they had wandered round from the safari park and decided to take a swim in the lake to cool down, I thought it best to wait a while before casting out as the line I had on my Shimano long cast reels would probably not have been strong enough to reel in a fully grown elephant, so my wife and I decided to take a walk round to where they were for a closer look, after all it’s not every day that you have animals like this in your swim is it.

We spent the next couple of hours watching these huge animals playing in the water, rolling over and going completely under the surface, ripping up the weed and throwing it in the air, well at least they are helping I thought, we then plucked up the courage to get real close and stroke them, and then as they left to wander back to the park I got on with the task of what it was I actually came hereto do, FISH!!

The village of Woburn Sands is approximately 5 minutes away from the lake and has fantastic Indian and Chinese takeaway restaurants, so ideal for those lazy evenings when you don’t fancy cooking or would just rather a curry etc, this was one of those regular evenings at Woburn when after a lovely chicken madras the rods were cast out with fresh baits, “Trap set”. The evening saw two more fish at 29lb 8oz and 17lb, it seems that most of these fish are possibly from the same year as the weights are so similar, the majority are around 29lb with the odd smaller fish, however it was still early on in my fishing on the water so a lot could change by the end of the year, after all it was only June so another 4 months of fishing was possible if the weather was to hold out.

The next few weekends saw me put a lot of time on the water, it was hard work continually raking the swims that I wanted to fish but the hard work was paying of, I was constantly catching, but then it wasn’t hard catching the fish once I could present a bait, no one was fishing for the Catfish here so they were not rig or bait shy at all, and they seemed to love the Halibut pellets or large BCUK fish flavoured boilies that were now going into the water. I tried using Squid, Worms, Leeches, Live baits etc but never really had a lot of luck, one Cat of 19lb to Squid, a couple of small jack Pike to lives and that was all, so I decided to stick to what was going well, why change if it doesn’t need changing.

After a few phone calls to the Woburn estate office I managed to arranged a work party with the specific aim of clearing a lot of the weed, the Bedford estate sent two tractors with drivers, a boat and a huge rake, three of us from the syndicate turned up and work began at 9am. We worked through until 4pm and what a difference we had made, there were now huge clear areas all over the lake so it was now time to fish areas the areas that were Unfishable before now.

Whether it was the raking of the weed or just pure coincidence but that night saw me bank my first Woburn 30, an immaculate fish of 35lb 12oz, caught from the margins of the island in the middle of the lake.

The island has a large Pergola in the middle and is a good aiming marker at night as it can clearly be seen from anywhere, it used to house the monkeys when it was part of the safari park, and the lake used to also be home to seals and a hippo, many people remember the lake as the old cable car used to go over the top of it.

Over the later part of September and into October I continued to catch more fish, the weights were up a little & the average weight was now around 31lb, (up by approx 3lb from June) this I put down to the amount of bait going in and the long warm summer meaning the fish were feeding more and putting on the extra weight, Things have slowed down a lot now and my last few sessions including this weekend just gone (10th Nov) have resulted in blanks, my personal best from the lake stands at 37lb 12oz caught in the margins mid October, a magnificent fish that along with all the others has made it a worthwhile experience fishing this historic water, every single thing from the herds of wild deer that wander feet from the door of your bivvi, the wallabies that bound and hop around the banks, the scenery and flowers, the elephants popping round for a swim and of course the Catfish from that fish farm in Berlin…….

The lovely, 25-acre Mar-Pêche, originally named Lac du Martin-Pêcheur, lies in the valley of the famous river Yonne, near Montereau only 3½ hours drive from the ports of Calais, Boulogne and Dunkerque. The lake is less than 10 minutes from the A5 auto-route.

Virtually everyone that visits Mar-Pêche remarks on how comfortable the place is. The gently sloping, grass swims with large amounts of space behind each fishing area offer what can only be described as ‘sheer comfort’.

There is ample room in every swim to erect the largest of bivvies, to park your car and spread out your tackle. This, combined with a maximum of 10 anglers on the whole lake, ensures there’s plenty of room for everyone.

Mar Peche lake map

On three banks you will see the customary rows of French poplars, far enough away from the water to allow comfortable casting, yet close enough to offer good shade in mid-summer. The shorter west bank, on which there are no swims, has been allowed to grow more naturally and borders Lac Cachette, where you can sample the action of this wild, overgrown lake, heavily stocked with doubles, 20’s and the occasional 30.

The lake holds about 160 carp with 95% being between 30 and 70 pounds (14-32kg). More than 35 DIFFERENT 50’s and NINE DIFFERENT 60’s were caught in 2007. The majority of stock are very young with many fish growing up to an incredible 10 pounds per year! The current lake record, caught in November 2007, stands at 70.4.

There is a small head of catfish and the average size is about 50lbs with a sprinkling of 100lb plus fish, including a 160 pound er landed by Kevin Cornelius in September 2008.

Mar-Pêche is a family-owned venue run by Kevin and Anita Maddocks. There are no silly rules, unlike many French waters! The water is private and therefore no licenses are required. You can use 4 rods, there are no tackle restrictions, no bait bans and you can sack your fish. A well-run fishery, with sensible rules goes a long way to ensuring that you enjoy your visit.

We have put together a few “tongue in cheek” recipes for some of the fish we know and love. Of course we don’t suggest you start keeping the fish you catch, see our catch & release policy, but if you can find responsibly sourced or farmed examples of these fish and are interested in trying them out, we’d love to here how you get on. Drop us a line with your stories and we may just feature them on our site.

canadain peanut butter cookie recipe

Ingredients: Make 40 cookies

  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 cups of plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt


1. In a bowl, cream together peanut butter, margarine, both sugars, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.
2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the peanut butter mixture.
3. Shape into 1 inch balls and place on ungreased baking sheet. Flatten with fork.
4.Bake at 350f (180 C) for 10 minutes until lightly browned, then cool on a rack.

Baked Catfish Spiked with Garlic and Fresh Tomato Sauce


  • 1½ – 2 lb (750 g – 1 kg) thick catfish fillets or tail piece
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, cut into fine slithers
  • olive oil
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 quantity fresh tomato sauce, to serve


1. Pre heat the oven to gas mark 6, 400°F (200°C).
2. Wash the fillets or tail piece of catfish and pat dry with kitchen paper.
3. Make several slits in the fish and poke in the garlic slivers.
4. Lay the fish on a lightly oiled shallow baking tray, season with a pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper, crumbled bay leaf and 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley. Sprinkle with the juice of half the lemon and a little olive oil.
5. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until just cooked.
6. Transfer the cooked fish to a warmed serving plate, adding any cooking juices to the Fresh Tomato Sauce.
7. Pour the sauce over and around the fish and garnish with the remaining half of lemon, thinly sliced, and the remaining tablespoon of chopped parsley. Serve immediately.

roasted carp with peppers and pancetta


  • 6 large sweet red peppers, long variety
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 red onions, peeled and sliced
  • 4 large fillets of carp, skinned
  • 120g pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 30 large basil leaves
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 4 tbsp sour cream, (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 200°C/ gas mark 6.
2. Wash and arrange the long red peppers in a roasting tray and roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Cool and remove skins and seeds. Slice in thin strips.
3. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onions for 5-7 minutes until just transparent. Remove the pan from the heat, add the peppers and keep warm.
4. Have 4 large fillets of carp prepared and make incisions in the flesh, about 4-5 in each fillet. Push in the pancetta strips together with the basil.
5. Melt the butter and stir in the paprika. Use to brush each stuffed carp fillet. Arrange on a baking sheet and put in hot oven to cook for 20-30 minutes.
6. Serve the carp accompanied by the peppers and red onions. Spoon over some sour cream if desired.

The Porbeagle Shark, Lamna Nasus, is Northern Europe’s ‘biggest big game fish’. It is thought to grow to about a thousand pounds, and the All-Tackle World Record is a fish of 507 pounds, caught by Christopher Bennet, off Caithness, Scotland in March 1993. It has a number of different names; which include, Salmon Shark, Herring Shark, Blue Dog, Mackerel Shark amongst others and is endemic to the cool temperate waters of the Northern Atlantic. The Pacific Porbeagle is considered the same fish and has the Latin name Lamna Ditropis. In the northern hemisphere it is found as far north as Norway and Iceland and as far south as the north coast of Africa. It is also to be found in the Mediterranean Sea. It is a pelagic, oceanic shark and is frequently found near the shore especially during the summer months. It has been implicated in shark attacks in areas of the Mediterranean Sea.

The ‘Porgie’ as it is affectionately known, is a member of the Lamnidae family of shark’s which includes the Great White and Mako Sharks. It is a thick set, perfectly formed shark, easily identified by clusps at the base of its teeth with a white patch at the bottom of its dorsal fin.

It follows the huge mackerel and herring shoals, hence its other names, and is the main reason it is found close inshore during the summer months. The porgie is warm blooded and oviparous, giving birth with up to five live pups. However, they are only thought to breed once every two to three years.


The porbeagle in the UK and Ireland is predominately found hunting in locations where the Gulf Stream has its strongest influence.

England has famous marks located off the North Cornwall and Devon coasts. Ports such as Padstow, Boscastle and Crackington Haven are good starting points. These locations have produced outstanding specimens in the distant past, including fish such as Jorge Potier’s defeated record, of 465lb caught in July 1976. In fact, a lot of Line-Class Records have been caught from these marks. Unfortunately, commercial fishing methods such as long lining is taking its toll on the porbeagle stocks in this area, as they are within easy reach of the continental fishing ports where there is a demand for the porbeagles pleasant tasting flesh. The South Cornwall ports such as Looe and Polperro also produce porbeagles but not in the quantities as the north coast. The English Channel and the Isle of White also produces good-sized specimens every year.

Moving further up the coast, within the last year, fish over 200lb have been taken from the Bristol Channel. Perhaps, we may see the channel becoming a noted porbeagle ‘hot spot’?

The Gulf Stream also has an influence on the Welsh coast and marks in Cardigan Bay have produced large fish. But to my knowledge, they have not produced fish as large as those caught off the Cornwall and North Scotland coasts.

North East Scotland has produced huge porbeagles in the last decade, the largest being the 507lb fish, mentioned earlier. Again, over-fishing has led to a decline in the species in this area over the last few years. It is interesting to note that these large fish were caught earlier on in the year to what would be expected off the Cornish coast. Maybe these fish migrate south as the sea warms up? Porbeagles do move considerable distances as demonstrated by a fish caught and tagged off the south coast, having been recaptured off the Norwegian coast. The porbeagles are fairly predictable in making their appearance at particular marks. The record states that they can be caught at various marks every year within a few weeks.

The North Sea is a bit of an unknown quantity. However, they are definately there and grow to immense proportions. How do I know this? I was visiting a customer at the Sunderland Fish Dock and I was told that they had landed two porbeagles in consecutive weeks. They were taken from salmon nets near the mouth of the River Wear and weighed 600lb and 400lb . A photograph of the larger fish was apparently published in the local paper. These fish were probably in the vicinity ‘picking off’ the salmon as they were about to ascend the River Wear to spawn. Time to get the rubby dubby brewing!

Some of the best marks in Northern Europe are to be found off the West Coast of Ireland. This area has the type of rough ground that the porbeagle likes to frequent, with copious quantities of mackerel and pollack, to feed upon. On inquiring as to the availability of charter skippers in this area last summer, I was told a rather humorous tale of man verses porbeagle encounter. Apparently, two local anglers were fishing for blue shark in Galway Bay in a small boat. One of them eventually hooked into a good fish, not a blue, but a porbeagle! The fish then proceeded to tow them around for over three hours. They eventually tired the fish and it was brought along side the boat. It was obviously too big to bring into the boat so they cut the trace. Estimated weight was near to 500lb. Irish blarney? Who knows?


To cover the varied aspects of tackle requirements in any detail would require a whole chapter in a book. I will therefore describe the main items of tackle, that are most commonly used for bait fishing from a static or drifting boat, which is the predominate method used to catch porbeagles in the UK.


There are a number of different types of rods that can be used; based on the line-class system. Rods with line-class ratings of 30lb class or below are what may be described as light-line fishing. I generally do not fish with such light tackle, preferring heavier gear to subdue any fish I encounter, as quickly as possible. Therefore, most of my fishing utilizes 50lb class tackle, and this will land most fish that you will generally encounter within a reasonable time.

There are a lot of quality rods in the 50lb line-class bracket on the market to choose from. Most of the large tackle manufacturers such as Penn, Daiwa, Shimano and Star Rods of the USA supply rods to suit most bait fishing applications. I would avoid the ‘pokers’ that are available, and choose a rod that has some give in the top section, a lot of back-bone in the mid section and which locks at the butt section to enable the fish to be pumped up to the surface. Rods with a fibreglass/carbon mix, is generally considered a good material in the right ratio, as this provides both strength and lightness. Rod lengths of about 7.5 to 8 feet is about the right length of rod to use.


Again, the major tackle manufacturers supply reels to suit porbeagle shark fishing applications.

Reels such as the Penn Senator size 6/0, Daiwa Sealine size 450 to 600, Shimano Tiagra size 4/0 have stood the test of time and have suitable line capacities of about 500 yards of 50lb line. The Fin-Nor Ahab and Big Game trolling reels also ‘fit the bill’, however, they are rather expensive.

It doesn’t really matter whether the drag is a star or lever drag system, but most people prefer the convenience of the lever drag for rapid change of pressure during the fight.


Monofilament lines are the type to use for porbeagle shark fishing. A good quality line from the reputable fishing tackle manufacturers should be used. Lines such as Berkley, Ande, Stren and Maxima are good quality makes, and if you are interested in line class records the Ande brand is pre-tested to ensure that it breaks at or below its stated breaking strain.

Most fishing applications will require the use of 50 & 80lb line class. However, some anglers like the challenge of light line fishing in the 12, 16, 20 & 30lb classes.

Hooks, Swivels, Rubbing Trace and Wire Traces

Hooks in the 8/0,10/0 and 12/0 sizes are the ones most applicable for porbeagle shark fishing. Mustad hooks manufacture three types of hook that are suitable. These are the Seamaster, Sea Demon and the O’Shaughnessy.

The rubbing trace should be monofilament line of approximately 250-300lb breaking strain. The length of the rubbing trace should not exceed 30 feet, if you’re interested in line class records in 30lb class and above. A length of 15 feet is more generally used, and is used to prevent the porbeagle’s extremely abrasive skin from cutting through the main line, as they frequently ‘twist up the line’ during the fight. The rubbing trace can also be ‘grabbed’ by your ‘fishing partner’ when the porbeagle is brought along side of the boat.

The biting trace should be a seven-strand, flexible, kink resistant wire similar to the type used on a motor cycle brake system. This should have a length of about 4 to 5 feet with an overall diameter of about 2 to 3mm.

Swivels should be of the very best quality, and the Sampo ball bearing swivel in the 500lb breaking strain size is perhaps the best that is readily available.

Fishing in the United Kingdom, is without doubt some of the best to be had anywhere in the whole of Europe, whether that be Barble fishing on the Great Ouse or Trent, Pike fishing on the Norfolk Broads, Salmon fishing in Scotland or Conger fishing off the coasts that surround these isles, there is truly something for everyone, without having to leave these shores.

Yes we all know of the monster Catfish of the Ebro or Po, The massive Carp of Dream lakes or the Seinne etc, but sometimes it is just fantastic to jump into your car, drive only a few miles, and be fishing for some of the wild and fantastic specimens that lurk within our waters.

We can break this down into two categories, Sea, or salt water fishing, and of course freshwater fishing.

Sea/Salt water

Nearly all of our rugged coastline will produce fish at some time of the day, at the moment we do not need a licence to fish the sea, and of course the fish we catch are usually great for eating (check out our recipes page), fish such as Cod, Mackerel, Plaice and Whiting to name but a few, can be caught in large numbers if you find a shoal of them, Large Conger eels can be caught from the harbours and estuaries, that put up a very good account for themselves, and can be great fun catching.

You can also charter one of the many boats that offer trips out to sea to fish over any one the hundreds of old wrecks of warships, or along the reefs and sandbanks, to catch more than enough fish for the table, and the freezer (please try to be conservative though, why take them all? catch and release works at sea as well)!!

Further out to sea there are the larger fish to target, including Sharks and Rays.


Our entire Island is covered with rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, canals etc, every anglers dream, none of us have to travel very far to find somewhere to cast a lure or fly, or to just relax behind a set of buzzers waiting for them to burst into life.

The main point with freshwater fishing is that firstly we all have to own a yearly rod and line licence, and also that the vast majority of waters are owned by somebody and therefore not free to just turn up and fish (please ensure you have a rod licence, and the permission of the fishery owner before you start to fish).

There are however some fantastic specimens to be caught from some waters in the United Kingdom, from Carp to over 60lb, 40lb Pike and Catfish to well over 100lb, just ask in your local tackle shop or look in the angling press or on-line for details.

American Paddlefish

The American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) lives in the slow-flowing waters of the Mississippi river, Missouri river,Ohio river and Oklahoma River systems (and was historically found in the Great Lakes). In May 2000, the Canadian Species at Risk Act listed the Paddlefish as being extirpated in Canada. The American paddlefish is one of the largest freshwater fish in North America. They commonly reach 5 feet or more in length and weigh more than 60 pounds. The largest American paddlefish on record was caught in Iowa and weighed 198 pounds. This type of fish’s age is hard to determine but many scientist think that they live 50 years or more. These fish at one time were very abundant in most central U.S. river systems, but populations have declined greatly due to over harvesting, sedimentation, and river modification. One of the major reasons for declining paddlefish numbers are the dams constructed up and down major U.S. river systems. The dams block paddlefish migration routes that are very important to the fish for spawning. One other reason for the decreased numbers is over fishing. During the last century, paddlefish and sturgeon have stimulated the world stock trades because with their eggs (roe), called caviar. Paddlefish and sturgeon are two of the most important fish for freshwater caviar. Paddlefish take many years before they are able to spawn. A female may take 9 to 10 years, when they are about 42 inches long, and males 7 years old and 40 inches long are able to spawn. When able to spawn, the female releases adhesive eggs randomly over the water bottom and abandons them. They are capable of producing over one-half million eggs a year, but they may not spawn every year. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commissioners are reintroducing the species to historical habitats in the Ohio and Allegheny rivers in an effort to establish a secure breeding population once again. Reintroduction efforts for a species take many years to mature enough fish to help the population reach mature breeding numbers.

At present there are only two species of living paddlefish. Fossils of other paddlefish have been found. One such species is Crossopholis magnicaudatus. C. magnicaudatus has been found in the Green River Shale deposit of Wyoming and dates to the Eocene.

Early investigators once thought that the paddlefish used their snouts to dig vegetation from the bottom of lakes and rivers long ago, although today’s investigators now know that they only filter feed straining zooplankton out of the water. They do this with their gill arches inside of their mouths. This feature is predominant of the fish. These gill arches help to filter out zooplankton(Leptodora kindtii) organisms because of filaments located on the arches called gill rakers. While the fish is swimming throughout the water with its mouth open, the food is caught in these rakers which then the fish can digest. A recent study that has been conducted demonstrated that a paddlefish has electrosensory receptors in its rostrum that can detect some weak electrical fields suggesting that they use their rostrum as an antenna to detect zooplankton. Even though the rostrum seems to help the fish feed, it has been also studied that fish with severely damaged or missing rostrums are able to feed and are just as healthy as other fish with them intact. The rostrum also helps the fish to feed by acting as a stabilizer. As the fish moves through the water with its mouth open, the rostrum creates lift, much like a wing of an airplane. This helps the fish by keeping its head in a steady position and helps it keep from diving to the bottom.


Due to the value of their eggs, paddlefish are a constant target for poachers, and they are subsequently a protected resource over a large part of their range. Additionally, in many of the 22 states that paddlefish reside, habitat destruction is causing their numbers to decrease more rapidly. Paddlefish need free flowing rivers that have shallow pools with sandy, rocky bottoms. These types of areas are perfect for their spawning. Water temperature must also be at the right temperature for the fish to be capable of spawning. Since today’s rivers are constantly being modified by the construction of dams, dredging, and excessive water removal for farming purposes, these types of areas are hard for the paddlefish to locate. In some areas, free flowing lakes with reservoirs are sometimes able to provide paddlefish with the right breeding habitat. One such area like this is the Missouri River-Lake Sakakawea system in North Dakota. This area is capable of producing good paddlefish numbers because it is a free flowing system with many good areas for paddlefish to spawn. Fishing for paddlefish in violation of local fishing regulations in some states is a felony.

Fishing for paddlefish

In some states, paddlefish are abundant enough to allow for sport fishing. Taking paddlefish is done with a bow and arrow, a spear, or by snagging–because paddlefish are filter feeders, they cannot be caught with conventional lures. For snagging, typically, anglers use a large treble hook (8/0 to 12/0 in size), weighted heavily to pull the hook to the bottom. Heavy duty rods, 7′ to 15′ in length with a heavy duty reel and line, complete the rig, which the angler moves in a sweeping motion to hook the fish in the fins or tail.

A First We Think

It Definatley the first time its been out, since it was put in over 10 years ago, and we believe this to be the only one to be caught in France, on a rod and line, hooked in the mouth.

Note: Caught by Mr K Midmore on Mr G Meadows rod.

Well the winter soon comes upon us and the smell of sweet carp baits and liquid flavours like from some childhood sweat shop fades, all because the time of year I love has arrived, winter pike time.

It’s off to the tackle shop for some lovely smelling Herring or some minging mackerel or maybe a pack of smelly smelt!! All good stuff in the pike world, a perfect free meal laying on the bed of a Norfolk Broads, all ready for that passing big lady.

Time for some homework then, getting the rods out and reels set up with fresh braid, I spend a few evenings in front of the TV watching Matt Hayes and Mick Brown fishing programmes whilst twiddle stick in hand.

Twisting my fresh sharp new Kamasan size 4 semi barbed hooks onto Drennan green 7-strand nylon coated hooklink.

Four rods to set up for the boat so with my Premier No 3 slider pike floats and pinching on 2 or 3 shot for a little resistance, I try to get the biggest one I can buy mind, normally 3ssg’s, the rigs are simple but geared up for deadbaiting from a boat.

The night before the first trip out, I check and double check then check again!! I want to get everything right and nothing must be forgotten, bait check, net check, scales check it’s all on board for the 5.30 start.

I don’t know what it is about fishing, but an early start means no sleep for me the night before, is it just anticipation or is it just the buzz from this great sport? and even after 30 odd years that feeling never dies.

Morning comes round and the flask is done, bait out of the freezer, a cup of tea down my neck and its off to the water. I have a boat already in place, so it’s just a bale out job from rainwater and the gear goes in for the day ahead.

This is a ten min job, all the gear in and ready for the day ahead as I head out on the broad in the dark with the spooking of the seagulls, ducks and coots them displacing them from there night time quarters, I find a spot to set the rods up and bait up the trebles.

Once ready with net out, forceps and unhooking mat all in place I move to the first fishing spot where I “anchor up” mud weights down and ready for the fish.

Baits cast as far away from the boat also as spread out as possible, to give myself a maximum chance of a take.

I try to put different deadbaits on every rig to give myself a good chance of a take, but once I get a fish I may well change to two baits types only on four rods, but you just have to see what happens and see what you get the most runs off, so rods into the boat rod holders and a cuppa tea in order, also a wait.

Well the thing with Norfolk is, “its History” with Pike and Pike fishing and Pike anglers, just sitting out in a boat with baits in the water is enough for me some days and the not knowing of what the next run brings.

Also who’s fished here before it could have been Pye, Harper, Watson, Flickling the history is something you have to breath in and feel.

I always feel very happy about being in Norfolk the reed lined waters the quiet mornings and the wildlife and like I have said before, just the being there is enough most days.

After a 25 min wait the Shimano bait runner (that’s set at the lightest free baitrunning setting) starts to tick away!! The responsive braid mainline working a treat, I check that float for movement, its away bobbing and sliding off to the left. When you are fishing with dead baits, hook spacing and dead bait size is key to when you lean into your fish.

On this run I had a whole mackerel on, the bottom hook was half way down the deadbaits body, so I keep in touch via the line and my fingers, leave for 20 seconds then lean in!! Fish on fish on!! My heart racing, this is what its all about it feels natural to me.

Rear drag set spot on, ready for them quick hard lunges and at this stage the fish not seen, a few good lunges, rod tip banging you have to always play the fish out in the water, if not its just going to jump around the boat.

After some good bursts of power and a lot of head shaking the fish is out of fight and I decide to hand it into the boat, the colours look fantastic this green coloured predator with cream spotty dots and flecks and a pure white belly, these fish look awesome.

Vision from the eyes down the sights of a gun to hit the smallest of targets and the vibration detection sensors around the head and body through the lateral line with an added sense of smell, then the power from the tail to pounce!! plus not forgetting the non forgiving teeth for any fish, this has to be the king of fresh water predators and for me true Norfolk Tigers.

It’s nice when the hooks are in the right place and not too deep and after unhooking the fish on the mat it is put in the wet sling and weighed a lovely 14lb pike a good start with a double.

Next I hold the fish in the water until ready, then away she goes to fight another day, fresh bait on and re-cast.

I always chop the old baits up and scatter them out of the boat for attraction as the oil and juice seeps out and I really believe it helps pulling fish into different areas.

I like to fish move fish then move I feel is key to catching more pike and has done the trick for me most trips in the past, no longer than 60 mins in a swim with four rods out, if you are going to get a take (if the fish are feeding) you will get a take within this time.

Well a look around the broad and the sky looks big and like a big painting that some top artist has spent ten years to paint, its breathtaking, but not hear it’s instant pure Norfolk beauty but no canvas needed.

After two moves with no action I have another pick up! Braid ticking off the reel and the float moving in circles with a small Lamprey section on I ain’t going to leave it to long at all, again in touch via my fingers on the line I wind two turns and lean into a dead weight and know this is a better fish, its funny that heart pounding feeling comes back and its all about now.

This feels a better lump for sure the lunges are powerful from all that tail force with one flick this fish moves ten metres amazing power but I want to win this battle, gaining braid back on the spool. I want to see it’s head I want to see want have I’ve got on!! Another lunge away from the boat and I still cannot get her to the service I don’t want to give her loads the fight and the playing of this fish is the sport and its fantastic.

But this cannot be rushed it takes time, yet another burst of power and she battles away.

Net at the ready and I turn her gliding to the top it’s a twenty a good twenty this is what I have come for, a smile but its not boated yet I check the drag again and again adjusting for that last serge away, it didn’t happen a short dive then she’s turned again. Back on the service I can see her belly she’s plump she’s a lump and the head looks big, a last ditch head shake and its over she gentle slides over the net, “she mine” I cry!!

Lifted into the boat and this fantastic fish lay looking washed up but still stooped in the art of killing a killing machine. I pull the net away from the fish and cut my mainline so I only have the unhooking to worry about my hand sliding up the v under the jaw bone pulling the head back so the mouth opens to display an army of teeth masses of all shapes and sizes.

My hookbait is just inside the mouth so an easy unhooking with the forceps and as I lay her down and look for the wet sling and scales, I zero up before she goes in.

She lay on the boat floor on the mat light a well behaved dog but I pick her up slip her into the sling hook the scales on and lift, with the scale needle bouncing I hold them tight and wait for them to settle, arms a little shaky its nudging between 26lb08oz to 26lb10oz so I go middle at 26lb09oz.

Beam on my face a fish any pike angler would be proud of, and I truly am, not a mark on her like a new penny.

Photo shoot, the trophy shot, we all pose for are CV of our fishing life and with digital cameras It couldn’t be made more easy. With my camera set up on the boat with a protective water proof cover I have already mapped out where I should be in the boat for the photos five or six shots with a remote and jobs a good one.

Time for the return I hand lift her supporting her white belly but this all get lost once in the water and her back showing. She is now a hidden machine with markings that would lose her anywhere in this big vast water system colours only nature could produce, she is getting her energy back as I hold the tail root and cradle her belly rocking her gently a few minutes more and slowly she starts to leave me.

Out of my hands she gentle vanishes into the murky water will we meet again one day on the broad I hope so, after two or three more moves the day didn’t produce nothing more than a small jack of about 6lb. It didn’t matter to me my day was perfect in everyway and I head back with a blaze of sunset to make any man look in amazement and I want to be back again before this day is done, but for now I can head home to a shower, good meal and a beer and reflect on a wonderful day on the Norfolk Broads.

I spent a week not far from Fordingbridge, Hampshire and staying in a small water mill. I had been going out in the evenings fly fishing the small chalk steams, for brown trout and small chubb.

I had streams and water all around our digs with these lovely brown trout up to 2lb, Greyling and Chubb and as much as i was enjoying the trout action, i wanted to try something different !!

On the Thursday of my week i popped to have a look at a fishery just down the road called Lakefarm.

It was very tidy, not a massive lake but could hold about 15 anglers easy, i was met by the owner so i asked him about the lake as you do.

I was told it had a good head of carp up to 30lb and was heavily stocked with a lot of fish around the 4-8lb mark, i told him i wanted to fish with my fly rod for the carp, to the reply of a slow “Really” !!

Well at Lakefarm a day ticket was £8.00 and the owner does not do evening ticket (this keeps the loud less serious anglers away) good idea i think.

Now i just wanted to get a quick fix fishing session as the time was 5pm and the lake closes at 7.30pm, no time for messing about.

The owner said ” watch this ” as he chucked in a round of bread in, well i have never seen so many carp swimming at this bread must have been 150 fish came from no where !!! i was smiling this is gonna be easy, just what i wanted.

Gear in hand i shot round to an open swim, so i could get the fly rod moving, 6/7 wf line, 8lb carptech leader,Fox Armo hook, hair and a cut down artificial floating trout pellet.

My first cast the line lay lovely and gently the pellet fell, then BOOM !! it was off my first carp on a fly rod. This was great, i was loving it, just what i wanted on my holiday, as i landed a lovely Common about 4lb.

A handful of floating pellets went out to a Parana like frenzy and the fly rod was in action again, i would say on average the bait was in the water for no more than 10 secs before a fish would take.

So many carp in this water its crazy!! it must be in my top 5 of the the maddest two and a half hours fishing non stop i’ve ever had and my arm was starting to hurt.

Most of the fish i had where Commons and some where very long almost like wildies and the biggest one of the day was around the 6lb mark. It was great fun on the tackle and the way i fished for them, I ended up with about 40 fish in total.

If anybody ever wants to have a try at this with a fly rod for a day, its a good feel factor fishing session, find a heavy stocked lake and fill your boots.

Hidden deep amongst woods in the Suffolk countryside is a small 5 acre lake that just blows your mind.

Witch lake is a reed lined hole in the ground that is just stuffed full of fish, and not just any fish, yes it has Carp, hundreds of Carp in fact, it has Roach, Perch and the usual other course fish etc, but it also crammed to bursting point with massive Catfish and Sturgeon, yes Sturgeon and big ones too.

After hearing about this day ticket water I decided to give it a go, I had caught small Sturgeon in France, but nothing on the scale of what was lurking in here, and as it is only 90 mins from my house I would be crazy not to.

I arrived at the lake nice and early (0430hrs) and met Bob the bailiff, we walked around the lake for a while as he told me the rules and then he left me to get on with my fishing.

Chunks of Mackerel hair rigged on a size 2 barbless hook were the chosen method, so with my two rods cast out I sat back and waited.

Mid morning saw my first action, a steady run on my left rod and I was into a very hard fighting fish, a tiring 20 minutes and my first Sturgeon was on the mat a magnificent 48lb 12oz specimen, followed 2 hours later by another of 47lb 13oz, What awesome fish these Diamond back Sturgeon were and what a day I had had, I drove home a very happy man reliving it all time and time again.

I couldn’t wait to go back and decided to go the following week, I was hoping to break the 50 lb barrier but little was I know just how my next session was to turn out.

I again arrived early and got the point swim favoured by most anglers who arrive to find an empty lake, this swim allows you to cover a lot of open water and also to cast to the reed bed of an island on the far bank.

The lake was full by 0730hrs and the action was real slow, too many lines in the water ?, too much noise ?, whatever the reason, nothing much happened for any of the 10 anglers present, I tried several different approaches, baits and methods to tempt the fish but to no avail.

Amazingly all the other anglers started packing up at around 6pm, crazy I thought as most anglers know dawn or dusk to be the best times of the day for fish feeding spells, by 7pm the lake was empty apart from myself and my friend Roy who had turned up at 5pm expecting to wait until after dark to be able to set up.

We rebaited with the trusty Mackerel chunks and sat back to have a cuppa when suddenly one of my rods screamed into life, I tightened into a good hard fighting fish which kept deep and took what seemed like ages to beat and slide into the net.

I lifted the net and immediately knew it was a very good fish, It was huge and topped the scale at a massive 59lb 13oz, followed shortly after by by another very big fish of 54lb 10oz, I was knackered.

Roy had two fish through the night and broke his PB twice at 50lb 2oz and 52lb 9oz, well done mate……

I managed to catch another 5 fish during the night, 2 Cats at 55lb and 32lb 2oz, and 3 more Sturgeon at 50lb, 49lb and 47lb, the 50lb fish took a surface fished livebait meant for one of the big Cats.

What a nights fishing and I will be going back again for certain when I need to get a bend in the rods after a few blank sessions.