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Feeding patterns

Chris Cheshire

Senior Member
I very rarely fish much after dark.
In fact when I have fished on after sunset I've often caught for the first hour or so into darkness only to find the bites reduce soon after.

My question is this, do any of you guys who fish whole nights notice any regular feeding patterns - do the fish go mad at midnight or do most people find it stays quiet until dawn?

Jon Young

Senior Member
I think Iv only ever had one barbel after half 1am. Generally for me after 1 the bites tend to drop off. I had 1 fish at half 2 once. Normally if I go night fishing these days I’ll only fish til 1 then go home. Always remember the lad I used to work with who first took me barbel fishing saying always go home by 3 it ain’t worth staying. Turned out to be right in my experience but others may disagree. Depends where you’re fishing I guess.
To add Iv never had any joy at dawn either lol

Richard Parsons

Senior Member
I regularly fish through the night, on the Dove. Even through winter. Quite a few of the barbel I caught last season were snaffled between 2am and 4am. Admittedly, I didn't fish much in daylight. As Jon says, the patterns may vary on different rivers, and for various reasons. One being possible predation, where fish lay up out of sight during daylight but feel less threatened during darkness and feed then.

Alex Constantinou

Senior Member
For me I've found (roughly) an hour or so in to dark and two hours before first light are productive. That being said I have caught at all hours of the day and night.

There was a scientific paper published that found a strong relationship between light cycles and Barbel behaviour whereby Barbel emptied their bowels two hours before sunset prior to feeding. This broadly correlates with my observations on the venues I fish, particularly with bigger specimens.

Gavin Hoe-Richardson

Senior Member
I do a lot of night fishing nowadays and can confirm that it very much varies from river to river. I've noted definite patterns over the last decade or so.

Two of my rivers are relatively shallow, you can catch in daylight by fishing tight to cover but the barbel frequently go into a feeding frenzy at dusk for an hour or two. Thereafter the chub dominate.

River three is around 8' deep and usually coloured. I catch 75% of my fish an hour either side of midnight even in the autumn when it's been dark for four hours.

River four has a high stock level. I regularly drop from two rods to one between midnight and 0200hrs as it is common to get a double hook up during this period, reverting back to two rods once the bites have dried up.

River five is relatively deep and often coloured, time of day doesn't seem to matter much, I catch just as many in daylight.

My conclusion is that the fish feed when they feel safe as well as hungry. On shallow but unfishable stretches of rivers due to vegetation I've watched barbel happily graze over gravel runs with a high sun mid-afternoon. On pressurised swims of the same river they're nowhere to be seen in the same conditions.

Mark Swaby

Senior Member
Like Gavin above,I have always found that Barbel feed when and where they feel safest its nearly always down to pressure and hunger. If everyone goes home at 2 am and the leads stop going in, then they will feed then. If a section is heavily night fished then the Barbel will often feed during the early morning part of the day. A lot of this has changed with the long stay anglers that have come to Barbel fishing these days. On waters that allow over night fishing the Barbel will feed at any time and all the old rules have gone out the window. Anglers often get drawn to swims that are snaggy because the Barbel are there during the day.Those swims will often produce a fish or two just on dark when they come on the move. An hour later those same fish that were all in the snag will often be 200yds away or more in a area that they never get caught in feeding merrily.