A classic flowing-water species, dace are nevertheless present in quite a few of our canals. Any channels that connect to natural streams and rivers at some point in their length are likely to feature the odd shoal of this pretty silver fish.
In the Exeter Canal near the River Exe, for example, you can see these fish chasing just under the surface in the spring. Until you have watched their slender forms close up, you might easily think these were roach, but it is not so.
Tiverton Canal Fishing Photo Gallery
Dace tend to be caught in the upper layers of the water on canals, and if present are likely to respond to similar ‘on the drop’ tactics that you might use for roach and rudd. Maggots, casters and bread punch are all good baits.
They might not be everyone’s favourite fish, but even in the current decline of eel stocks, canals can be excellent venues to catch the species. They can be found in just about every canal to some extent. Rivers are one obvious supply line, but one of the strangest things I have ever witnessed was an eel making its way through flooded grass towards the Exeter Ship Canal.
Eels were once prized by match anglers and indeed, when the going is tough, liberal feeding with dead maggots or chopped worm is a good strategy. Tackle should be a little stronger than typical match fishing fare, with plenty of spare hooklengths tied for inevitable losses. I still remember playing a good one for several minutes before losing the fish that would comfortably have won me the weekly match.
Pete Gregory used a small deadbait in the black of night to tempt this 4lb canal eel.
The potential for large eels is also there on canals and a huge fish could go uncaught for many years. Deep, snaggy areas are a good bet with a small dead bait or bunch of worms, although they will come in closer at night, which is prime time to catch a good fish. Tackle should be robust, with 15lb main line and wire traces the order of the day, because big eels can destroy conventional hook links.
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