Barbels are group of small carp-like freshwater fish, almost all of the genus Barbus. They are usually found in gravel and rocky-bottomed slow-flowing waters with high dissolved oxygen content. A typical adult barbel will range from 25 to 100 cm in length and weigh anywhere between 200 g and 10 kg, although weights of 200 g are more common. Babies weigh 100–150 g.
Barbel roe is poisonous and causes vomiting and diarrhoea in some people. However, the fish itself can be eaten and recipes are available in The Illustrated London Cookery Book by Frederick Bishop.
The name barbel derived from the Latin barba, meaning beard, a reference to the two pairs of barbels—a longer pair pointing forwards and slightly down positioned—on the side of the mouth.
Fish described as barbels by English-speaking people may not be known as barbels in their native country, although the root of the word may be similar. For instance, the Mediterranean barbel (Barbus meridionalis) is known as barbeau méridional or barbeau truité in France, but also as drogan, durgan, tourgan, turquan and truitat.
Barbus barbus, the barbel native to Great Britain, is known simply as the barbel and is a popular sport fish. Subspecies of B. barbus are recognised; namely B. barbus bocagei, B. barbus sclateri, B. barbus thessalus and B. barbus plebejus.
Other barbel in Europe include Barbus sclateri – sometimes known as the European barbel; the Italian barbel (Barbus tyberinus); the Albanian barbel (Barbus albanicus); and the Iberian barbel, which is found in Spain and Portugal and is eaten by many European duck species.
The Crimean barbel (Barbus tauricus) is found in the Salgir River in the Crimean peninsula. A sub-species, the Kuban barbel (Barbus tauricus kubanicus) is found in the upper and middle Kuban River in Russia.
The Bulatmai barbel (Barbus capito carpito, formerly Cyprinus capito) is found in the Kura river in Trans-caucasia.
The Terek barbel (Barbus ciscaucasicus) is found in the Kuma River, Russia.
The Turkestan barbel (Barbus conocephalus) is found in the Zeravshan river.
The Gokcha barbel (Barbus goktschaicus) is found in the Lake Sevan in Armenia.
The Kura barbel (Barbus lacerta formerly Mtkvari barbel) is found in Syria.
The Himri barbel (Barbus luteus) is native to Mesopotamian rivers.
The Amur barbel or Barbel steed (Hemibarbus labeo) is found in the Amur basin and elsewhere in east and south-east Asia, including south-east Siberia.
Barbus callensis is found in Tunisia.
Occasionally non-cyprinid fish are called barbels such as Austroglanis gilli, or Schilbe mystus, both are catfish. Some species of the genus Sinocyclocheilus a cave dwelling fish found in China have made use of the term barbel in their English common name.
The barbel is mentioned in Nostradamus Les Prophéties, century VII, 24 :
He who was buried will come out of the tomb,
he will make the strong one out of the bridge to be bound with chains.
Poisoned with the roe of a barbel,
the great one from Lorraine by the Marquis du Pont.
Fishing for barbel
Barbel, although often found in still waters, are predominantly a river-dwelling fish and are very sought after by many anglers. They may not be the most elusive fish in the river; in fact, in the right conditions they are fairly easy to catch. They are, however, very hardy fish who will fight right until you slip your landing net under them. Despite this hardy nature in the water they do not cope well out of the water and must be returned safely and quickly. It is good custom to support the fish in the water until it is fully recovered and swims away of its own accord.
Some of the best barbel fishing venues are along the Loddon near Reading. The Severn at Bewdley is a particular hotspot where there are different day ticket and club stretches on both sides of the bank. The current record on the river Severn is 16 lb 11 oz, taken by Kevin Gittins, in November 2014.
Nottinghamshire's River Trent is now being recognised as one of the best venues in the UK since Craig Lander landed an 18 lb 14 oz giant Trent barbel.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Barbel.|
- Bishop, Frederick (1852). "Salt and Freshwater Fish". The Illustrated London Cookery Book. London. p. 158.
- "barbel". thefreedictionary.com.
- "Common Names of Barbus meridionalis". FishBase.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-13. Retrieved 2011-04-19.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)