Grantham Canal, Hickling
The Grantham Canal runs for 33 miles from Grantham through 18 locks to West Bridgford, where it joins the River Trent. It was built primarily for the transportation of coal to Grantham. It opened in 1797 and its profitability steadily increased until 1841.
The canal at Hickling provides some amazing fishing for all species and is particularly enjoyable for the many carp that it holds. Catch them stalking, of the surface, on the bottom, it is all possible on this intriguing stretch of the cut.
What You Should Know!
There is an amazing cafe on the canal and they do full English breakfasts, take away sausage sandwiches, cups of tea and coffee which can make your stay very enjoyable. They also run the fishing on the Wharf so when you do arrive you can use their car park which is safe and then carry your gear to the canal. All you do is then pay and sign in at the cafe.
Old Wharf Contact Number – 01664 820448
If you want to fish on the canal towpath side, just setup and wait for a bailiff.
The canal can get busy with dog walkers and people so if you want a quiet venue, this isn’t the one. That said, for me it is always exciting because there is always something going on.
Trophy Canal Shots
Just keep on your toes, coloured water can give them away.
What is the canal like and how should I fish it?
This part of the canal, found in the village of Hickling, is basically a square basin that joins onto a stretch of canal that is around two miles in length. The fishery is run by a club known as The Old Wharf in the basin. The other stretch is run by an angling bailiff. It’s about £4 a day on the main canal and on the basin, it’s £5 a day. If you want to do 24 hours, you have to ring the Wharf cafe in advance.
The basin is very interesting and is shallow by nature at an average of 4ft-5ft – the main part of the canal is similar. It is an extremely enjoyable place to fish; very mature, with plenty of reedbeds and full of birdlife.
There isn’t just carp present either, there are other species; silver fish, skimmers, and all other coarse fish.
In terms of carp, there are between 50-70 carp present and they range between 12-18lb in size with a handful over 20lb. The fish are mainly commons but there are a few mirrors, they are rarer though. You have every chance of a bite all-year round. There are also some big pike to over 20lb, and perch to over 3lb. It’s a superb all round fishery.
What are the best areas?
In the summer months, I recommend that you go stalking, keeping mobile on the main stretch of canal because the carp like to spend much of their time up there. Walk along the towpath quietly and stealthily, along with your polaroids, looking for telltale signs, because they will reveal their presence through bubbles, swirls, dark shapes, bow waves etc. Just keep on walking, coloured water will also give them away.
At nighttime, they will head back to the basin area, so you are more likely to catch them here very early morning, late evening or during darkness.
In general, there are no real features to the canal or basin, but they love to get in the edge. There is one area in the main basin always worth a look. It can’t be fished, but it can be accessed through casting from the fishing bank. It contains some dense reeds which always seem to provide action.
Other than that, the middle area, which is the deepest, generally produces carp in the basin. It is pretty silty so be wary of the silt and look for the firmer areas through feeling the lead down.
The only other feature worth looking at is the inlet. This is notoriously shallow so make sure you fish it at the right times. It can fill the water with extra oxygen which the fish can’t resist.
Where is best in Summer?
Specifically for the carp, I recommend going stalking and surface fishing up the main stretch of canal. However, you do have to be wary of the many birds that are present. Freelined bread can be a deadly method or even small mesh bags of floating pellets. Obviously, the birds are regularly fed bread, and much of the time the carp will feed amongst them.
Where is best in Winter?
The middle area of the basin in the deeper water, fishing on the harder, smoother areas of silt. Prebaiting really helps at this time of year.
Boilies by far, I recommend introducing these as prebait if possible, CC Moore Live System being my favourite. A few handful here and there, a few times a week prior to your session should get them grubbing about. On my actual session, I like to present a bright, high attract pop-up, such as a Northern Special – white being the most successful the majority of the time.
What rigs do you use on the canal?
You must be conscious of the silt and so a helicopter rig is always my choice of lead system. If you are experienced in feeling the lead down, then you will gauge an idea of the silt depth, thus allowing you to adjust the top bead depending on how deep it is (moving it up, the deeper it is). There are firmer areas, so a lead clip can be employed, but they are harder to pinpoint. However, they can reveal a hotspot!
In terms of the rig, I like to use a version of the hinged stiff rig in conjunction with a pop-up. Again, this is to ensure that it is presented over any detritus that may be on the bottom of the canal. I also like the peace of mind that it won’t be tangled.
Bear in mind that nuisance species are also present in a canal and so a big-fish rig such as the hinge will help to deter them because they find it harder to suck in.
Top canal tip
Prebaiting! If you can trickle bait consistently into an area for a few sessions, encouraging the fish to regularly find food in the same spot, they will frequently return looking for more. This has definitely caught me extra fish.
Amazing coarse fishing!
The pike fishing can be superb in winter. I recommend dead baiting with smelt and mackerel. There are also some very large perch present. Friends of mine have caught them drop shooting or fishing worms right in the edge.
Tench fishing can at times be excellent too. Small pellets, ground baits and corn work well under a float on the drop off. Shoals of roach and skimmer bream are plentiful so it also makes it ideal for matches and for taking young children.
Grantham Canal Rules
You’ll need these for your trip to the canal!
There’s something special about the canal. Every take is exciting and there always seems to be something to look at. The fish are in fantastic condition and there is the opportunity for an array of tactics; stalking, surface fishing, fishing on the bottom, or targeting other species. Oh yes, I can;’t help but mention you can top it all off with an amazing full English in the cafe!
Alex is an all-rounder from the Midlands. Having caught carp from rivers, lakes and canals, his knowledge and experience can reveal some very intriguing venues indeed.
Alex Grice | 3rd April 2020