16 amazing fish species you can catch in canals and rivers

'Shropshire Union Canal at Wervin Cheshire' Oneterry Aka Terry Kearney, Flickr CC 2.0

'Shropshire Union Canal at Wervin Cheshire' Oneterry Aka Terry Kearney, Flickr CC 2.0 - Credit: Archant

Fishing is a popular pastime for lots of people living on and visiting the canals, so we thought we’d help out by offering this handy guide to all the different species of fish you can catch.



Barbel are often found in still waters and are a popular catch among anglers. They are not the most elusive fish in the river; and in the right conditions can be caught fairly easily. They are, however, very tough and will fight right until you slip your landing net under them. Despite this hardy nature, Barbels do not cope well out of the water and must be returned safely and quickly.



The Bleak is surface feeding fish and this can at times, make it difficult to catch. They are often found in large numbers wherever there is a regular source of food.



Bream usually live in large schools near the bottom of the river or canal, they are known for not being difficult to catch as they do not put up a fight once hooked. It is said by anglers that because of their disc shape, once turned on to their side they can be reeled in very easily.


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Brown Trout

The Brown Trout is a formidable predator because it has rows of sharp, pointy teeth. They will take most live bait but many consider it more of a challenge to catch using a fly.



Carp can be found in most UK canals and renowned for growing to huge sizes and weights. Carp fishing can be extremely difficult and requires skill in not only reeling them in but also locating where they are likely to be in the canal or river. Carp fishing is currently the fastest growing angling market in the UK.



Chub are known for feeding on practically any type of bait and are therefore relatively easy to catch even for most inexperienced of anglers. However, larger Chub tend to be more wary and easily disturbed by noise or movement making them much more difficult to catch.



Dace are a small silver fish that are most commonly found on the river/canal bed; however, they often come closer to the surface to feed on flies. Due to their large appetites they can be caught easily using a lot of bait to attract their attention. Dace are most commonly found in the Llangollen Canal.


Golden Orfe

The Orfe – the Houdini of the fish world – is a master at escaping anglers. They are elusive and can often be difficult to find as they are introduced into isolated areas of canals



Gudgeon can be found in almost any canal or river and are said to be a very easy catch. They are perfect for novice anglers as they can be caught from the towpath side of the canal.



The Perch is a biting fish with spiky dorsal fins and pointed gills so should be handled with care. Smaller Perch will gather in large numbers at the edge of the canal, but anglers who are after a bigger catch should focus in the centre with plenty of bait.



The pike is a fierce predator and armed with several sharp and pointy teeth; its long missile like shape makes it extremely fast in the water. Despite its fierce nature and appearance, the pike is a very fragile fish you should always handle them care – particularly when returning them into the water.


Rainbow Trout

Named after a rainbow because of their silver bodies, black spots and blue and pink bands, the Rainbow is a beautiful looking fish. If you are using a lot of bait then this fish will not be difficult to catch, however if you are looking for of a challenge then you should catching it with a fly.



The Roach is the most common fish in the canal network and can be found in almost all canals. They can be caught in abundance from the boat channel and will gather in huge numbers if enough loose bait is distributed frequently.



These fish can be found in most canals but only in small numbers. The Rudd is difficult to catch due to its elusive nature, the best time to catch one is said to be in the evening when it comes to the surface to feed.



A bottom feeding fish that lives off the leftovers of other fish, they are common in almost all canals in the UK. When caught, the Ruffe will extend extremely spiky dorsal fins so you should always handle them care.



Tench are very distinctive looking fish, with olive green colour and small, red eyes. They are difficult to catch due to their hardy nature; they will put up a fight and it’s not uncommon for them to break a line. Tench tend to be found in quieter canals that see less boat traffic such as the Ashby or Walsall Canals.