Fact file

  • The Latin name for barbel is barbus barbus
  • They are a river-dwelling species that have also been stocked into stillwaters
  • The best baits to use are boilies, pellets, luncheon meat, sweetcorn and paste.
  • The current British record barbel stands at 21lb 1oz.
  • A fish over 10lb is considered to be of specimen weight.
Where are they?

A river-dwelling species, you can find barbel in rivers throughout the south, south east west midlands, midlands and further north. Areas like the south west and Scotland are largely bereft of barbel.

How to recognise barbel

Slim and streamlined, the barbel is perfectly designed for its river habitat.

Featuring a distinctive long, lean shape, with a pointed head and underslung mouth, the species also has four barbules – two small ones at the tip of the nose and two longer ones at the sides of the mouth. These enable the fish to scour the gravel for grubs.

Its colouration is largely bronze, with dark fins and a while underbelly.

The biggest barbel to be caught from British waters was a 21lb 1oz specimen that was taken from the Great Ouse in 2006.

Where to look for barbel

Although barbel can be found in stillwaters, they are more commonly located in rivers.

Preferring fast water, they look for areas that are both highly oxygenated where the pace of the water is so powerful that silt cannot build up on the bottom, leaving clean gravel instead. This – and also weir pools – is where you should be looking if you want to catch barbel.

It is over this clean gravel that barbel spawn and between March and May vast numbers head to shallow areas where females create a small dent in the gravel to lay their eggs, which are then fertilised by the males.

You can also catch barbel in stillwaters too – although these venues are few and far between. These fish have been artificially stocked and despite being away from their natural environment, can grow to double-figures.

So what do barbel eat?

Their natural diet includes insect larvae, snails and freshwater mussels.

The weather conditions largely dictate the feeding times and during the summer months they will eat at dawn and dusk, with the first few hours of darkness a period being favoured.

In winter, when the water is cold, they are less active but if the temperatures rise and the river is in flood, they can feed heavily.

How can I catch barbel?

Legering is the most effective way to catch barbel, especially in rivers where the flow is strong.

On small rivers, where it’s possible to feed by hand, a straight-forward bomb is best but on large venues, a feeder is the preferable option.

Barbel love hempseed and this is a great way of getting them into the swim and holding them there. Once occupied on hemp, pellets sweetcorn, luncheon meat or boilies all work well. In winter, if the water is coloured, use a big, smelly bait like luncheon meat.

Barbel are battlers, using their shape in the fast water, so strong tackle is needed.

They are especially vulnerable in summer so take care in returning them, allowing time in the landing net to recover if necessary.

Go and target barbel now!

When it comes to rods, power is the name of the fame. Barbel are a powerful species that often live in powerful rivers so go for something with at least a 1.75lb test curve.

The Avanti Blue Emerald rod  doesn’t only offer great performance, it comes with a superb price tag, too.

Alternatively, for slightly more money, this Avanti RDX2000 Barbel rod will do a great job as well.

A freespool reel is a must when barbel fishing. Bites often come out-of-the-blue – and they’re feroicious so line needs to be freely available.

The Matt Hayes Wild Freespin reels - ideal for barbel

The Matt Hayes Wild Freespin reels – ideal for barbel

You can choose one like this Matt Hayes Wild Freespin 5000 or one that offers amazing value, like one from Matsuku Rotorblade 5000 range.

To match the sturdy rod and reel, line needs to be tough and abrasion resistant. The Maver Jurrasic is a good option – offering quality performance and a great price.

These robust feeders are ideal for barbel fishing.

Feeders will often need to be a large and strong –  Barbus Weir Pool are sturdy and reliable.

A quality landing net is also essential. One with larger mesh is preferable because there is less resistance to fast water.

When it comes to bait, hemp is a great base that can keep barbel in the swim for ages without ever filling them up. Buying it pre-cooked is far more convenient so go for either something like Dynamite Baits Frenzied Hemp.

For hookbait, boilies like Marukyu Credence Boilies are good option, as are luncheon meat and sweetcorn. Remember, you can always add extra attraction to your hookbait by dipping it in an additive.

Now watch the gear in action

*Learn how to catch barbel 

*Matsuku Rotorblade 5000 reel range – top quality, low price 

*Find loads of great barbel tips!