An Expat’s Experiences: Fishing From England to America

Since moving to the USA in 2016, my fishing has changed dramatically. Before when I fished in England, I spent twenty-four hours on the bank waiting for a carp to come along, sat by a small river hoping for a chub or barble, spent a day at a large reservoir throwing lures or deadbaits for pike, or sat by Sheffield canal where the chances of me being mugged are as high as me catching an actual fish! Now I have short early morning or late evening sessions where I target specific fish like catfish, bass, bowfin, and carp using a variety of different methods. I also fish on holidays — For example, in North Carolina I caught several saltwater species, including very small sand sharks which were super cool!

I also fish when travelling for work (if time allows) — While working away for two weeks in Ohio I found a small lake full of carp, which kept me entertained over a weekend.

Now that I live in Virginia, it is here that I do the vast majority of my fishing. If you talk to almost anybody away from the coast about fishing in Virginia, they automatically default to bass (largemouth, smallmouth, stripped, etc.), crappie, catfish (blue, channel, and flathead), or trout. There’s plenty of other species though, including gar (think aligator fish), pickerel, musky, northern pike, bowfin (think ancient dinosaur-fish), sunfish (not the massive ones in the ocean), bluegill, drum, shad, sturgeon (again, think ancient dinosaur-fish), and carp, amongst others. Within Virginia there are over forty species of freshwater fish and across the USA there are over 1,000 different species of freshwater fish. For comparison, Great Britain has just forty species across the entire island.

These fish I caught in Virginia are large-mouth bass, sunfish, bullhead, and bowfin

After moving to Virginia, I didn’t fish for a little over a year because I was unsure of what to target or what equipment to get. When starting off with some spinning gear, I was able to catch a few bass and bluegill but honestly the challenge wasn’t there, nor the size. For example, I caught a six pound largemouth on one of my first trips but didn’t think anything of it and put it back without so much as a picture. Turns out it was a bit of a “lunker,” which is a ‘Merican work for “a big ‘un”! I once caught a bluegill on just a bare hook, which honestly is silly!

The first American fish I ever caught was this bass

Then when I realized that catfish were abundant in the James River and its canals, I bought more suitably stout gear. Without really knowing a good local fishing tackle shop, I hit the supermarket hoping for mackerel, sardines, or sprats — just like I would back in Blighty (another word for England) when targeting pike but alas, nothing of the sort! However, there was a good supply of porgies (which, to my English readers — no, I’d never heard of this fish either). With three porgies purchased and chopped into chunks, I moseyed down to the Kanawha Canal and threw in a porgie head on one rod and a middle chunk on another rod and sat back. Ten minutes later I had a slow take and shortly after landed this blue catfish.

It came in at twenty-eight pounds — not a monster by bluesize standards (they can reach over 100 pounds!) but I was pleased as punch with that! This is easy! I thought . . . until four more hours went by without so much as a sniff so maybe not so easy after all! 

Since then I’ve caught a few bowfin. Now these are amazing creatures — They are ancient fish with a large mouth full of needle-sharp teeth. Similar to sharks, they haven’t evolved for millions of years so they can survive in a wide range on environments. They inhabit many areas of Virginia and can be caught using live or dead bait as well as lures!

I’ve also had two flathead catfish. This one nailed a top water lure on my second cast of fishing. L and I had gone for a walk down by the Richmond’s canal and in one area we noticed several small fish jumping and large wakes in the water. Once home a quick “excuse me for half an hour” lead to me running back to the spot with my lure rod in hand! 

Once, during a morning run along that canal, I noticed two lovely long common carp cruising together. Until then I hadn’t thought that there would be any carp so the next morning after a trip to the supermarket to pickup a can of Green Giants finest sweetcorn, I had a couple of hours fishing. I caught two small commons, a few catfish, and a snapping turtle! Besides the turtle, I was happy. I have fished for carp for years in England so I know how to target them — and I should also say I would likely be the only person targeting them because carp aren’t generally targeted by most Virginian’s as a lot of them see carp as ‘trash fish’ so I knew I could have some fun!

In the future I hope to be fishing more regularly and start targeting some currently uncaught speices including gar, pike (I’ve hooked one, just not landed one), snakehead, and trout. And, in later posts I will be going into more details of my fishing. Each upcoming post will focus on a specific species covering the bait, tackle, and methods used. In them I will be completely honest about the level of success and likely failure of these trips! If you have any questions, comments, or recommendations as to where to fish in the Virginia, please leave me a message below! Also, I’d love to hear of your fishing stories, memorable catches, new species, or just general fishing adventures you’d like to share!

Author: Andy

Ey up! I’m the calm, laidback, English one of the two. If L is the fuel, I’m the engine -- Without her, I’m pretty happy being sat still. That said, when I’m out and moving I make the most of it. I’m super squeamish, a stickler for the rules, and if I’ve not had a cup of coffee in the morning it’s probably best to let me be. I love fishing, hiking, and vehicle mechanics and I’m not scared of learning something new!

2 thoughts

    1. Thanks dad! Just don’t seem to have time lately but will hopefully get out next week at least for a morning or night.

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