This month Neil Evans asked; “Do you think Carp fishing has changed for the better in respect to these fast growing stock fish and very popular day ticket waters? And do you think this is the reason the sport has become so popular. Creating ‘instant carpers’? How do you see this affecting the etiquette of the sport?”
“Day ticket waters have really popped up at a rapid rate because of the expansion within the sport – in my opinion this is an effect of the growth not the reason for it.
“The media has got to have been the catalyst that started the Carp fishing boom – even in the time that I have been fishing I have seen it grow at a massive rate and the availability of information has got to be the biggest reason. When I was just starting out I was fishing a stretch of canal that had a large gravel pit behind it which was a well known Carp water. I would often see these mysterious guys camped out in green tents – even then only going back probably 12 or 14 years all the tackle shops I was going in had very little in the way of proper Carp tackle, maybe a dusty bag of Richworth shelf life boilies in the corner or the odd spool of braid. All the technicalities of it made it a daunting prospect to even consider taking up ‘proper’ Carp fishing and the guys in the green tents didn’t really seem to want to explain it all to a little ginger punisher!
“You look at that scene these days and walk into a tackle shop, you can easily pick up a couple of free DVDs that will go through all the basics of rigs, what tackle you need and explain it all really well. There are pre-tied rigs and everything comes with a little instruction manual of how to set it up. Within a few minutes you could have a quick search online and find half a dozen local pools to have a fish on and it is this side of things that have created the ‘instant carpers.’
“Is it a bad thing or not is the question? Well, it depends which way you look at it. With the availability of information and gear there is no excuse for poor fish care, unsafe rigs and all that sort of thing (even though you still see it far too often) but the help is there for anyone who wants it. You can even go out on a coaching course to start you out on the right path.
“The negative side of it is that now waters are a lot busier to fulfil the ever increasing demand for bigger Carp. The biggest concern of mine is more the watercraft and understanding of fishing in general. Jumping straight into Carp fishing you miss out on the apprenticeship side of angling. Although at the time you don’t notice all the hours spent float fishing for smaller species as a kid is time that you are learning. How to read the water and find fish, how much to feed and how to look after fish from playing them sensibly to unhooking and photographing. If you miss this phase out by no fault of your own you could be lacking a lot of fishing common sense.
“I have already gone way over the word count so I will leave it at that, and please don’t anyone take this as a knocking of anyone – as long as you are enjoying what you are doing and not risking the safety of the fish or other anglers then that’s all that’s important at the end of the day.” Rich
“Your comment or question regarding fast growing stocked fish; nearly every Carp you will fish for will be a stocked fish, especially the big ones. Second generation fish never seem to do as well as the original stock and survival rates in the UK are generally low. You have to remember Carp are not indigenous to this country and, depending on what research you believe, first arrived on our shores in 12th Century. I personally believe it was much earlier, but due to a lack of written evidence that seems at the moment to be the accepted period. Archaeological evidence and understanding the Roman culture could certainly challenge this theory, but that’s another story. Yes Carp are foreign imports somewhere down the line. In fact nearly every Carp stocked up until the late seventies had their birth place somewhere in Europe. We didn’t start farming Carp in any numbers in the UK until very recently.
“The carp we know i.e. UK fish, cannot survive as a fast growing strain without man’s intervention. If you didn’t know there use to be a Carp that anglers would refer to as ‘wildies’. Typically these were long, lean, fully scaled, hard fighting fish that seldom grew much over 10lb. It’s my belief these fish are the direct descendants of the first Carp ever stocked and over a number of centuries had reverted to this condition. Fast growing lightly scaled Carp (mirror and leather) existed in central Europe many years ago; this can be confirmed by some of the Roman mosaics found depicting banquet scenes.
“There is a very famous mosaic recovered before they flooded a large portion of the Euphrates Valley as part of the Kephan Dam project. This clearly shows a mirror Carp on a platter at the centre of the scene. They bred these fish to grow fast and with as few scales as possible – always for the table. So whichever theory you believe regarding how those early fish found their way into the UK, they were most likely to be fast growing lightly scaled Carp and not fish that looked and grew like wildies.
“The most likely reason for this change was the environment. Carp will adapt to just about any environment and it’s this adaptation that ultimately created the changes in these early stocked fish. Most of our river systems are not suited to a big fat fish, unlike the European river systems, which are much bigger and have greater diversity. Stocking Carp in the UK lost its appeal with increased availability to fish caught from the sea.
“Restocking didn’t start again until early in the last century. These fish were always referred to as ‘King Carp’ and can nearly always be traced to one importer. You would call them fast growing fish and were stocked into places like Mapely reservoir and Redmire.
“We have been stocking fast growing fish for many years now which I fully support, but now due to the growth of intensive fish farming in the UK it probably seems like something new.
“The other point, do I think that Carp fishing has changed for the better? I can remember quite vividly dreaming about fishing Redmire in the 70’s. However competition for places in that syndicate was so great I knew it was near impossible to gain membership. I believe every Carp angler when they have reached a certain competency should be given the opportunity to fish for big fish. So, if that is through popular day ticket waters how can that be worse for the sport?
“The sport has become popular through publicity not as a result of creating very popular day ticket waters. No venue becomes popular instantly, it’s a situation that has to be earned usually through hard work and a very significant investment, trust me I know about this first hand. The demand had to be there before anyone would invest the massive sums involved in creating a fishery. It’s far harder to sell a dream than supply a solution to an aspiration. The popularity of the sport has come from anglers and non-anglers seeing pictures of Carp and wanting to catch one. The magazines supply the rest of the fuel and the means to achieve this aspiration. Let’s be honest, even the daily tabloids have covered Carp death stories over the last few years bring Carp fishing very much into the main stream of public knowledge.
“When I started Carp fishing back in the mid-seventies it was a minority branch of the sport, something attempted by the lunatics. At the time the basic opinion by most of the angling world elite was ‘Carp’ are generally un-catchable and a waste of time. Buying suitable equipment was almost impossible and places to find any real knowledge about bait just didn’t exist. There was a cloud of secrecy around the sport which made it even more difficult. All the Carp anglers I knew in those early days were very competent anglers in their own right. Most came from a match angling background and could certainly handle a rod and line properly. I suppose we had all served our apprenticeships catching other species from both still waters and rivers. The reason most of us did not come into the sport as instant Carp anglers was availability. Venues that contained Carp were very scarce. You cannot prevent progress and every angler has to start somewhere if that happens to be fishing for Carp who are we to judge.
“The problem of etiquette is generally nothing to do with whether you are an instant angler or not. I was taught how to behave at a very early age. I also knew about respect and how to behave in the company of a lady. How did I know, I learnt those skills from my family and teachers at school. Sadly due to the demise of the family unit and proper discipline in schools these basic behaviour skills are lost to a large portion of society. So it’s not surprising that these issues will surface somewhere else with certain people. We have now more anglers on the bank than ever before which is going to lead to issues because the potential has gone up. How do I see this affecting the sport? It won’t, it only affects individuals and how they feel.
“The solution is easy, zero tolerance by lake owners and club officials. Enforcement is how you solve the problems of etiquette and anglers have to know there are consequences to certain actions. Anglers don’t have to tolerate the rest of the issues society has to put up with due to liberal attitudes. Bad behaviour has consequences and the people in charge should just ban anyone that doesn’t follow rules including basic etiquette.
“The above is my opinion, sadly money will sometimes cloud this issue and some lake owners are just not going to enforce sufficiently. Club waters can be even worse because membership generally gives you the right to fish regardless. My advice if you fish a venue like this and suffered some injustice, publicise the fact – it’s the only way we have of bringing about change.”
“There are so many different ways to enjoy fishing; ultimately I think it’s this level of variety that makes the sport so great. The types of fish and venues in question just bring another dimension to angling. Not only do they provide some excellent sport for the more experienced but they also provide a platform for learning. How is anyone meant to learn the basics fishing at a big low stocked pit where they may not even have Carp in their swim?
“I think in reality day ticket waters have always been around, the only difference is they are now available on a much larger scale. But surely they have only grown to keep up with the growing demand?
“With regards to the fish, there is no doubt that some strains are faster growing than others but I think in general Carp are growing much quicker nowadays anyway, regardless of strain. When you look at the sheer amount of 40 pounders available in the country now compared to 10 years ago it’s an incredible difference. Personally I think it’s just a snowball effect of the sport becoming more popular. More anglers mean more food being fed to the fish, which in turn makes them grow bigger.
“I think the real reason the sport has become so popular is down to the fact it has become much more accessible and much easier to do. Years ago if you wanted to fish for Carp you had to firstly find them, and simply asking someone in the know would probably result in them seemingly knowing nothing. Now we have so many magazines and internet sites listing exactly where to find fish it’s as easy going to your local shop or making a few clicks. Then you have the tackle. Bivvys, bed chairs and sleeping bags are so good now you can be as comfortable on the bank as you can in your own home! Readymade rigs and bait. Carp fishing used to be difficult in a sense, if you couldn’t tie a good rig you would blank. Now you can walk into a shop and choose from a whole selection of ready tied rigs that will catch you even the craftiest Carp in the land from the hardest of lakes. Media coverage has also massively bought fishing to everyone’s attention. There is so much available now. Just the internet alone offers so much Carp fishing related content it would take you years to get through, and it’s being constantly updated. From instructional articles to stories, video blogs, forums, catch reports; you name it and i’ts there. In my opinion these are the main reasons the sport has become so popular in recent years.
“With an ever increasing number of anglers from all walks of life, etiquette is always going to be an issue. There will always be a few inconsiderate individuals because that’s just the way they are, but I’m sure you get that in any sport. Thankfully though I think the guys with the right attitude far outweigh those with the wrong and as long as we do our best to educate those wanting to learn the correct way to do things, then it that’s the way it will stay.”