The Shropshire union canal main line is a very busy canal, it forms part of what boaters call the ‘Cheshire loop’ which is a route they can take around the counties canal system. It’s a very popular route for boaters and holiday makers but it’s a nightmare for anglers and lure anglers in particular. The constant boat traffic churns up the bottom of the canal and as a result, the water is permanently the colour of a bar of cadbury’s dairy milk chocolate.
Because of the muddy water and lack of sight, most lure anglers look at the venue and give it a wide birth, it’s human nature to do this, a fishes eyesight is at least as good as ours and we can’t see in that environment so it stands to reason the fish can’t either. It’s rare to see anyone on the canal with a lure rod but dismissing the canal because of the water colour is a big mistake. This widely accepted train of thought that lure fishing is no good in coloured water assumes that fish have no other senses besides their eyes, but they do!. They also have their lateral line system which they use to detect vibrations and tiny changes in water currents around them, this system is so sensitive a predator like a pike or perch can still hunt prey fish despite not being able to see in the muddy water. Knowing this, we can specifically select lures that offer vibration and sound to attract bites.
The canal is quite featureless, the biggest attraction for the angler is the margins and the vertical walls that form the canal itself. Canal boats generally travel up the middle of the canal and it’s here the water is churned worst of all. As a result, fish will often sit close in to the bank, not only does the canal wall offer somewhere for the fish to hang out, the muddy coloured water means they can’t be seen in the edge and this is a help to us anglers too because the muddy water means they can’t see us either.
I have a few lures I use for lure fishing in coloured water, which one I choose depends on the target species, for pike my number one lure is a Rapala Jointed Shad Rap in firetiger. This particular lure is superb in coloured water, there are a couple of ball bearings inside the lure that provide a big rattling sound and the lure itself is constructed so it rips from side to side really aggressively. When you work a Rapala Jointed Shad Rap you can actually see and feel your rod tip vibrate as the lure moves along and working it under a bridge will give you an idea of just how much sound and vibration comes off this lure, you will actually hear it echoing off the brickwork of the bridge. Fan casting to search the canal with one of these rapala’s you will soon know if there are any pike in residence, I usually give it 10-15 casts in a fan shape but I expect a hit within 5 or 6 casts if the pike are in the mood. You can also work them up and down the canal margin to search long stretches of the canal and this is one of my favourite ways of using this outstanding pike lure.
Most of my canal lure fishing is done with perch as the main target and my best lure for this species is a small Relax Kopyto Shad. I use the brightest colours I can find for lure fishing in coloured water, although the fish can’t see very well I reason that a bright colour can’t do any harm and may help if there is slight visibility close up as a fish strikes the lure. I tend to favour lures that are white or ‘chartreuse’, which is a kind of luminous green type of colour.
For my perch fishing with the Relax Kopyto Shad I tend to favour working with a ‘sphere of detection’. The kopyto has a lovely rubber paddle tail which hammers away and creates vibration when you retrieve it through the water, if the lure comes within 12 inches (30cms) of a fish, that fish will sense the lure is there even though it can’t see it. When you put this ‘sphere of detection’ into use and put it together with the fish liking the canal wall you can work lures close in to the bank with a method which has become known as ‘dibbling’. Basically it entails dropping the lure off the end of your Rod tip and keeping the lure working close to the bottom and within 12 inches (30cms) of the canal wall, anything that comes within the sphere of the lure can detect it’s presence so that’s any fish within 2ft of the wall (remember it’s a sphere so it’s 12ins in all directions). In the case of coming close to a predator like a pike or a perch, a strike will often follow. It’s a deadly method for fishing canals where visibility is near zero and as you can see from the accompanying video above. If you fish this way, you can get bites when lure fishing for pike and perch in coloured water.
I’ve also just started using a Crazy Fish Vibro Worm, this lure too has a paddle tail for generating vibrations in the water but it also has a few extras. The worm is ‘ribbed’ all the way along which helps displace more water and create more vibration when you work the lure. On top of the vibro worms whole body helping create vibration the lure also has a squid flavour impregnated into it so we are bringing into play the senses of smell and taste too. I had a feeling the vibro worm might be worth a look so I bought a pack of white ones which were 2” (50mm) long. I set one of these Crazy Fish Vibro Worm up on a 3 gram Jig Head with a size 4 hook and as you can see, if you watch the film above to the end, first time out it’s caught me a small pike which is an encouraging start for this lure.
So that’s it for lure fishing for pike and perch in coloured water, think fish not human is the big message I’d like to get across. Play to the senses fish use to detect their food and hunt with and you will catch fish on lures from waters like the Shropshire union canal main line, believe me canals don’t come much busier than this one and as far as lure fishing venues go it’s a tough one, but it’s not impossible with the right approach.
Until next time.