Fish signs: more than meets the eye

mirror feeding at the surface

Fish signs

Not all fish signs are as obvious as this mirror feeding at the surface. For example, you might only recognize a dimple caused by a carp by the sucking sound – a distinctive ‘cloop’l A fish actually breaking the surface A fish actually breaking the surface, often with just the tip of the dorsal fin, causing ww waves, is a pointer to feeding activity. Also look for tail-waving which means a fish s feeding head down in shallow water.


Erratic splashing is the least promising sign of feeding, since the fish – a pair of bream (above) and a shoal of carp – are either playing, or spawning (if it’s the right time of year). You can’t fish for them, but at least you know where they are.

a shoal of carp


a pike jumps

When a pike jumps and completely clears the surface, it is either feeding, or about to feed. Fish use energy when they jump, and energy needs fuel – provided by food.Energetic leaping is a sure sign that the fish are fit and healthy – and fit and healthy fish, like this carp, feed most often. Fish also do this in weak winter sunshine… a time when any indication of feeding fish is a bonus.The small circles that appear and swell at the surface are good indicators that fish are feeding -especially if the dimple is accompanied by a distinct sucking sound. It means the fish, most often rudd, carp and chub, are gulping food from the surface.

An angler stands at the water’s edge, r\. shielding his eyes from the sun with a Land, looking through polarizing spectacles it a seemingly featureless water. He is canning the surface intently for signs of eedingfish.

The fish are there – somewhere. Signs of heir presence include leaping, rolling, plashing, swirling, tail-waving or merely [impling the surface. The experienced ingler knows that each of these move-nents can tell him something about what he fish is doing, or about to do.

Trolling styles

Fish that roll – bream, tench, crucian carp md barbel are the species most prone to his – are feeding, or about to feed. But you have to judge exactly how the fish is rolling o be certain. When you spot fish rolling at he surface, make sure it is a true roll — a genuine porpoise-like roll that slices the urface like a hot knife through butter.

Otherwise, a less ‘artistic’ roll may be n more than a sign that the fish are playing. For years anglers considered that th rolling of a bream was a ‘pre-feeding’ acti\ ity but we now know that these fish roll dui ing feeding too.

Cloudy clues

When pairs or groups of fish are see splashing or cavorting together they ar almost certainly spawning, but always tr to get a closer look. Any splash could be I striking pike, which is good news for tfi pike angler, but also an indication tha there are smaller fish around.

If there are no signs of fish actually at th surface, then look for other disturbances I: the water that indicate that fish are feedin on the bottom.

Mud clouds are rarely obvious plumes c muck rising in crystal clear water. Ver often they are darker muddy patches ii dark muddy water… you need a keen eye t spot them. Any patch where the water I murkier than the surrounding area I worth investigating.

Bubbles at the surface probably caus more confusion among anglers than an other surface sign. Large bubbles ths explode haphazardly can usually b ignored. They are simply the result c marsh gas breaking free from the rivei lake or canal bed.

Genuine fish-feeding bubbles are tinj hardly more than pin-head size, formed b marsh gas being filtered through a fish’s gi rakers. The bubbles erupt in regular pa-terns as the fish moves across the botton lingering here and there to feed. Carp an tench often cause bubbles when feeding.