Mike’s top tips on catching big freshwater fish

Many anglers wish to catch big freshwater fish. In theory, that should be easy! The bigger the fish, the more food it needs to eat to maintain its weight and growth and provide energy to move its bulk around, writes Mike Winter.

Few big fish are caught by luck, despite some waters holding bigger fish than one realises. Catching them is a specialised form of angling, but any angler who approaches it correctly can succeed.

All my coarse fishing is done on club or day ticket fisheries, apart from two private ones. Yet all my biggest fish have come from club and day ticket waters open to all. My only aim is to improve of my “personal best” for each species, which becomes increasingly difficult!

I've caught numerous fish of each species up to the following weights in lbs. Barbel 12�, Bream 8�, Carp 27�, Catfish 17�, Chub 6�, Crucian Carp 3�, Dace 14ozs, Eels 5�, Grayling 1�, Perch 3�, Pike 20�, Roach 2�, Rudd 3�, Tench 6�. Contacting club secretaries and day ticket fishery owners helps locate big fish waters.

Having decided which species of big fish you want to catch from a fishery, spend time just watching and observing with polaroid glasses and binoculars. Not only to confirm sizes of the fish but to determine their habits, haunts and where and when they feed. Leaping, bubbling and mud stirring are good indicators. Learn to “read” cloudy rivers by observing fish in clear streams. Make your personal choice of tackle needed to land them and keep it in good condition.


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I use Fox “softsteel” and Maxima “Chamelion” monofilament lines. I make all my own floats from bird feather quills picked up at the waterside and seaside. I use eye hooks from size 14 up to size 2 palomar, knotted direct to the end of the line. Also essential are adequate sized landing nets, unhooking mats, camera with flash, weigh sling and accurate digital scales. Lastly, don't scare the fish!

you have set out to catch. Take sensible precautions – no white shirts, uses all the cover you can, don't stamp or hammer things into the bank and very important keep below the skyline. Blocking out the light with your body is a great way to scare fish! Learn to fish in the dark without using lights.

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Dick Walker once told me that whatever precautions you take, carp will always know you are there. Anglers who apply that to all other big fish won't go far wrong! Dick even used to lift his bottom off the ground when he coughed!

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