Big barbel is a fine Sussex specimen - maybe we should name him!

John Hide with his 19lb 3oz barbel
John Hide with his 19lb 3oz barbel

John Hide is one happy angler.

He caught a 19lb 3oz barbel from one of Petworth and Bognor Angling Club’s popular stretches of the Rother.

With his second cast of the day, a change of bait paid dividends for John and having a witness and photos has encouraged him to submit the barbel for the club’s Specimen Trophy Award.

It’s hard to imagine the Rother, a lovely small and winding river that joins its larger neighbour the Arun at Hardham, holds such magnificent barbel. With low summer water levels the fish seek deeper pools with added cover from bankside shrubs and overhanging branches.

Without wishing to diminish John’s achievement there’s every possibility this particular barbel has been caught before, and more importantly, from other stretches of the clubs waters. Is it the same fish previously caught from Watersfield on the Arun, then again from the Rother at Coates Castle, Fittleworth and Shopham?

We simply don’t know as it doesn’t appear to have any distinguishing marks that can define such specific specimen, If John’s barbel has been caught previously, it’s only a matter of time before it reaches the magic 20lb.

On the other hand we know the Rother has several large ageing barbel originally stocked by the Environment Agency some 45 years ago so it’s quite possible these veterans are still about.

Let’s hope they’ve been successful in their love lives as a sustained population is most welcome. seemingly a better option than re-stocking, a policy opposed by the EA.

It remains a matter of concern to many barbel anglers that from time to time nature needs a helping hand. The EA will address this issue when they get to meet anglers shortly to have an exchange of ideas on how best to ensure a healthy stock of young barbel in a river that continues to surprise.

Sometimes it’s profoundly confusing to anglers when, for one reason or another, a certain variety of coarse fish disappear from rivers and sometimes even remain elusive in still waters.

Not many years ago the feisty perch, the favourite fish of Bernard Venables, author of Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing, the book that persuaded so many youngsters in the 1950 and 60s to take up fishing, suddenly became scarce and rarely caught, even from their popular swims close to bridges, walls and fast flowing water especially weir pools.

Catches were well down and concern for their well-being became a talking point in angling magazines. What had happened, why and where were they?

Nobody had an answer, then quite recently they re-appeared, mostly quite small in size but back and most welcome.

Nature certainly has strange ways but perhaps mankind is very often the reason these things happen – that’s why pollution, water extraction and a host of other man-made issues are a constant worry for anglers.

Whitehouse and Mortimer doing so much for our sport
No salmon? No problem for anglers
Even the famous Hampshire Avon, the uncrowned queen of rivers famous for its large roach and most other coarse fish as well as salmon and trout, had a long period when roach were scarce, and it took a very capable and hard-working bunch of enthusiasts to start the Avon Roach Project.

It’s been going for several years and their dedication is paying dividends and the re-stocking of the Avon is a welcome relief to anglers.

The tidal Arun seems full of roach, certainly fellow angler Tim Nudds can’t help catching them, and good ones well over a pound find their way into his landing net.

That’s fishing for you – pick the right place on the right day and you could be on to a winner. Visit www.sussexangling.co.uk for more details.

When and if a 20lb barbel is caught from the Rother, whether or not it’s the one John caught, it will certainly have broken the record for the club’s largest recorded barbel catch.

By then it should be given a name – it deserves one, I think.

Roger Poole

Chairman, Petworth & Bognor Angling Club