What fish can you catch in the Thames

Written by peter mitchell | 13/05/2017
What fish can you catch in the Thames
You might be surprised what fish lurk in the Thames. (Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images)

In 1957 the Natural History Museum pronounced the Thames "biologically dead." Yet, after years of conservation efforts, the Thames is again home to a surprising variety of aquatic life -- including 125 species of fish. The Thames Estuary in particular is alive with all kinds of fishy creatures. Armed with a fishing rod (and a fishing licence) you can catch everything from eels to flounder.

Pick up a pike

What fish can you catch in the Thames
Keep your hands clear of this beast's sharp teeth! (Matt Cardy/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

Lean, mean and packing rows of razor-sharp teeth, the pike is one of the bad boys of the Thames. Its huge mouth can gulp down unsuspecting fish in seconds. It lays camouflaged among weeds before launching itself at its prey. Use a plastic lure or smelly fish bait in deep waters or weedy edges to tempt these monsters. Pike over 30lb. have been caught on some parts of the Thames, such as the stretch near Farringdon in Oxfordshire.

Cast for a carp

What fish can you catch in the Thames
Keep your eyes peeled for carp basking at the surface. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Known as "garbage fish" in the US, carp remain popular with anglers in the UK, partly due to the huge sizes they can reach. Carp in the Thames prefer slow-moving water. You'll catch them sucking at the river bed for food or occasionally see them gulping bread at the surface on a sunny day. Maggots, bread, luncheon meat, worms or specially made carp "boilies" all make perfect bait for Thames carp.

Take hold of an eel

What fish can you catch in the Thames
Slippery when wet: the Thames eels. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

The slippery eel is in fact a quintessential Thames fish -- with "jellied eels" a legendary London delicacy. However, the European eel is is now listed as critically endangered, with Thames stocks at an all-time low. If you catch an eel, consider throwing it straight back into the Thames to fight another day. They'll take a large variety of bait weighted to the bottom -- particularly during the evenings and at night.

Small is beautiful

What fish can you catch in the Thames
Minnows are the perfect jar-sized catch. (Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Minnows are the ultimate tiddlers -- and you'll find them along most of the whole length of the Thames. While not for serious anglers, minnows caught in a net or jam jar can be a child's first taste of fishing. Or, a few netted and humanely killed minnows make good bait when pike or perch fishing.

Get a herring aid

What fish can you catch in the Thames
Herring: delicious when pickled. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

You won't find herring too far inland from the mouth of the Thames. But, head into the estuary on a boat in summer and you have a good chance of catching one of these silvery fish. And because they're a shoal species, if you catch one, you'll probably catch lots. Try small feathers or miniature lures.

Bass for your face

What fish can you catch in the Thames
Ravenous hunters, bass will gulp down very large bait. (Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Sea bass are a favourite with restaurant chefs -- and a much sought-after fish for anglers. As a shore-hugging species, bass are more than happy in the Thames estuary, eating up crabs, fish and squid. You'll need a sturdy rod, plus a lure or large strip of mackerel or squid to catch them. Bass swim quite far up stream, so don't be surprised to catch them several miles inland.

Perch on the edge

What fish can you catch in the Thames
Watch the spiky fins on the back of a perch. (Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

The beautifully tiger-striped perch are one of the most commonly caught fish in the Thames. A hungry predator, these well camouflaged fish ambush their prey and such them into their gaping mouths. As they're not the fussiest eaters, you can catch perch with everything from maggots to metal lures. The deeper waters hold the bigger perch of several pounds and over.

Dream of bream

What fish can you catch in the Thames
A handful of wriggling maggots thrown into the river gets the bream feeding. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The oval-shaped common bream sits in some of the deeper, slower-moving parts of the Thames. They love maggots -- so a couple on a small hook on a long float rig or weighted on the bottom make a perfect bait. Bream don't grow to huge sizes, but fish over 5 lb. are relatively common.

Grab a gudgeon

What fish can you catch in the Thames
Children can grab a gudgeon with a fishing net. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

The gudgeon has a surprisingly large mouth for such as small fish. They're easy to catch with a maggot on a small hook in relatively shallow waters -- making them an ideal fish for children and beginners! In some stretches of the Thames you can even catch a few gudgeon with a net dipped into the water.

Take out a trout

What fish can you catch in the Thames
(Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Believe it or not, there are trout in the Thames -- you just have to be very lucky to catch one! Tree-lined stretches in areas such as Berkshire or Wiltshire might be your best chance of landing a Thames trout. However, there are reports of fishermen landing trout right in the heart of London, even at Putney Bridge. Trout will take a fly dropped onto the river surface, or go for small lures.

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