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. Barbel roe is poisonous and causes vomiting and diarrhoea in some people. The name Barbel derived from the Latin barba, meaning beard, a reference to the two pairs of barbs — a longer pair pointing forwards and slightly down positioned — on the side of the mouth.
The Barbel is ideally suited to fast flowing waters, adult size is up to 1.2 m (4 ft) in length and 12 kg (26 lb) in weight, although it is typically found smaller (50–100 cm length, weight 1–3 kg). The Barbel is light brown to greenish brown with yellowish sides. The Barbel's fins are darker except for the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins which are yellowish orange. The body of the Barbel is elongated with very small scales and appears scale less. There are 55 to 65 scales in the lateral line of a Barbels body. The head of the Barbel is pointed and its eyes which are rather small are set high on the sides of the head. The Barbel is recognised by its under slung mouth with thick lips with two short barbules on the top lip and two longer barbules at the corner of its mouth. These barbules have taste and touch cells and help the fish to locate food on the riverbed.
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 on its on accord. Some of the best Barbel fishing venues are along the Loddon near Reading (season ticket only), and the middle Severn, Bewdley being a particular hotspot where there are different day ticket and club stretches on both sides of the bank. The most effective baits to use when Barbel fishing are maggots, worms, luncheon meat, halibut pellets and any fish meal based boilie. The most common way to fish for Barbel is to cast out a ledger to the desired area in your swim, the ledger will hold the bait firmly where you want it to be, the bite indication for this type of fishing would be the tip of the rod bending over as the Barbel takes off with your bait. Other exciting methods of fishing for Barbel are float fishing or free lining your bait down the flow of the river. Barbel will feed all year round but much more vigorously in the summer and autumn, this is the time of year that most anglers fish for them. Night fishing is a good time to fish. the good baits to use for Barbel are maggots, worms, hemp but a lot of the time it is a hard fish to catch.
Barbel native to 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. The Mediterranean Barbel Barbus meridionalis is actually found in Spain, France, Poland, Romania, and the Ukraine. Barbus callensis is found in Tunisia. The Ripon barbel Barbus altianalis is found in the African Great Lakes. The Crimean Barbel Barbus tauricus is found in the Salgir River in the Crimean peninsular. A subspecies, the Kuban Barbel Barbus tauricus kubanicus is found in the upper and middle Kuban River in Russia. The Aral Barbel Barbus brachycephalus is found in Central Asia, and the sub-species B. brachycephalus caspius (the Caspian Barbel) is found in the Caspian Sea. The Bulatmai Barbel Barbus capito carpito (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 (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 southeast Siberia.