Barbel On The Move….

 Barbel on the move.

One for tagging!! 10lb6.5oz

Following on from Dr Catie’s PhD Study, Pete Davies has carried the mantle over, and currently studies the movement of barbel as well as other migratory fishes which include: Shad, lamprey and barbel, for ongoing research with Bournemouth University.
In my own small way I have helped out where possible with catching barbel for tagging and following and locating barbel post tagging. I am happy to report that it is planned for more tagging to take place later this year.
The diagrams of fish movement make for fascinating viewing, with some fish movement surpassing expectations. The barbel are especially interesting, as they seem to have no “common” modus operandi, therefore fish of similar age and size can be seen to eat different things and travel in different directions and for different distances/reasons…?
Scale samples of these fish can determine age/diet and consequently, health and well being to some degree. 

Scale sampling..

Two examples of barbel movement findings are:
1)     A large female fish of over 10lbs was caught in the Lower Severn in Oct 2018, where she was resident for that winter. She then started “travelling” in March 2019 with 2 visits to a virtually impassible weir (Diglis). After these sorties, she entered the river Teme in April 2019 and travelled up that river passing 2 weirs only to be found in May (after much searching) several miles upstream at Cotheridge. This is one example of the travels and lengths one fish will go to, to spawn! She was later in July 2019 found to be back where she was caught in Oct 2018 on the Lower Severn.
Epic, by road, the journey is approx 18 miles (one way), by river it would be similar if not slightly more.
2)     Three fish of similar age (year group) caught from within a few hundred meters of each other in Oct 2018 took altogether different journey’s. Thereafter, one was last seen/tracked Jan 2019, 20 miles downstream and maybe up the river Warks Avon, heading out of receiver range! Another had travelled half the distance downstream and settled, while the third barely travelled more than 2 miles in any direction away from what must have been “home”. The movement is varied to say the least, the reasons are harder to find than the barbel!


                                                     Ongoing research.
Some of you may already know that I am currently looking after the fishing at a place called Bransford Court on the river Teme. You are perhaps also aware of the partial removal of the weir at Powick, which is downstream of Bransford and the only man-made physical obstacle to fish movement upstream – from the lower river Severn between Tewkesbury Weir and Diglis Weir – into the Teme.   
The migration between these rivers makes for very interesting reading. Given the chance, it seems, (as many anglers have said over the years) the fish of the Severn will travel long distances up the Teme and no doubt the Warks avon at Tewkesbury, for various reasons including food proliferation, and certainly spawning migrations.
I now look forward with bated breath, to the incoming data of movement from those barbel over the past winter and ongoing spring. Hopefully this summer we shall see just where and when these epic movements have taken place again. Having access to the Bransford fishery has enabled me to track and trace many different fish over the last several spring/summer seasons. Now the weir has been partially removed the results of last spring/summer were quite exciting, with groups of fish seen spawning, which had most likely came up from the Severn. Some then staying for summer and others moving on.

Aeration tank!

The studies are ongoing and shall hopefully reveal more as the seasons show themselves, and the fish travel with (maybe) more ease, than they were previously able. I shall let you know more as it becomes available….
                                                  All the best for the coming season,            
                                                   the angling conservationist.
NB, It was planned that Pete and I would hold a table at the Barbel Society Show this coming June, where Pete would produce the latest movement data and graphics, but please rest assured that whenever possible, these findings will be made available to all interested parties. 
Thanks to Laura Bullock and the EA for these images!


Barbel On The Move…. — 31 Comments

  1. Great work by you Shaun and the group.
    It underlines my thoughts and mirrors some very old research in European rivers

  2. Fascinating and intriguing insights into the behaviour of Barbel. I wonder how many of those giants that get hooked in the middle of big rivers like the Thames and Severn were on their way to somewhere far away!?

    • I have recently been part of a new syndicate on an old prolific stretch on the Bristol Avon. We took the water in knowing that in its hay day the section produced good barbel. After a slow start the fishing came good with most anglers hitting their quarry (not me..!!) not for want of trying. We found that most fish would be taken from 30% of the swims available. We were unsure of the head of fish in this 1/2 mile stretch but with determination over 30 different barbel were caught detailed pictured and put back. One in particular that ended up with the name “Josephine” was landed in the section at 14lb 2oz this female was hooked twice during the summer months then the floods started and the whole section became devoid of what was looking like a great little find. For months we tried but couldn’t find them. The agreed notion was that all the fish had moved down into the much deeper section of the river where sanctuary could be found as our stretch was shallow in comparison. This was sort of proven when a syndicate member fished about 4-5 miles downstream to land what is now the Bristol Avon record, and it was Josephine at a colossal 17lb 5oz….so she had moved down stream into the deeper water and out in over 3lb in weight from August 19 through the March 20.

  3. Thanks Shaun, thanks Pete, for the research work that you’re doing, and the interesting results/findings it’s throwing up. Excellent!

  4. Great effort by Shaun and his colleagues, another key to “Understanding Barbel”, knowledge is good, thanks Shaun…

  5. The Teme has long been discussed as a declining barbel river. Can you tell me if the myths are true? Is the Teme barbel population dwindling or coming back?

    • This is a great question Graham, the Teme barbel numbers have crashed compared to the peak years, but now seem to have reached their low (we hope) and over recent years the numbers coming back seem to have levelled rather than lowered! If they can have one or two successful spawnings, we may actually see those numbers increase, fingers crossed. Many other factors to add in for success also, please do call or write if you would like to discuss further. Good luck for the coming season.

  6. This is very interesting work and a previous study from one river in Eastern England also showed that some barbel travel great distances, and that some do not go very far (although the sample size was small). My experience of the River Wye at Hereford is that the the bigger fish generally live in certain areas. I used to fish the River Teme near Powick approx. 40 years ago and caught lots of small barbel. Nice to know they are coming back to the river.

    • Thanks Rob, it is always nice to see them come back! As you said, many large fish are territorial and only really move big distances with spawning in mind!
      Tight lines,

  7. Martyn Lucas and Emma Batley carried out a survey of barbel movements by radio tracking 31 fish on the River Nidd between June 1993 and September 1994. They also found barbel travelling considerable distances (from 2 to 20 km). 4 fish moved between the Nidd and Ouse. A report of their work is on the internet.

    • Hi Geoff, yes I have seen this and how it has been used to support weir removal ideas, but also to show how the fish will use their environment. Thanks for your input here too..
      Tight lines,

  8. I found the information supplied by Shaun of great interest, as a Barbel enthusiast l have always tried to understand the movement of the fish up and down river.
    Thank you for sharing your findings.

  9. Hello Shaun

    I was a long time member of the Barbel Society, serving on the committee in various roles. Are you still helping to run the Bransford Court fishery? I live very close to Bransford and am hoping to get back to fishing there. Is there a vacancy please?

  10. Thanks for the feedback Shaun, always very interesting. Ever since I caught my Pb at Ripple two years after catching the same fish at Pixham I’ve realised they can travel miles at times. I just hope that we have some successful spawning in the Teme in the next few years, because I’m sure numbers of fish will drop down into the Severn to give the aging population of big fish a boost.

    • Hi John, no worries, it makes for interesting reading!
      Let`s hope that the small fish being caught now in the Teme will get their chance to grow on…

  11. Hello Shaun abit of interesting info for you. With the past season barbel fishing on the lower severn being very poor, an looking the same so far this season. A few of us have been thinking that the barbel have moved completely as the whole lower has been rubbish. We noticed that the middle severn seemed to be producing more an more double figure fish. Anyway as most no you can tell certain fish apart an have been looking at posted pics for any fish we might reckonised.
    Well this morning a fish over just over 14lb was posted an as soon as I seen it I new that fish. A fish I’ve caught twice, the first time in the 17/18 season from Tewkesbury at 11lb 8. Then the following season from pixham farm weighing 12lb 5, we believed then it had moved around twelve miles. So after seeing it this morning I Messaged its captor an kindly asked for its location, he happily told me an confirmed he’d caught it from Stourport. From my first capture of it to now I’d estimate 27 miles away. How crazy is that. Means it’s travelled, from upperlode through diglis, bevere, holt an Lincoln locks or I’d say over the weirs. No questions its the same fish with three very distinctive marks.

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