Where do our fish go in the cold?

Zerkalo

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Another article from the AT I thought worth reading.



The movement of fish on my local Stour is a source of endless mystery to me. What I've found particularly interesting is the tendency to shoal. The small fish of all species from Chublets to Dace and Roach all seem to follow each other, and not just one Barbel arrives, a whole shoal of them do. Maybe this is down to it being a small river rather than time of year. All of the species and sizes also follow nocturnal patterns, feeding best in low light. I'd love to find out where to hordes of small fish disappear to as I imagine they'll be balled up somewhere else.

On bigger rivers like the Severn it is even more of a mystery to me. Some say they (silver fish) move to the slower stretches? Barbel might be more in slacker water than summer as they try to conserve energy. And on lakes, I believe the fish to lose their metabolism and so just generally eat a lot less as well as shoaling up.

Thoughts?
 

Silverfisher

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God knows in some cases. Usually there’s a bit of a pattern to it but other years it’s a mystery.

Take the roach here for example. It’s generally a fairly safe bet that at some point in November they leave the more open bits and head into the more urban bits yet sometimes like this year whilst they did leave the open bits they’ve yet to appear in the urban bits. Probably there but just not eating in the cold yet but is still weird how few are about when there were so many less than a month ago. Mad how it goes from one of the best roach rivers in summer and autumn to only seeming to have pockets of them in the winter although we don’t even have the pockets at the moment. Has a knock on effect as well as the likes of perch and dace tend to follow the roach so if you can’t find the roach shoals unless you go chubbing or stumble across a shoal of bream (the most nomadic of fish at the best of times!) you’re going to struggle.

Biggest mystery is the bleak though. It’s so thick with them in places in the summer that I reckon you could walk across them then they thin out in the autumn until they all but vanish by winter. It’s largely the blessing when they slow down as they can be a nightmare but at times in the winter you wouldn’t mind a few turning up!
 

Zerkalo

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Bleak are an unknown to me too, I imagine huge balls of them somewhere but who knows? I've also heard about Urban stretches on rivers in Winter or particularly I think on the Trent where there used to be warm overflows from factories? Here's hoping there's another ball of silverfish making its way down the Stour, a Severn Tributary at the moment for me.
 

melvyn

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This is not just a winter frunom phlominal pernolimal (thing). You find shoals in the summer. Usually well away from my bait.
 

Zerkalo

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The tendency for fish to shoal up shouldn't really surprise me, but it often does, as you say can make or break a day.

Here's a daft question, how do fish move through canal locks? Is it easy for them to get through?
 

The Runner

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I think the tendency for fish to shoal up in winter has become much more pronounced in recent years, probably as a result of increased water clarity in many places.
Could pick loads of examples but just as one that I know well , the Slough Arm of the GUC.
Back in the 1990s I ran the open matches on there for 2 or 3 years in the winter. The water was usually quite coloured and although some areas were always better than others, you could generally catch right through from its junction with the main GU at Cowley up to Langley Station (and probably past there as well although didn't use it in matches). Had over 100 pegs in a number of times and a Winter League semi final of I think 16 teams of 12 with only a couple of blanks.
And then the colour gradually dropped out over the years and eventually apart from a small area around Iver , the only place you could fish in the winter and expect to catch anything other than a few microperch if you were lucky was the boats section at Langley. And even there they seemed to shoal up tighter and tighter as time went on, so we would have half of a club match with double figures of roach and the rest scratching around for a few bites waiting and hoping for the shoals to move along or spread out .
Similar story I hear on the Oxford Canal around Wolvercote which was always one of my regular haunts.
 

Zerkalo

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One reason I ask, is I'm not sure if it's my imagination, but that 'best stretch of canal' near me I've mentioned before, I'm sure it's been stocked by the fishery next to it, and wonder why bother if all the fish can just swim off?
 

davylad

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That's something that's always puzzled me, why do fish move up some rivers in winter. The Yare and the river Hull are both tidal, so why is it only winter when they tend to move up river? I mean if it's to escape the bracken water, you get big tides right throughout the year, yet they don't migrate until the back end. There's no warmer water to attract them either, any info anyone?
 

Silverfisher

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That's something that's always puzzled me, why do fish move up some rivers in winter. The Yare and the river Hull are both tidal, so why is it only winter when they tend to move up river? I mean if it's to escape the bracken water, you get big tides right throughout the year, yet they don't migrate until the back end. There's no warmer water to attract them either, any info anyone?
I know on the broads systems the reason for it fishing rubbish through the winter is the salt surges on big winter tides. Must get big summer tides as well but maybe the effect is in the winter is exaggerated by the cold and extra rain somehow. No idea on other systems though.
 

Silverfisher

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One reason I ask, is I'm not sure if it's my imagination, but that 'best stretch of canal' near me I've mentioned before, I'm sure it's been stocked by the fishery next to it, and wonder why bother if all the fish can just swim off?
I guess certain species will hang around. I don’t think silvers typically venture that far for example. Seems here they have their spawning haunts then their summer into autumn haunts and their winter haunts. I doubt they randomly go shifting miles aside from those seasonal migrations as places wouldn’t fish as consistently as they do if they did move a lot. Unless fish from neighbouring stretches do the same and interchange with them I guess ?
 

Zerkalo

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I think it's mostly Skimmers they've put in there, but I might be wrong and they haven't stocked it all, I just got lucky the one time I did fish it.
 

Robwooly

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Biggest mystery is the bleak though. It’s so thick with them in places in the summer that I reckon you could walk across them then they thin out in the autumn until they all but vanish by winter. It’s largely the blessing when they slow down as they can be a nightmare but at times in the winter you wouldn’t mind a few turning up!
My local canal is a good case study for bleak, as it's fed by a river the running pounds are choc full of them. In summer they are a pain but in winter they are not so, yet fish a warm day in winter and they are a pain again. From that we can assume that they are there all along and are just off the feed when it's freezing.

I've found with bleak when they are on it they can home in on our baits from quite a distance - I can't be the only one who has started a day catching nicely thinking it's going to be great before getting 'bleaked out' Sometimes fish can really travel when feeding well, I've found hemp draws bleak in through the vibrations of it hitting the surface, I reckon the sensors of a surface feeder like bleak can detect that from afar even though the bleak prefer maggots that crisp ping of the hemp on the surface must be a dinner bell that resonates quite a way

Clear water and cover from predators throws another equation into the mix with all species in winter, but I think it's a mistake to assume some fish are not there all along, often the last light offers the only time when the water is warm enough to tempt them to feed, that and those drip fed maggots that have been going past their noses all day.

Some fish move, some fish stay, I reckon if we tagged some small shoal fish we'd get surprised by how far some go and surprised that some are staying put in swims we assume are devoid and we can't catch them. I fish lots of small rivers where I know the small stuff is still there yet only the biggies feed on cold days due to the metabolism, these are often the red letter days. On my canal I often look over bridges and you can see small fish drifting over the backdrop of shopping trollies or bright debris yet the nearby match anglers are biteless, they are there just not feeding
 
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Silverfisher

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Ah to be fair if there’s one species that are a classic here today gone tomorrow job it’s bream.
 

Silverfisher

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My local canal is a good case study for bleak, as it's fed by a river the running pounds are choc full of them. In summer they are a pain but in winter they are not so, yet fish a warm day in winter and they are a pain again. From that we can assume that they are there all along and are just off the feed when it's freezing.

I've found with bleak when they are on it they can home in on our baits from quite a distance - I can't be the only one who has started a day catching nicely thinking it's going to be great before getting 'bleaked out'

Clear water and cover from predators throws another equation into the mix with all species in winter, but I think it's a mistake to assume some fish is not there all along, often the last light offers the only time when the water is warm enough to tempt them to feed, that and those drip fed maggots that have been going past their noses all day.

Some fish move, some fish stay, I reckon if we tagged some small shoal fish we'd get surprised by how far some go and surprised that some are staying put in swims we assume are devoid and we can't catch them. I fish lots of small rivers where I know the small stuff is still there yet only the biggies feed on cold days due to the metabolism, these are often the red letter days. On my canal I often look over bridges and you can see small fish drifting over the backdrop of shopping trollies or bright debris yet the nearby match anglers are biteless, they are there just not feeding
True I should think it is mostly that fish arent feeding rather than not being there. Is amazing how little they can feed in the winter though.
 

Yuccaman

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I was just going to say the same. I was only chatting with someone who had been lure fishing my local over the past week and he said that there were several pike he saw, as well as tiny perch just sat on the deck facing the bank. Completely and utterly unmoved by dropping lures on their heads. Being cold blooded, metabolism slows right down and no need to feed. In terms of where though, generally deeper, slower bits where the water may well hold 1 or 2 degrees more temperature and if in a river, less effort to not do anything.
 

Zerkalo

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On the small river I fish, it's weird that morning is just as productive, if not more so than the evenings it seems at the moment, odd really when you think the water would be warmer in the evening, but the middle of the day can be a lull at all times of year but slightly better when it's overcast and low light. The sun does not even make it onto the pool in midday in winter due to trees surrounding but a blue sky can be the kiss of death. Summer evenings on the other hand are spot on, maybe I just need to fish it more around 4-5pm this time of year to really be able to tell, but first light has been brilliant.

This is more true for bigger fish but I'm also sure when the small fish don't show, they are so ravenous when they do, they have simply left the pool I fish rather than not feeding. In fact, in the two years I've been fishing there, it was only really the once for a few weeks this year that suddenly it was full of small fish. I have mentioned before though, I do like that the fish tend to move around there as it means I don't catch the same fish all the time. As happened when I caught the same shabby looking Chub 4 times in 2 sessions earlier this year, put me off fishing there for a while but pictured below.

2020-06-28 06.06.58.jpg 2020-06-28 09.49.30.jpg 2020-07-05 15.32.10.jpg 2020-07-05 16.03.43-6.jpg

One image of the four has been flipped vertically but you can see the same spot under its pectoral fin in each picture.
 

The Runner

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I've found with bleak when they are on it they can home in on our baits from quite a distance - I can't be the only one who has started a day catching nicely thinking it's going to be great before getting 'bleaked out' Sometimes fish can really travel when feeding well, I've found hemp draws bleak in through the vibrations of it hitting the surface, I reckon the sensors of a surface feeder like bleak can detect that from afar even though the bleak prefer maggots that crisp ping of the hemp on the surface must be a dinner bell that resonates quite a way
Spot on; fished team matches in summer at Medley in the past when the instruction was not to feed the waggler line for the first 5 to 10 minutes, so that those next to you who did would pull all the bleak in.
When they are bad I'm sure they come to the splash of the float as well even without feeding, many a time ended up lowering pole rig with a big olivette straight down under the pole tip so as not to make the slightest disturbance and give myself a chance of the bait getting down. .

As to where they go in the winter I suspect that as you say they don't go anywhere,. A mild day especially with a bit of colour in the water can get them showing again
 

Line Clip

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I remember a match on the L[angollen Canal the water had gone gin clear (winter) and as we looked into the water you could see the bottom right to the far bank
I thought what a waste of time this is going to be, all in shouts and over I go with bread punch to see a silver flash under the water and the float go under the fish were there but you couldn't see them on the dark bottom of the canal until they showed going for the bread punch.
 

alsur

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I remember fishing a small lake/pond that had lots of small carp in, this was before commercials it was Cold and the lake was clear and all the carp were in a big shoal swimming around the pond not feeding.
 
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