BIRTHDAY presents don’t come much better than the cracking 18 lb barbel landed on the 2016-17 river season's opening day.

The river record and PB was Gary Johnson’s reward for spending his 50 th birthday on the banks of a Peterborough DAS stretch of his local River Nene.

His 18-pounder smashed the old river best set in 2012 of 17 lb 8 oz by Nigel Bryans.

Gary, the landlord of the Black Horse pub in Nassington, Northamptonshire, told Angler’s Mail: ‘My birthday falls on the first day of the season and this year I took a week’s holiday to celebrate my 50th with lots of fishing.

“With the main river carrying extra water I fished a quieter backwater.

“Last year I fished all last season for barbel with pellets and hemp and had 29 fish to 12 lb but decided this year on a switch to boilies to see if I could get amongst the bigger barbel.”

Long slow bite from spawned out giant barbel

Gary continued: “I used a PVA bag and also fed a steady stream of broken boilies into the swim by hand.

“Eventually I had a long slow bite and hooked into the big one.

“It went exactly 18 lb, had spawned and its stomach was empty, so it will go much bigger if caught again later in the season.

“It was last caught two years ago at 16 lb 4 oz so could possibly become a UK record fish.

“I only had one other bite all day and that was from a whopper that went all of 1 lb but the big ‘un made it a birthday to remember”

Gary legered a hair-rigged DNA Secret 7 boilie on a 15 inch hook link to tempt the fish which beats his PB by 1 lb 4 oz.

This fish is one of a handful that could be the biggest barbel in Britain and is the biggest landed this season. The biggest barbel on the official records list is 21 lb 1 oz.

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