What is the Best Coarse Fish?
If you ask a coarse angler which species of fish he prefers to fish for, you will get a wide range of different answers giving a variety of reasons.
Much depends on if you are a "Match Angler", whose main objective may be to win competitions by catching the largest overall weight of fish during a session, or if you are a "Specimen Hunter", whose prime objective is to catch a large example of any one species, (ideally sufficiently large enough to break a national or international record). Even breaking your own personal best record is extremely satisfying, and depending on the species, records can be broken by a fish weighing only a few ounces, or by one weighing many pounds.
The other consideration has to be which species of coarse fish will provide you with the greatest challenge, so enhancing the satisfaction of any success you may achieve. These will not always be the largest species of coarse fish, but often the wary varieties who will need to be carefully lured into taking your baits, or the species that although not the largest, will put up the greatest fight and will do it's level best to drag your line into the nearest snag to facilitate his escape.
As an angler you will need to decide just how sporting you are willing to be, and whilst it is relatively easy to catch a Carp if you are using 20lb plus breaking strain of line, it is far more of an achievement to catch a Carp on a line with a far lower breaking strain such as 12lb. This will ensure that you have to take the time required to "play" the fish until it is sufficiently tired, before you can land him without risk of him breaking your line at the last moment. Likewise for day to day general coarse fishing many anglers use line that is only 3lb or 4lb breaking strain, and I myself have landed a Mirror Carp of nearly 16lb on 3lb line simply by being patient and taking my time.
Main Species List
Carp, whether they are Mirror Carp , Common Carp , Leather Carp , Linear Carp, Ghost Carp or Koi Carp , will all put up a phenomenal fight if hooked. The difficulty with these species is they are highly intelligent and will quickly learn which baits look "suspicious" and avoid them. Fishing for the Carp species will be a constant battle of wits, you versus the fish, and you will need to try various different methods of presenting your bait until you find a way that fools them. These are one of the most popular species that are fished for, and this is no doubt because of the challenge they offer, and the substantial sizes they can reach, (well over 40lb is not unusual, and weights have been known to go well up into the 70lb range). The current World Record for a Carp is now 89lbs (to the best of my knowledge), and was caught in Morocco in 2007.
Tench come in both green and gold varieties, the larger and more popular type being the greens. These are extremely popular with anglers because they put up a tremendous fight when hooked, and often offer more of a challenge than the larger Carp specimens.
Much like the Carp they are bottom feeders, and will take most of the same baits, e.g. sweetcorn, maggots, worms, kidney beans etc. You can spot where the Tench are feeding by looking for the small streams of bubbles rising to the surface of the water.
Rudd and Roach
Probably not the most exciting fish to catch, and very hard to tell apart, the most obvious differences being that a Rudd's mouth points upwards because it is a surface feeder, whilst the Roach mouth points downwards as it prefers bottom feeding. Both have bright red fins and tails, although the Rudd dorsal fin is set further back than on the Roach, and finally the Rudd has yellow to orange irises, whereas a Roach's are red.
Both species can be caught on very light tackle using a waggler float, and whilst they don't exactly put up a fight, they are both attractive fish to catch and all help bulk up the weight in your keep net if you are in a competition. Quite often a fish such as these will be the first one a child ever catches, and can be the start of their addiction to coarse fishing.
In my personal experience not the most exciting fish to catch as the fight they give is not overly challenging, and I have often compared it to reeling in a dinner plate. I am told this is not always the case and depending on what part of the country you are fishing for them in, they are capable of giving an excellent fight. Certainly they help to bulk up your keepnet weight in competitions.
Bream are capable of hybridising with both Roach and Rudd, and it is sometimes disappointing to find that what you thought was a record breaking Roach, is actually a Bream/Roach hybrid, and doesn't count.
The Bream is a bottom feeding fish that gather in shoals. Good baits for them include maggots and worms.
A good sized Bream can reach over 18lbs, and although most will be considerably smaller, it is always possible that the next one you hook could be comparable with a average sized Carp.
Chub found in rivers, can be very challenging to catch, and are many anglers favourite target species. Being a pretty greedy fish they will take most baits offered, although another day you may find them impossible to catch depending on the conditions. They are very wary, so camouflage gear can be very helpful, as can careful stalking along the banks.
A good size Chub is anything over four or five pounds, but they can reach over eight pounds given enough years, (it can take six or seven years before they even reach a pound in weight.)
Barbel usually frequent gravel beds in flowing rivers or streams. Being quite shy they will tend to stay under overhanging trees or bushes for cover, and will feed on the insects and bugs that live in weed that grows on the riverbed. Baits that are successful include luncheon meat and boilies, or generally any bait with a strong scent. A Barbel will give an excellent fight, so make sure you use tackle that is comparable in strength to Carp fishing gear, e.g. 8-10lb line and a 1.5lb test curve rod.
Barbel can get to weights that are impressive, and it is not unusual for them to come out at 10-15lb plus.
Perch are a great fun fish to catch, as they are incredibly greedy and will attempt to take baits aimed at far larger species. They can be found in either clear or cloudy water, and it is a myth that they are best fished for in clear water, as they will happily feed wherever they can achieve a meal the most easily. You will find Perch both in rivers and lakes. They are essentially a carnivorous fish, so can be caught on most live baits, deadbaits, worms, maggots or even lures and spinners.
Most Perch will be under a pound in weight, but it is possible to catch truly impressive specimens here in the UK at well over 2lb, or even occasionally 3lb plus.
Be very careful unhooking a Perch, as they do have small sharp teeth as well as spines on both the gill covers and the dorsal fin, (so don't slide your hand the wrong way along their backs).
Pike are truly the "freshwater shark", lurking in hidden corners waiting to snatch any unsuspecting smaller fish that passes by. They are capable of taking ducklings from the surface of the water, and have even been know to grab adult duck's necks when they are feeding below the surface, subsequently causing the duck's death.
The best baits for Pike are either live baits such as small Rudd or Roach, dead baits, ( Rudd, Roach or similar), artificial lures or strips of fish such as mackerel, Herring etc.
These are best fished for during the Winter months, and you will probably have to stalk your way along the river or lake banks to track them down. A wire trace will be essential, as the sharp teeth of the Pike will quickly break normal line. It is best to avoid fishing for Pike in the Summer as they do not recover well from being caught, and the lower oxygen levels in the water can result in their death.
It is not unusual to accidentally catch Pike when in the process of playing a hooked specimen of another species. The Pike sees the hooked fish as an easy meal, and will often take the unfortunate fish whilst it is being reeled in.
Pike require careful handling because of their sharp teeth, so it is best to handle them using their gill covers to avoid accidents.
Truly this is an exciting fish to catch, and can easily make weights up to well into the 40lb mark, although male Pike seldom get to weights much over 8lb.
Zander follow very similar rules to Pike, although much like the Perch they have a spiny dorsal fin. Live baits appear to be the most successful, and coloured water seems to be their preferred habitat.
A Zander can reach over 19lb in weight, and will put up a great fight once hooked. Up to weights of approximately 10lb they will hunt in shoals, but appear to go on to a solitary life once they become larger specimens.
I hope this article has covered your favourite Coarse Fish, whether for the fight they give, the challenge they provide, or their potential match winning qualities. Of course there are many other coarse fish species that I have not covered, Catfish, Gudgeon etc. The truth is that there are so many great species out there it would take an age to list all of them, and why they are each so appealing in their own right. My personal favourite will always be the Carp, both for the impressive weights and the intelligence of the species, not to mention the fantastic fight they put up when hooked. What's yours?