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Fish of the Norfolk Broads - A guide for freshwater anglers

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

The Norfolk Broads a mecca for fishermen

I was born in the heart of the Norfolk Broads and have continued to live in this area for my entire life and spent many years wandering around the Broads, and the connecting rivers, casting a line in the water to tempt the fish. 

There are many species of fish in this fantastic river system although anglers do not target all of them and there are some species of fish that many do not attempt to catch.


The Freshwater Pike (Esox lucius)

The pike is a mean looking predator that can grow exceptionally large. In the Norfolk Broads there are pike up to 40lbs in weight, although most of them are much smaller. The best way to catch a pike in the Broads is to use a lure (which is by far the most exciting way to catch pike) in the summer months and a dead bait in the winter months. When fishing for pike you need to remember to use a wire trace, otherwise the fish will bite through the line.

The freshwater pike

The pike is lean, ferocious and has a mouth full of razor sharp teeth therefore it is a formidable predator. Pike are green, yellow and mean looking so they are easily identifiable. 

Pike are found all over the Norfolk Broads and grow exceptionally large. Specimens of thirty pounds plus are caught each and every year, although most of them are much smaller than this. 

One of the best methods to catch pike is to use dead bait, such as an oily mackerel or smelt, although dead freshwater fish can be used. If you do not have dead bait an alternative is to use a lure, which is a piece of metal that is meant to replicate a sick or injured fish. Lure fishing can be an exciting way to fish for pike although the larger specimens are most usually caught using dead baiting techniques. 

Pike have sharp teeth that will easily cut through monofilament line therefore you need to use a wire trace to stop this from happening. When handling pike you need to take care as these teeth can cause serious damage. It is best to use a humane gag or wear a leather glove and hold the pike under the gills, which does not hurt or damage them in any way. When un-hooking pike you need a pair of long nose forceps to ensure your hands go nowhere near its mouth.

 Pike will eat maggots, worms and anything else it comes across, although other fish is the staple diet. You may catch a pike using baits intended for other fish, however it is rare and you are more likely to catch a pike as it tries to devour the fish you have caught rather than your hook bait. If you see small fish jumping out of the water it is often a sign there is a pike present so it is often worth tying on a lure in these circumstances. 

Pike are exciting fish to catch, although they are much more active in the summer months when they are leaner and will really fight hard. In the winter months pike are more lethargic and will tend to hug the bottom of the Broads rather than making long runs and tail walking out of the water.


The Rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus)

The rudd is a small silver fish that can be found all over the Broads. Rudd do not grow that big but they are plentiful and easy to catch. Rudd are a great fish for young anglers to learn the art of fishing.

The freshwater roach

The rudd is another fish that is common to the Norfolk Broads. The rudd is similar looking to the roach, however it tends to have a deeper back, which will often have a bronze colouring to it. As well as true rudd there is also the chance you may catch a rudd hybrid, which will be a fish that is part rudd and roach or part rudd and bream. 

Rudd do not grow to enormous sizes and anything over a pound and a half is a good catch. Anything over two pounds is excellent and anything over three pounds may be considered the ‘rudd of a life time’. Big rudd are rare in the Norfolk Broads and most fish are less than a pound in weight. Despite their relatively small size these fish can provide a bit of sport and a bend in the rod if you are using light tackle. 

Rudd can be caught using a float or by fishing on the bottom using a ledger or swim feeder. The larger rudd are caught on the bottom, whereas the smaller rudd are usually caught fishing mid water with a float. 

If rudd are the desired species the best baits to use are maggots, bread or hemp seed. If you are using float fishing techniques for rudd you need to throw in a handful of loose feed at regular intervals in order to get the fish in to a feeding frenzy. If you are using bottom feeding techniques to catch rudd, a block end swim feeder packed with maggots often produces the best catches.


The Tench (Tinca tinca)

The tench is a rare fish in the Broads so seeing one in the net is an exciting thing. The tench is a powerful fish that will put up a real scrap once hooked. which leads to a very exciting battle. The tench may not be the prettiest of fish to catch but they are well worth catching.  

The tench

Unfortunately, tench are not a common fish of the Norfolk Broads. Tench are usually located in the actual broads themselves as opposed to the river system connecting the Broads therefore you need to get to the actual Broads when targeting tench. Good places to start include Barton Broad, Hickling Broad and Filby Broad. 

Tench are easily identified and are olive green with a silver or silver/bronze belly. It is almost impossible to mistake a tench for another species of fish since they are so distinctive.   

Tench are a powerful fish and will put up a terrific fight when hooked. Getting a tench to the landing net is an adrenaline packed battle and great fun. Many anglers state that pound for pound a tench will fight harder and longer than a carp, therefore strong tackle is needed. 

Tench are bottom feeders and best caught using a ledger or a swim feeder. Tench will eat a variety of baits including bread, maggots, worms, trout pellets, sweet corn and corn. In order to avoid nuisance fish and give the tench the best opportunity to find the bait I would recommend using corn or large pellets on a hair rig. Tench have big mouths so don’t be afraid to use big hooks and large baits, as these are easily devoured by hungry tench. 

The tench is often considered to be the “catch of the Broads” and you should count yourself lucky to catch a small one, let alone a large one. The local Broads fisherman know of places where tench can be caught although getting this information is almost impossible. Norfolk fisherman will not give up the tench fishing hotspots to fellow Norfolk men, let alone tourists.


The Roach (rutilus rutilus)

Roach are plentiful in the Broads and are very easy to catch. Roach do not grow that big and any specimen over a pound in weight is considered a good fish. Any roach over two pounds is considered an excellent fish and any roach over three pounds is considered a roach of a lifetime. If you want to catch a roach on the Broads try small hooks and small baits and you shouldn't have too many problems.

The freshwater rudd

The roach is a common fish that is found all over the Norfolk Broads so locating these fish is not difficult. Roach are a small species of fish and do not grow that large. A pound is considered a good fish, a two pound roach is considered an excellent fish and any roach over three pounds is considered an excellent fish. 

The Norfolk Broads holds many small roach of less than a pound, although there are larger specimens as well. Smaller roach do not put up much of a fight and do not offer much sport. Despite this, it is always nice to catch a few roach because they are such a pretty fish. 

The roach is a silver fish that is easily identified by its red eye and fins. As well as true roach there is also the chance you may catch hybrids, which will be a fish that is part roach/rudd or part/roach bream. 

Roach can be caught using a float or fishing on the bottom using a ledger. The best bait to catch roach is bread, maggots or worms although they will eat almost anything you put on the hook, except for other fish.

 


The Bream (Abramis brama)

The bream is a deep backed, bronze coloured bottom feeding fish that travels in a large shoal. The Broads holds a lot of bream but they are not generally that big. If you want to catch a bream in the Broads the best way is to ledger a large trout pellet on a medium sized hook.

 

The freshwater bream(55872)

The bream travels around in a large shoal and when you hook in to one you are very likely to hook in to others. Bream have large mouths so don't be afraid to use big hooks and big baits. The bream is a very slimy fish and leaves a real mess in the net, which smells really bad so you need to make sure you wash the net out after the session. This particular bream isn't that big and they do grow much bigger. Despite the small size it still put a bend in the rod and provided a bit of sport, which is all that matters. 

The bream is another fish that lives in the Norfolk Broads. Bream are deep backed and bronze coloured, so they are easy to identify. As well as true bream there is also the chance you may catch hybrids, which will be a fish that is part bream and roach or part bream and rudd. Whilst it is almost impossible to distinguish what two species these fish derive from it will be easy to tell it is not a true bream. 

Bream can grow quite large and it is possible to catch specimens up to ten pounds or more. The majority of bream caught in the Norfolk Broads are smaller than this, but they will put a bend in the rod and provide a bit of sport on lighter tackle. When fishing for bream it is important not to fish too light as you will lose a lot of fish and tackle as well. It is not uncommon to catch smaller bream, i.e. less than a couple of pounds in weight, which are commonly known as skimmers. 

Bream are more difficult to locate than roach and rudd. Bream travel around, and feed in large shoals, so if you manage to hook one the chances are you are going to hook a few others in quick succession.  

Bream can be caught on a variety of baits including maggots, bread, worms, corn, sweet corn, hemp seed, trout pellets. In order to give the bream the best possible chance of finding the bait I would recommend using corn or large trout pellets hair rigged on large hooks. Using big baits and large hooks will help to ensure the roach and rudd can’t eat the bait first. Bream have big mouths so there is no need to worry about using large hooks and bait. 

Bream are bottom feeders and can be caught using a float or a ledger. The easiest way to ensure the bait is on the bottom of the broad is to use a ledger therefore I would always recommend this technique over a float when fishing for bream. When ledgering for bream it is important to put down a bed of bait and a good way of doing this is to use a method feeder fully loaded with a pre made method mix. 

It is possible to catch bream during the day although they seem to feed more as the sun sets. Bearing this in mind the best time to catch bream is from late afternoon through dusk and in to the hours of darkness.


The Freshwater Eel (Anguilla rostrata)

The eel is a slippery snake like looking fish that is a right pain to catch. An eel will swallow the hook right down making it difficult to get out. An eel will also wrap itself in knots and around the line, which leads to awful tangles. Even though the eel will put up a good fight I hate catching them and try to avoid them at all costs.

The freshwater eel

 The eel is considered a delicacy and is the subject of eel fisherman who use nets as opposed to a rod. These fishermen also catch eels to generate an income and survive rather than for leisure purposes. 

Personally, I consider eels to be a nuisance and would rather not catch them. Eels are “snakes of the river” and are easy to identify. They are slimy and leave a trail of slime on everything they touch, they smell, they swallow the hook (which results in cutting the line and tying a new rig) and they often wrap themselves around the line, resulting in tangles. Eels do put up a good fight when hooked and they give a good tug, but the negatives of catching eels easily outweigh the benefits. 

Eels will eat anything including maggots, worms and other fish. Eels are usually hooked when fishing bait on the bottom of the broad, although they can also be caught using float fishing techniques.  


The Perch (Perca fluviatilis)

The perch is an unmistakable fish. If you catch one you need to be careful of the spiky dorsal fin since this can easily break the skin and cause a nasty gash. The pectoral fins are also sharp and and can break the skin, so you need to take care with these as well. Small perch are plentiful in the Broads and float fished maggots is a great way to catch them.

 

The freshwater perch

The perch is a pretty and ravenous fish that is found in all parts of the Norfolk Broads. Perch are green back with a stripey pattern and the fins are often bright red. The perch has a spiky dorsal fin, which can easily break the skin if touched, therefore it is easily identified. 

The perch is a predatory fish that will devour other small fish however it also eats worms and maggots, which are the best baits to try if you want to catch a perch. Small perch are plentiful and easy to catch. If you want to catch larger perch an alternative method is to use a small spinner or lure, although you may also catch a pike using this method so a wire trace is definitely needed. 

Perch do not grow that large neither do they put up an amazing fight but they are always nice to catch as they are so pretty and make a wonderful photograph.

 


In summary:

In addition to the above there are other types of small fish you may catch when fishing the Norfolk Broads, which includes the minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus), the gudgeon (Gobio gobio) and the ruffe (Acerina cernua). These small breeds of small fish are common throughout the entire Norfolk Broads network, so you are likely to encounter these wherever you fish. 

These breeds of fish are ravenous and will happily devour any small baits you care to use, therefore the best way to avoid these nuisance fish is to use slightly larger hooks (size 16 and larger are best) and bigger baits, however it should be noted that larger hooks and bait will not always stop these breeds of fish, since I have managed to catch tiny gudgeon and ruff on a size 10 hook loaded up with maggots although it will reduce the number you hook whilst waiting for the larger fish.


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