Union Canal shouldn’t be ruled out as a source of jack pike, perch and even roach

A recently-created private Facebook page for the Union Canal is steadily growing in popularity with over 300 members now registered with the administrators.

By Nigel Duncan
Saturday, 24th October 2020, 7:00 am
Colin Smith with a perch caught in the Union Canal.
Colin Smith with a perch caught in the Union Canal.

The founder is Uphall-based Colin Smith and the initiative is to promote angling on the water which is cold-shouldered by a number of Lothians-based coarse fishermen.

They prefer to travel across country to favoured parts of the Forth and Clyde Canal, or to fisheries like Orchill near Auchterarder or Magiscroft at Cumbernauld, or even Eliburn at Livingston, but Colin argues that there are quality fish to be had in the Union Canal and this year the sport has been “on fire”.

He fishes the water regularly with friends and they target different parts of the water. They also cover a lot of ground trying to locate fish and, when they do, they then spend time getting to know the area.

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The Union Canal is steadily growing in popularity with anglers.

The normal attack is via lures and Colin said they catch plenty of jack pike and perch. On the odd occasion, he added, they dust the deadbait rods down or target roach on the float.

He added: “This year the fishing has been on fire for us. I managed 17 pike in February alone on lures and that was a great start for me.”

Small rubber shads fished on three to five-gram jig heads seem to work best in the Union and he finds the best tactic is to keep the lures running at mid depth in the shallow water with a slow retrieve.

Little jerks on the rod seem to excite the fish going all year and small mepps should not be overlooked. Colin said: “They work great for pike on bright sunny days.

“For anyone fishing on the Union Canal, it is important to always use a wire trace as you can be easily bitten off by pike.

“Some unhooking tools, like long-nose pliers and wire cutters when fishing with lures, are essential as pike can hammer the lure and take it deep in their mouth.”

His advice for those tempted to have a cast is to target areas with weed cover. This offers useful places for fish to hide but he added: “If I’m being honest, the fish are spread far and wide. Usually, when you find one there are a few not far away.”

Another tip is to keep a tub of worms in your bag for the slow days and he said: “They can sometimes produce a bonus fish and save a blank. We usually rig them on a jighead or set them up on a dropshot rig and fish them tight to the bottom.”

Colin has also tried another method of attack this season. He revealed: “A friend and I decided to start a small baiting-up campaign. That meant cutting out a space on an overgrown bank and baiting the spot, hoping to catch a tench or even an elusive carp. We had no success despite baiting with corn, pellets, white crumb and groundbait.

“However, we soon noticed that shoals of roach and perch had started move in and stayed in the area. We had a lot of success with roach and they definitely liked the bait going in.

“I was fishing very light with 2lb mainline, a glow tip antenna float and a half-pound hook length with a size 22 hook. The bait was bread on the hook, small three or four millimetre bits of bead punch and I was catching fish every time.

“If things were slow, I would throw in golf ball-sized balls of breadcrumb and this helped switch them on. We also tempted some on maggots and it always helps to have a few different baits to try.

“We fished tight to the far bank most of the time but we caught plenty right under the rod tip as well. Now it’s starting to cool down, it is a good time to try deadbaiting for pike.

“A simple float ledger setup is all you need. I use 20lb mono so there is less chance of breaking off and leaving a baited trace in the water.

“Sardines and smelt work well for me in turning bays, deep water and areas where people go to feed ducks. They are good fish holding spots to try.

“There are usually a few prey fish about and, without doubt, there are some big pike to be had if you can get past the jacks (small pike).

“This is more so in the winter as the big hen fish fill up with spawn. I’ve only seen a few in the Union myself, but they are about.”

Colin keeps a record and so far this year he has hooked more than 100 pike, perch, roach and one brown trout from the Union Canal.

He added: “It shows there is a good healthy stamp of fish spread throughout and, since I started the Union Canal Facebook group I've seen [pictures] of some great fish being caught; eels, big perch, big brown trout and a salmon as well.

“There are definitely a few surprises swimming around in there and we found a dead rainbow trout in the summer as well goodness knows where that came from.

“And, it’s good to see plenty of people putting the time in and catching some nice fish on the union canal. For £7 a year to the Scottish Federation for Coarse Angling (SFCA), I think its great value for money.”

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