The Crucian Chronicle Issue One - June 2017
Contents The Editor’s Pitch! ! ! ! ! Still searching for that ‘Crock of Gold’! ! Richie’s Special Day! ! ! ! ! Managing a Crucian Fishery!! ! ! Yaddlethorpe Ponds! ! ! ! ! Rocklands Mere Fishery - the story so far! Christchurch Angling Club - Holtwood Ponds! A Clear and Present Danger!! ! ! Pole ﬂoats for crucians!! ! ! ! Unconventional Crucians! ! ! ! The Mysterious Moat! ! ! ! ! Crucians - Native or naturalised?! ! ! Crucian Pools of Great Britain! ! ! Sutton Gold! ! ! ! ! ! Catch A Crucian Month! ! ! ! Going On A Gold Hunt!! ! ! ! Norfolk Crucian Project ! ! ! NCCP Crucian ID Factsheet!! ! !
Chris Turnbull Martin Salter! Richie Martin! Peter Rolfe!! Andy Bettiss! James Harrold! Brian Stoker! Peter Rolfe!! Dave Will! ! Kevin Sanders! Stu Harris! ! Peter Rolfe!! Chris Netto ! Ed Matthews! NCCP & ACA! John Cheyne! Dr Carl Sayer! NCCP! !
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Credits Editor & Designer - Chris Turnbull Sub Editor and Proofreader - Chris Netto Production Editors - Tom Critchell & Jason Skilton Cover photo by Leigh Goodgame All material in this journal is copyright @The Association of Crucian Anglers. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, electronic or otherwise, without prior permission of the publisher.
The Editor’s Pitch. Chris Turnbull I don’t know about you but as an angler who loves the challenge of ﬁshing for many different species, I have become increasingly frustrated by the way carp ﬁshing has come to dominate our sport, especially when it is to the detriment of other species of ﬁsh. I’m sorry if it offends you, but to my mind the popularity of carp ﬁshing has become totally pervasive. Virtually every decent sized gravel pit has become an expensive specimen carp syndicate, while almost every small water has been stocked with them in an attempt to sell more permits. Meanwhile endless hole-in-the-ground ﬁsheries have been created and ﬁlled with so many carp and F1 hybrids that they need aerators to keep the ﬁsh alive. In response to this, many ﬁshing clubs have found the need to compete by creating equally soulless ﬁsheries. While there can be no doubt that this has driven lots of revenue, something vital to the sport is being lost. For me that something is a large chunk of the magic and diversity of angling which, while still a boy, was the very thing that attracted me to the sport in the ﬁrst place. ! Another thing that has been lost is one of our most beautiful and enigmatic summer species, the crucian carp. Hybridisation with king carp and brown goldﬁsh, coupled with the loss of many of its traditional pond habitats has been the undoing of this wonderful ﬁsh. The collective impact has hit them so hard that they have become incredibly rare. However, if crucians have had it tough here, throughout mainland Europe another interloper, the gibel or Prussian carp, has pushed crucians to the verge of extinction, leaving the UK in the situation where we could eventually become the species last European stronghold. ! Of course many anglers have been predicting that the carp ﬁshing bubble will eventually burst, though I’ve seen little evidence of that happening. However there can be no doubt that many anglers have turned away from carp ﬁshing. There can also be no doubt that many anglers hold a strong affection for crucians. Some of us have even risen to the task of trying to turn around the crucians’ fortunes before it is too late and conserve them for being the worthy species they undoubtedly are. In fact, while it will have gone unnoticed by many, a gentle revolution has been taking place to save our crucians. This has been led by a rallying call from the Angling Trust’s National Crucian Conservation Project (NCCP) which is strongly supported by the Association of Crucian Anglers (ACA). At long last a number of clubs and private ﬁsheries have chosen to buck the trend of creating more and more carp waters and turn their efforts toward creating carp-free ﬁsheries. Here wonderful species such as tench and crucians can be cherished and enjoyed for being the fabulous ﬁsh that they are. ! The ACA is a Facebook-based group with membership available by invitation to keen crucian enthusiasts, and more particularly those involved in creating and managing crucian ﬁsheries. It was set up in order to support the NCCP at a grass-roots level and has gone from strength to strength. Now in its third year, the group’s idea of putting together a newsletter quickly grew into one of putting together this on-line magazine, in order to further the conservation of crucians, promote crucian ﬁshing and support the efforts of those clubs and ﬁshery owners working to create and maintain crucian ﬁsheries. ! With enthusiasm for crucian ﬁshing now very much on the rise, we intend to make production of ‘The Crucian Chronicle’ a regular event. So if, like us, you want to see more crucians around, please download it, share it around and join the crucian revolution. You will be most welcome!
Hugh Miles with the perfect crucian.
Still searching for that ‘Crock of Gold’ Martin Salter Chris Turnbull and I have a lot in common. We have a romantic attachment to the essence of ﬁshing, we celebrate diversity in all its forms and we are turned off by the commercialisation of our sport and the seemingly endless drive to create a ‘king carp monoculture’ in the UK. We are also both old hippies who remember with some fondness, and not a little fuzziness, the era and the music of Neil Young from which the title of this piece is derived! As it happened I had been mulling over our ‘Campaigns Grid’ at the Angling Trust and was looking for a new stillwater issue that could connect angling and conservation when Chris phoned me up to see if we would be interested in getting involved in a crucian carp’s project. We hit it off straight away and, after a preliminary meeting with the Environment Agency in Peterborough the National Crucian Conservation Project (NCCP) was formally launched at the Angling Trust Coarse Fish Conference in Reading in May 2014. Three years on its worth looking back and why we started, what objectives we set ourselves and how the world of angling has responded. Chris put together a very helpful short paper entitled: The case for the conservation of Crucian Carp as an angling resource which nicely summed why action was needed.
Setting out the plight of crucians he wrote: The crucian carp Carassius carassius is a native British species of ﬁsh that was once common throughout much of England. Primarily a still water species, crucian carp are traditionally associated with smaller, shallower stillwaters, such as ponds, marl pits, some estate lakes and millponds. In recent times, however, crucian carp have fallen onto hard times for a variety of reasons, leading to their local extinction in many areas that were once strongholds for the species. Many of the ponds once known to hold them have suffered from drought or habitat deterioration through neglect, while other waters have been lost altogether due to being backﬁlled in order to develop the land. Above and beyond this, however, the overriding factor behind the decline of the species has been the introduction of closely-related non-native species of ﬁsh into traditional crucian habitats, including various strains of king carp Cyprinus carpio and Goldﬁsh Carrasius auratus with which crucians have been able to freely interbreed resulting in high levels of hybridization occurring, leading to the gradual decline of the genetic integrity of the species resulting in its localised extinction eventually taking place. Today this situation has become critical putting crucians under such pressure that they can be considered to be an endangered species. King carp now dominate angling to such an extent that few ﬁsheries are without them and unless angling clubs and ﬁshery managers take proactive steps to conserve crucian carp, it is entirely likely that they will eventually become nationally extinct apart from in a tiny number of ﬁsheries currently being managed as specialist crucian carp ﬁsheries. Chris proposed that: Serious moves need to be made to extend the number of specialized crucian ﬁshing waters, while efforts must also be made to protect and restore the few remaining natural crucian populations that exist in unmanaged waters which are likely to eventually die out unless special efforts are made to conserve them The National Crucian Conservation Project set out with the laudable mission of seeking to reverse the decline in crucian habitat and to promote designated and accredited ‘true crucian’ ﬁsheries. We brought together an impressive collection of knowledge and expertise including crucian champion and ‘Crock of Gold’ author Peter Rolfe who has been developing crucian ponds for over 40 years and Dr Carl Sayer from University College London who has researched the decline of crucian habitat in his native Norfolk and is an acknowledged expert on the species. I agreed to chair the group on behalf of the Angling Trust and secretarial and technical support was provided by the Environment Agency’s Roger Handford and then Russell Robertson. Also represented on the NCCP committee is the Government’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) and the Institute for Fisheries Management (IFM). The full aims and objectives published in 2014 are set out below. National Crucian Conservation Project – Aims and Objectives The National Crucian Conservation Project is a group of representatives from public, academic and voluntary sector organisations and individuals who share a common interest in furthering the status of Crucian Carp (Carassius carassius) in the UK. The primary objectives of the project are to:-
Promote the conservation of the species and its habitat
Encourage the development of well managed crucian ﬁsheries
The resulting beneﬁts will include: improved understanding and protection of ‘wild’ or ‘pure’ crucian stocks; more opportunities to catch the species; and better sharing of information on lake and pond conservation.
Some suggested outputs and/or aspirations are:-
A regional network of growing on centres to increase the availability of wild crucian stocks
A ‘pure’ crucian accreditation scheme
Factsheets and DVDs on creating and managing waters, avoiding hybridisation and a crucian ID guide
Courses or events for ﬁshery owners and managers
Create ‘Crucian Champions’
Photograph of the NCCP launch. (l to r) Martin Salter, Gordon Copp (CEFAS),Malcolm Richardson (Godalming AS), Daniel Jefferies (University of Hull), Mike Holcombe (Godalming AS), Chris Turnbull, Dr Carl Sayer, Mark Owen (Head of Freshwater - Angling Trust)
So what’s happened since? It’s fair to say that for a project with next to no funds and very few resources, save for a lot of enthusiasm, expertise and goodwill to draw upon, we have done remarkably well. New crucian waters have begun to spring up in various parts of the country and some existing crucian waters have been improved and rejuvenated. Examples include: Little Melton Lakes in Norfolk, Rocklands Mere and Mill Lodge Farm Fishery, both also in Norfolk. Yaddlethorpe Ponds at Scunthorpe, Grace Lake at Biggleswade and the Moat at Marsworth. There are several others we know about including the Kinver Freeliners’ water, Warwick’s Water in Newbury, Holtwood Ponds at Christchurch and Edmonsham Ponds at Wimborne. It is clear that our ‘crucian crusade’ hit the spot in the minds of many anglers and ﬁshery owners and we have now had hundreds of enquiries from individuals wanting to help conserve and promote this
fabulous little species from clubs eager to learn how create bespoke crucian ﬁsheries for their members. Role of the National Coarse Fish Rearing Unit at Calverton None of this would have been possible without the wholehearted support of the National Coarse Fish Rearing Unit Calverton whose staff have been magniﬁcent. They have not only provided huge numbers of top quality one and two summer crucians for stocking but have been on hand to offer advice and expertise. All of us at the project are grateful to Alan Henshaw and his team for their passion, commitment and professionalism. Crucian production increased at Calverton in response to the increased demand caused by the project. The latest ﬁgures show that between 2013 and 2016 they stocked a total of 152,046 DNA tested Crucians into 195 separate waters. Videos and Websites We have produced several videos which show how clubs can go about developing crucian ﬁsheries by working in partnership with their local EA area teams. We have a dedicated crucian webpage on the Angling Trust site which hosts all our videos and Fact Sheets including the new crucian ID guide produced by the EA. www.anglingtrust.net/crucian There are two versions of the new guide which have been produced by the Environment Agency ﬁsheries experts in collaboration with the Angling Trust and the National Crucian Conservation Project. The quick version can be easily downloaded in hard copy or to a smartphone for those anglers who might want to double check their captures. Much of the work we have done so far has been guided by Peter Rolfe who is an absolute font of knowledge and incredibly helpful. Peter has his own crucian website at: www.crucians.org His site also hosts the sterling work done by angling author and fellow crucian enthusiast Mark Wintle who has painstakingly put together a categorised list of all the crucian waters that we know. It can be found here: http://www.crucians.org/html/crucian_ﬁsheries.shtml Facebook There is thriving Facebook group - The Association of Crucian Anglers (ACA) - led by Chris Netto, Tom Critchell and Chris Turnbull, along with an associated blog edited by Jason Skilton. http://theassociationofcruciananglers.blogspot.co.uk/ The group has provided a useful forum through which to announce events, share news and information and generally bring crucian enthusiasts together online. Several national ﬁsh-ins have been held at Godalming’s Marsh Farm, Fort Rowner Moat at Gosport, Milton Lake at Old Bury Hill, Hinderclay Lakes in Norfolk and Abshot Pond, with another planned for Marsh Farm for June of this year. Catch a Crucian Month – Photo Competition The idea for a dedicated ‘Catch a Crucian Month’ came from the ACA and from Chris Netto in particular. The Angling Trust agreed to set up a judging panel for the best photos submitted in various categories and to seek sponsorship from the Tackle Trade.
The competition was launched last year and has worked well. It runs again this year throughout June. It is designed to promote crucians as a species, to assist in the recognition of true crucians, to encourage more anglers to take up crucian ﬁshing and to highlight the need to develop speciﬁc crucian waters in line with the aims of the National Crucian Conservation Project. The competition is sponsored by Bait-Tech and Angling Direct with some great prizes. The entries will be judged by a panel of leading crucian crusaders including Chris Yates, Hugh Miles from Passion for Angling, the author and crucian expert Peter Rolfe, big ﬁsh specialist Gary Newman and Angling Artist Chris Turnbull. All details including rules and information for entrants can be found at www.catchacrucian.wordpress.com Was it worth it? There is no doubt that the project has been an outstanding success with more and more bespoke crucian waters coming online and a far greater number of angling clubs and ﬁshery owners now wanting to restore and develop ponds speciﬁcally for crucian conservation and ﬁshing. We have a database of crucian waters (which needs lots of updating and veriﬁcation), we have our crucian ID guide and we are shortly to produce a guide for ﬁshery owners and clubs on best practice in managing a crucian ﬁshery. Angling clubs have engaged, the tackle trade has engaged, the guys at the EA have been great and most important of all this wonderful little species now has a ﬁghting chance of a brighter future. But none of this will stop us searching for that ‘Crock of Gold’!
Richie’s Special By Richie Martin
“Why don’t you go ﬁshing?” is not something I hear often in my busy house, but with the ‘outlaws’ imminent arrival for a few days and a golden ticket from my better half, it left me scratching my head as to where to go? With Johnsons due to close in a couple of weeks and the weather looking spot on, I thought I’d ‘give it another go’ there. My previous three trips had not gone exactly to plan, I’d caught plenty of tench and rudd but with only one crucian of 2lb 8 under my belt my conﬁdence was unusually low. But I now had an evening and 2 days to make a difference, so after work on the Friday I decided to travel from the New Forest to Godalming to have a look around. Luckily the lake was not too busy with only three anglers sharing the usually very popular railway bank and although the conditions suggested crucian soup, we only managed a couple of tench and a mild case of sun stroke between us. " Despite not catching my target ﬁsh, I did feel conﬁdent and after a pep talk from an excellent angler pal Nige and the promise of a morning brew with Mike (also an incredible angler) I felt better about the two hour journey home and I was even looking forward to the 3.15am alarm planned for the morning. " I arrived in darkness and I set up my feeder rods, I ﬁred a small lead into the misty gloom and found a lovely smooth ﬁrm spot, and decided to build my swim there, with feeders being re-cast every 15 minutes I was conﬁdent the crucians would turn up sooner rather than later, I had even spotted a huge crucian roll a rod length from my baited area and although I willed the bobbin to lift, unfortunately all was quiet. " As the morning sun burned away the heavy mist and then my face, I thought my opportunity had gone. I dug around in my bag for some emergency chocolate and some inspiration from my now dog-eared copy of ‘Reﬂections on Stillwater’ by Peter Rolfe and between chapters I started to see a few small signs that ﬁsh were in my swim, and as I closed the book and sat forward in my chair my bobbin ﬁnally started to lift, steadily at ﬁrst, and then it slammed against my blank, I lifted my rod and it hooped against a heavy weight. " I immediately thought it was a tench but as I gradually began to gain line it was clear that I was into a crucian. It wasn’t long before I was able to safely lift the net around an absolutely incredible ﬁsh, it was clear that this was the ﬁsh I had come for. I had set my target to just catch a crucian but was hoping for one over 3.5lb. I called up to Bob and Mike who both came down to have a look, their smiles said it all! We weighed her on my scales and then verifying the weight on Mikes scales, it was agreed that my prize weighed an incredible 4lb 2 ounces.
" After a few minutes of jumping up and down and hugging everyone in sight regardless if they wanted a hug or not, I was eventually composed enough to pose for some pictures, which were beautifully captured by Mike. It was soon time to get her back and as I gently cradled her in the warm water, she ﬂicked her tail and disappeared into the depths, what a moment, made all the more special, thanks to Mike and Bob who were both genuinely happy to see another angler catch his dream ﬁsh. " I remoulded the feeder and ﬁred it back into the area, then sat back in my chair and picked up my book thinking that would be that. But literally a minute later the same rod sprang into life again, this time the Crucian weighed 3lb 13. I shook my head with disbelief. I’d waited years for a ﬁsh like this and I’d had two in two minutes. The day got better and better as over the next few hours I landed ﬁve crucians, with the smallest weighing 3lb 10. " The journey home to the New Forest was a blur, I look back in my mind and chuckle about an image of me stuck in heavy trafﬁc with a huge grin on my face while all around me are red with rage. What an incredible day, it’s something I will never forget.
Managing a Crucian Fishery The experiences of Peter Rolfe
Introduction; the decline and conservation of crucians Not so long ago crucians could be found in almost every pond throughout much of England. However, a lot can change in a short space of time and now their numbers are in steep decline. Unless we take strong action to halt this, they could soon disappear from most of the few waters they still exist in. There are various factors behind to the demise of crucians. They are a hardy little ﬁsh which can thrive in farm ponds that present poorly oxygenated conditions that would defeat most other species. Today, however, many ponds have fallen into neglect and ended up so stagnant that they cannot support ﬁsh. Others have dried up in drought weather conditions, been ploughed over, or backﬁlled for land development. Unfortunately for crucians, they also happily interbreed with other species of carp to the extent that they can crossbreed themselves out of existence. While there are a few waters where crucians and king carp manage to coexist, these are vastly outnumbered by waters where crucians have disappeared altogether. Another reason for their decline has been their crossbreeding with the brown goldﬁsh. To the untrained eye, brown goldﬁsh and crucians look remarkably similar. In crucian waters that are stocked with goldﬁsh, however, the fate of the crucians is doomed! Crucians are also extremely vulnerable to predation. Whatever it is that makes them so attractive to predators, it isn’t unusual to see entire stocks of them slowly disappear due to predation. Because they are so vulnerable to predation it is not unusual to ﬁnd waters where a few adult crucians survived to reach specimen proportions, before dying out altogether, having failed to recruit new generations. The joint efforts of the National Crucian Conservation Project and the Association of Crucian Anglers have succeeded in identifying the huge affection many anglers have for crucians. We now hope to harness that affection and get it working on building a brighter future for the species. This document has been published to help crucian enthusiasts and ﬁshing clubs create new bespoke crucian ﬁsheries of their own so that working together we can hopefully return this wonderful species the place it deserves to be; cherished at the heart of angling!
Rocklands Mere crucian ﬁshery project One reason that good crucian ﬁshing is difﬁcult to ﬁnd is that the ﬁsh itself has particular requirements if it is to do well. In (1) I set out those requirements. In (2) I look at various stocking situations, suggesting how they will best work. (1) There are four facts to remember. •
First, crucians in the right conditions produce abundant fry.
Secondly, they spawn after roach and perch and their fry suffer badly from the competition.
Thirdly, pike and perch and perhaps other predators like chub, zander and catﬁsh, eat crucians in preference to other species Perhaps they prefer the taste of crucians, or perhaps the life-style of crucians makes them particularly vulnerable.
Fourthly, crucians readily interbreed with goldﬁsh and the resulting hybrids in time crowd out the parent species. They also interbreed with common carp.
(2) Different stocking situations (A) A water containing no ﬁsh Here you can easily create an instant crucian water by putting in high numbers of biggish ﬁsh although this would be too expensive for most. Alternatively you can introduce good numbers of small ﬁsh (3” – 5” for example) or fewer brood ﬁsh. Crucians will normally breed proliﬁcally in such a situation. Introducing young ﬁsh will postpone this. Do note, though, that stunted ﬁsh may be small but can also be very fertile. By netting you can control the numbers of your crucians to provide the sort of ﬁshing you prefer, big bags of smaller ﬁsh or fewer, bigger ﬁsh. Your “problem” is more likely to be too many ﬁsh rather than too few. Tench are a good companion ﬁsh for the crucians as long as their numbers are controlled. Avoid predators and even benign ﬁsh like roach, for the reason given above.
(B) A mixed ﬁshery already containing pike, perch or other predators In such a pond or lake establishing a crucian population will be very difﬁcult. The ﬁsh you introduce will be severely reduced in numbers by predation and numbers of surviving fry will be small because of competition from the young of other, earlier spawning species. If your predators are just small perch then stock with crucians too big for them to eat. Annual stockings of crucians may be more affordable than one or two mass introductions. In either case it will be some years before results are seen. (C) A mixed ﬁshery without predators Here your stocked ﬁsh will be no more at risk that other species but recruitment is likely to be limited for the reason I’ve already described. The solution is repeated introductions until you build up the head of crucians that best suits the sort of ﬁshing you require.
Yearling crucians ready for stocking if there are no predators.
General points • It is possible to introduce crucians to a carp water but they may well hybridize, though this is by no means certain. However, you will still have your original ﬁsh to catch. Repeated introductions will in time build up a good stock of crucians but their young may well not be true. • Never mix goldﬁsh and crucians. Hybridization is certain and proliﬁc. Hybrids will quickly dominate your pond.
The nursery pond Several times I’ve mentioned the desirability of repeated introductions of crucians. Buying those ﬁsh is expensive. Consider the possibility of growing your own crucians in a nursery pond, one given over exclusively to the species. Such a pond does not have to be very big or very deep. It is possible to raise thousands of small crucians in a pond no more than 15 yards in diameter and with no more than 4’ of water. Digging such a pond is relatively cheap and quickly pays for itself. Also, you have absolute control over the quality of your stock. Make sure your brood ﬁsh are genuine crucians. Stock with three or four males to each female. If they cannot be sexed with certainty, put in enough to make a mix of the sexes likely – say 40 ﬁsh. Do not introduce any other species. A small pond will produce only small ﬁsh, of course. If you have a bigger, growing-on pond you can produce bigger stock and at the same time provide some “dads-and-lads” ﬁshing. In such a pond you can add tench for variety. If you don’t put in any other species you will have the bonus of spawning in this pond too. Digging ponds of any size provides marvellous habitat for a wide range of other creatures and plants so you’ll be doing your bit for biodiversity as well.
Peter Rolfe feeding a nursery pond.
Finally... You must tell the Environment Agency what you are doing because there are certain permissions to get. Just as importantly you can ask them for help and advice.
Yaddlethorpe Ponds Andy Bettiss BSc. MIFM Scunthorpe Amalgamated Anglers Yaddlethorpe Ponds was originally the site of an old brickworks around the start of the 1900s and is approx. 13 acres in size. The site was extensively quarried removing all the clay and leaving only sand. ! When Scunthorpe Amalgamated Anglers purchased the site early in 2013 it was in a sorry state being completely ﬂooded and neglected. It took ﬁve weeks of constant pumping to remove all the ﬂood water, leaving 14 ponds of varying sizes, all of which were in a terrible state. However it became apparent very quickly that the front three ponds held some very nice ﬁsh with some stunning crucians being caught on a regular basis. I’d not seen crucians of this quality since I was a young boy going ﬁshing with my Dad, so it was decided that creating a dedicated pond would be in order at some time in the future but in the meantime we would create a nursery pond in which to store and preserve the true crucians.
Above. The Black Hole nursery pond, before and after itâ€™s restoration.
! We picked one of the smaller ponds on the complex which started off as the aptly named Black Hole and set about draining the pond and clearing the banks and removing close to three feet of silt and leaf debris from the bottom. Three months on and we were left with a very bare looking pond but with excellent water quality and a dissolved oxygen level in the low 90s. The pond was left for a further six months to settle down and then checked for signs of insect and invertebrate life, as well as weed growth, to see if it would sustain a small ﬁsh population. ! Next we called on the EA at Calverton for their help. Alan Henshaw and his team came along and netted three of the existing ponds on site with the speciﬁc purpose of ﬁnding the crucians. Using all their expertise they quickly came up with approximately 70 ﬁsh that looked like good candidates. These were all taken back to Calverton and DNA tested. 50 came back as 100% crucian and these were introduced into the Black Hole (now Crucian Corner) as our brood stock. ! For the next two years Alan and his team came back and netted the pond taking away some of the brood stock for breeding and returning them when ﬁnished. We were also ﬁnding that the crucians were spawning at least once if not twice a year in the pond. ! By the end of the second year we found the crucians were doing so well that we could start moving some of the young into our other ponds, although we realised that with the mixture of other species they may not stay pure. ! With no other species present in the nursery pond the crucians are thriving and reproducing at a spectacular rate, with us removing up to 2,500 approximately two to three inch ﬁsh.
! Early in 2016 we started work on the new tench and crucian pond. After several months of hard work the pond was ﬁnally ﬁnished with an island at one end and several shallow spawning areas at the other the pond varies in depth from one to eight feet with various underwater features. ! The pond was again left for six months to settle and then approximately 7,000 tench fry from the EA’s ﬁsh farm at Calverton were introduced. Over the last seven months these have gone on to reach two inches in length with a combination of the natural food in the pond and supplementary feeding of layers pellets. In March 2017 we stocked approximately 2,000 crucians
from our nursery pond, and in October/November 2017 we intend to move some of our older brood stock from the nursery pond into the new pond as well. ! About the club itself, Scunthorpe Amalgamated Anglers is an amalgamation of two local Scunthorpe clubs that have both been in existence for several decades. We offer a family membership consisting of main angler and spouse and any children up to 16 for £40 for the year, or £30 concession. As a club, we control 23 different waters including ponds, rivers and canals. ! All our ponds are strictly members only. However, for catch a crucian month I will allow people to come along for a £5-day ticket dawn till dusk only if they then decide on the day that they want to join I will refund the day ticket. Anyone wishing to take up this offer must pre-book with me on 07851784546 as it is a secure gated site.
Rocklands Mere Fishery - the story so far... James Harrold
The ﬁshery was created in 2001 from humble beginnings… A former grazed pasture and subsequent ﬂooded wetland saw the “Mere” dug for peat by the fuel allotment charity of Rockland All Saints Church in the 1940’s. It was then left unattended, inaccessible and unmanaged until 60 years later when my family purchased the land and I began to create what is now Rocklands Mere Fishery, a somewhat unique and specialist water in the heart of Norfolk. ! ! It was my desire from the outset to create a ﬁshery which took me back to my childhood, not only my childhood but that of others more mature in years, still able to remember those mornings ﬁshing for species of days gone by when a ﬂoat and bread ﬂake were the pinnacle of angling technology. ! ! At 21 years of age and surrounded by carp waters, carp anglers and the onset of carp ﬁshing fast becoming THE only way, it was something which I knew was a potential risk and probably not a great money maker in the short-term, something which the ﬁshery had to be. This was and still is to be my living for the foreseeable future and starting a ﬁshery from absolute scratch with, at the time, a chainsaw, strimmer and box of matches was a daunting process with only the end result somewhere in the back of my mind as motivation. The lake was created over the following few months and preparations began for planting, creating swims and deciding on a stocking policy. ! Being primarily a ﬂy ﬁsherman and instructor in more recent years, I cut my teeth as a child, coarse ﬁshing the local farmers’ ponds in Norfolk. Places like Semmence’s pond in Hingham, within cycling distance of home. My father would take me as an excited six year-old and watch as I emptied gallons of maggots into the water and expectantly watched as my waggler danced around before plunging into the depths to be greeted by a beautiful golden brown half pound member of the carp family… A crucian carp, my ﬁrst ﬁsh and something which has more recently become an obsession. ! Stock ﬁsh were sought and a few hundred 4-6” crucians were stocked as well as the same number of tench, rudd and roach… Little did I know! That ﬁrst autumn/ winter the cormorants had a ﬁeld day. Not being present at the ﬁshery 24hrs a day meant that weeks passed with our early morning visitors having a breakfast of coarse ﬁsh of perfectly palatable size without any interruptions at all. I never knew how many of the original stocking survived until much more recently but one thing I do know is that out of all the species present the crucians managed to evade predation better than the rest, something which was to be proved a few years later. ! Being young, naïve and full of enthusiasm I decided to manage the predation problem with scarecrows, a loud bird scarer and ridiculously early mornings spent at the ﬁshery in an attempt to persuade them to dine elsewhere. It worked for a while until a couple of years later when a licence was issued to control numbers in a much more effective way. ! By far the biggest mistake I made at this time was to introduce the contents of my parent’s pond and prior to that, my bedroom ﬁsh tank into the mere. A handful of carp
A view of the Mere
were also transferred in a hope to add something else to the ﬁshery but mainly to appease the ever growing number of anglers expecting a coarse ﬁshery to contain commons and mirrors, with “20’s?” very much the ﬁrst question of the day. In a way, ironically, the most ﬁnancially viable years for the ﬁshery were those ﬁrst few years. The handful of carp I’d stocked were now thriving in their much larger home and had spawned annually to ﬁll the void left by the cormorants. The ﬁshing was generally good, we had a group of regulars and people were happy. ! Over the course of the next couple of years it became clear that the ﬁshery had become something very different to that early design I had in my mind. Everyone was carp ﬁshing and by carp ﬁshing I mean not just ﬁshing for carp. Huge amounts of bait and tackle more suited to the vast inland sea’s of France’s premier carp ﬁsheries had become the norm and the mentality that nothing else mattered really made me question what the mere had become. It had lost its identity before it really had a chance to gain one. It was nowhere near large enough to sustain its ever growing inhabitants and due to the techniques applied no one was ﬁshing for, let alone catching anything else. ! ! By 2012 I’d made a subconscious decision and although I had a pretty good idea that most of the current crop of anglers frequenting the mere would be pretty put out, I had my sights on a long term goal for the ﬁshery, that goal didn’t include a single cyprinus carpio or any of its variants. I really started to push the crucians on our website and social media platforms, with as much information as possible geared towards the ﬁshery being something a little different. Despite no action being taken to change the current stocking density I wanted to investigate through angling, the potential for the water I had in my mind. ! A phone call from Chris Turnbull in 2012 proved that there were still anglers out there expressing an interest in this somewhat diminishing but very special species and I can still recall the conversation. It seemed that true crucians were much harder to come by than I had ﬁrst thought, with the real deal being very sought after. I had explained the situation and my intentions to Chris who seemed keen to come over and have a ﬁsh. I could sense his slight scepticism, and who would blame him. A lake full of carp with a small percentage of crucians stocked over 10 years ago, add a few years of hybridisation and you can see why he was uncertain of their existence. Anyway, a few weeks later on 23rd of May 2012 we both had our questions answered. An angler targeting crucians with a light ﬂoat ﬁshing outﬁt was such a breath of fresh air and I must admit that I had everything crossed for Chris on that ﬁrst visit. The ﬁrst ﬁsh he landed turned out to be a hybrid, a crucian crossed with a common carp and not what he had come for. I discovered later that he nearly packed up there and then, but persevered for a few more hours.
Another view of Rocklands Mere.
! Luckily and almost by fate, his next ﬁsh was one of the biggest, most beautiful and undeniable crucians in the mere at that time. A ﬁn perfect ﬁsh of over 2lb and something which cemented the fact that crucians were very much still present in the Mere and somehow, seemingly thriving in small numbers. ! Word very slowly got out, as word does in the angling world. Over the next few summer months more and more anglers were ﬁshing for the crucians. Good anglers, well respected in their ﬁeld, all intent on seeing what this mysterious, previously unknown water would hold. The most impressive thing for me at this time wasn’t the anglers who were ﬁshing, nor was it the catches, of which were now becoming quite consistent and of respectable sizes, but the crucian itself.
! Pretty much all of these ﬁsh were of the same year group, the originals from way back in 2002. They had dealt with everything the ﬁshery could throw at them. Predation from every piscatorial predator going, serious summer time oxygen depletion from couple of hot years and most impressively sharing your home with a species devouring anything vaguely edible, intent on breeding you out of existence. Pretty much a miracle in my book! ! It was very clear that something had to be done about the carp to safeguard the future of not only these original stock, now very mature in age, but their potential offspring and future year groups that may be present. Only a handful of smaller ﬁsh were ever caught over the following few months, proving that pike and cormorants had probably accounted for any successful spawning activity between pure strain crucians and only the hardy, larger ﬁsh and faster growing hybrids had survived. A phone call from Carl Sayer of UCL one morning in 2013 was to be one of the most motivating and dare I say it, emotional exchange of words I’ve had since running the ﬁshery. It was clear that Carl and I were very much on the same page and his enthusiasm for the humble little crucian was obvious. He explained what he was personally trying to achieve with his project in Norfolk and his experience with the species through his work at UCL. I hung up the phone feeling more excited than ever and much more
A nice morning’s work on the ﬂoat.
positive about the direction in which the mere was heading.
A beautiful 2.03 crucian reﬂects the early morning sunshine.
! We had both agreed that the only way to secure the future of the species at Rocklands Mere Fishery was to remove the carp and any hybrids present in the water. Carl had put me in touch with Keith Wesley from Bedwell Fishery Services, a mine of information and widely regarded and respected as the Godfather of ﬁshery management, with crucians being his specialty. ! Keith, with his son Jordan and his team went about electroﬁshing and seine netting the mere with a view to removing any unwanted inhabitants and also to survey the water for crucian DNA testing and ageing of the original ﬁsh. One of the most surprising things which came out of the day was the fact that no matter how well you think you know a water and how many times a day you walk the place, work on the place and talk to the anglers, you never really know its contents until you get a group of professionals to catch as many ﬁsh as possible with the right equipment. There were lots of surprises, some good and some bad. ! To start with there were lots of crucians, big crucians and a good number of them considering their odds, with very few little ones at all, which was disappointing but not surprising. There was understandably and a large head of hybrids of all shapes and sizes as well as the king carp, some of which were now 20lb+ and very obviously becoming far too large for their modestly sized home. Pike too were a surprise, having never stocked a single pike I can only imagine one or two were introduced with the roach and rudd as ﬁngerlings or arrived under the plumage of an avian visitor as a fertile egg or fry. However the pike got there, some of them were big and certainly not doing the baby crucian survival rate any favours. ! After a couple of sessions with Keith and the team we were certain we had the place in good shape for the start of things to come. A blank canvas if you like and it felt like a habitat was now starting to develop in which crucians would be allowed to thrive. ! Over the past couple of years things have gone from strength to strength in terms of crucian conservation at the ﬁshery. My parents pond is now a nursery pond harbouring the future of Rocklands Mere Fishery and we are working closely with Carl and his project to safeguard crucians throughout the county. The ﬁshery is also a member of the Angling Trust’s National Crucian Conservation Project which is working alongside ﬁsheries and the EA to conserve and promote the Species on a national level. ! The EA’s Calverton ﬁsh farm have kindly provided us with 3000 crucians to compliment the existing stock and Carl’s Norfolk project has introduced mature ﬁsh from Holt Estate lake ensuring a diverse yet entirely pure gene pool, something which is essential for their survival as a species. The mere is nowhere near its full potential as a crucian ﬁshery yet, but I strongly believe that given time, careful management and a belief in this extraordinary little ﬁsh that one day my dream will be realised.
Christchurch Angling Club - Holtwood Ponds Brian Stocker. Vice Chairman
Our complex at Holt in the New Forest is made up of three ground water fed ponds. The club has owned these for a number of years and decided in 2014 to introduce pure strain crucian carp to the ﬁshery. After a great deal of planning the decision to go ahead was made toward the end of 2014, with work starting in earnest in the spring of 2015. ! The top pond was earmarked to be the main crucian water, the middle one a general silver ﬁsh pond, and the bottom pond a tench ﬁshery with a few crucians. The transformation of the ﬁshery was undertaken by our own Fisheries Management Team, Committee and other members who are all club volunteers and wanted to be part of the development. This necessitated the draining of the ponds, the removal of all king carp and any predators, along with the establishment of a maintenance routine. ! Our ﬁrst stock of pure crucians came from Peter Rolfe with the introduction of 800 - 1000 one year old ﬁsh; these were introduced to the top pond in summer 2015 together with a few tench. The ponds were then opened to members but no further work undertaken for the remainder of the year and over the winter. ! In the spring of 2016 we began to implement our plan for protecting the valuable stocks together with some more stocking. In March 2016 we introduced 150 tench to the bottom lake; these were generally in the region of 1 - 2 lb with some larger ﬁsh to 5lb mixed in. Shortly after that in the summer 2016 we erected an otter fence around the whole ﬁshery and obtained a cormorant shooting permit for the venue. With this all in place we stocked more pure strain crucians; this time from the EA. Around 800 went into the top pond and 400 into the bottom one. These were 0 - 6 month old ﬁsh. By getting ﬁsh from different sources we should spread the gene pool in the forthcoming breeding. ! Over the winter of 2016 we erected strings across all three ponds as a trial to deter cormorants. We believe this was quite successful from the monitoring we undertook, but you can't be there every day!! We have quite a good footfall of anglers here, so that all helps as a deterrent. Most recently we have stocked some more tench, 150 in all, introducing roughly 100 to the bottom pond and 50 to the top pond.
Introducing our ﬁrst stock of crucians to the water.
! We now feel we have a truly excellent ﬁshery and we are very proud to be doing something to help conserve true crucian carp in our waters. As far as the future goes, our ambition is to excavate a breeding pond at the venue enabling us to bring on home grown ﬁsh which in turn can be moved to other ﬁsheries and help maintain a healthy gene pool for these wonderful ﬁsh. ! Recent catches indicate the ﬁsh are surviving and putting on weight. It’s a slow process but rewarding one. ! Christchurch Angling Club have a variety of ﬁsheries including Holtwood, details can be seen on our website at www.christchurchac.org.uk
One of a catch of crucians from early May 2017
A Clear and Present Danger Peter Rolfe I was going to write about the pleasures of ﬁshing for small crucians. You probably remember that episode in “Catching the Impossible” where Chris Yates and Martin Bowler ﬁshed my Saxon Ponds and had great fun catching 6” ﬁsh, with a pounder the giant of the session. A two-pounder is about the biggest I expect to catch on those small ponds but there are plenty of hand-sized ones to keep me amused. After all, I don’t want to strain the old ticker, and the red-topped ﬂoat, the bubbles and splashes, the twitching lily pads and the wild world around me are just the same as they would be if the ﬁsh were a lot bigger. Then my serious self took over and I realised that I should write about two worries that I have.
Small is beautiful. Chris Yates with two perfect little crucians. Photo by Hugh Miles.
! ! The ACA page is full of pictures and accounts of the capture of big crucians. It is great to see how much progress we have made in just a year or two. We might well feel we can pat ourselves on the back and think that we have saved the species from extinction and that all is well. However, there are two possible clouds on the horizon. The ﬁrst is that in our pursuit of the biggest, we could forget the need for the smallest. Just think of your favourite big crucian water. Are there smaller ﬁsh there as well as the big ones you are after? If not, then you are ﬁshing on borrowed time. ! A crucian lives for about 20 years, though of course most do not survive that long because of predation, angling pressure, pollution, competition from other species like carp and so on. If there are no smaller, younger ﬁsh in the lake to ﬁll the places of the big ones that gradually die off, then the crucian ﬁshery will steadily deteriorate. Big ﬁsh are seldom instantly replaceable. ! A well-managed crucian ﬁshery needs to contain several generations of ﬁsh. How to achieve that? If you are lucky, it will happen naturally, with new young ﬁsh coming through every year. If not, regular restocking with crucians, from a kosher dealer or from your own nursery pond should ensure succession. There are guidelines on how to do this on the Angling Trust website, my website www.crucians.org and in “Crock of Gold, Seeking the Crucian Carp.” ! The essential thing is to identify the problem before it is too late, so ask yourself where the next generation of big crucians in your lake is going to come from. Then, do something about it! Alert the owner or ﬁshery manager. Make sure other anglers understand the possible problem, so they can add their voices to yours. If you have control of the water, think seriously about whether you need to stock regularly with smaller ﬁsh. The second worry is a possible threat from the Gibel Carp. Never heard of it, you may well say. Well... …in Europe and moving ever westwards towards us is a third species of Carassius to accompany Carassius carassius (the crucian) and Carassius auratus (the goldﬁsh). This third species is Carassius gibelio – the Gibel Carp, otherwise known as the silver crucian or Prussian carp.
! There has been some discussion about this ﬁsh on our Facebook page and it rang alarm bells in my head. I have quite a lot of correspondence from Europe via my website and I read repeatedly how the
crucian is rarer and rarer in countries like Germany, Poland, Russia, the Netherlands, Denmark … and so on. One of the main reasons given is invasion by Gibel Carp. The ﬁsh is reportedly moving west across the Baltic. ! The Gibel Carp/silver crucian/Prussian carp is a proliﬁc breeder and hybridiser with crucians. For a long time the Swedish record “crucian” was a gibel x crucian hybrid. To most people it was indistinguishable from a true cru until concerns from me and a few Swedish ﬁsh scientists led to DNA conﬁrmation that it was in fact a hybrid. ! If the rumours about its being in the UK are correct, then the crucian will be in serious trouble, as it is on the continent. At the moment, we think of the UK as an “ark site”, a refuge from alien inﬂuences like Carassius gibelio. When the DNA of crucians was being established at Hull University, several ﬁsh claimed to be Gibel Carp were shown to be crucian x goldﬁsh hybrids, and everybody sighed with relief. However, it only needs one unscrupulous or ignorant ornamental ﬁsh importer to sell “silver crucians” to a customer who then allows them to escape into our waterways, for an environmental tragedy to take place. It is so easy for invaders like this to slip under the radar. ! So, what are we to do? First, the authorities must be vigilant. There are rules and regulations about what ﬁsh may be imported, of course. Perhaps the time has come for the relevant authority to publicise the particular dangers this ﬁsh poses to the crucian, indeed indirectly to all our species here, because of its breeding capacity. They have waged a campaign against the Himalayan Balsam. Why not the Gibel carp? ! Secondly, it is no good assuming that some vague “they” will look after things for us. “They” need information and we crucian anglers can play an important part. If we hear even a rumour of a ﬁshery containing Gibel Carp then that information ought to be reported. Until a central point for such reporting is set up, I suggest that you let Chris know on our Facebook page or me on my website. We can then collate the information and send it where it will do most good. I have asked for the issue to be put on the agenda for the next NCCP meeting and hope very much that matters will develop from there. I have no wish to be alarmist, but we must be aware of this threat. It will be no good shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
A crucian x gibel: claimed as Swedish record; disproved by DNA
Pole floats for crucians Dave Will
Crucian ﬁshing means ﬂoat ﬁshing for me. The anticipation that builds from watching a small area of the surface disturbed by pinprick bubbles or the rising of disturbed groundbait particles, has in my mind few rivals for sheer angling excitement. " I learnt my skills 35+ years ago watching and ﬁshing with the famous Hayes and Harlington AC. The team was especially proﬁcient in two ﬂoat methods. The ﬁrst was ﬁring a Canal Blue to the far bank and catching roach on the drop, and the other ﬁshing the pole with bread punch as bait. I watched and learned but as I didn’t have the money for a decent pole I stuck to using my 13 foot ﬂoat rod to carry out both approaches. It was that childhood experience that led to my long-term use of a pole ﬂoat on a running line - a technique I would now like to share with you. My set up and tactics Using a pole ﬂoat is a solution to two things, the ﬁrst is accuracy, the second is to reduce the effects of wind and drift. The pole ﬂoats of 35 years ago differ a fair bit from those of today, but the principle remains the same. You need a ﬂoat that will show bites, control the bait in descent and hold the bait at the depth the ﬁsh want it. These days my go to ﬂoat is a 0.2 to 0.4 gram wire stemmed version with a hollow plastic tip. I ﬁnd these take around half a dozen size 9 Stotz with a number 10 dropper and allows for a no 10 back shot. Any make of ﬂoat will do but I do confess a liking for KC Carpa Grinner Pole Floats that have a thicker tip than the norm and a wire stem. The thicker tip is important for reasons I will explain later. " Stotz are my ﬁrst choice for shot as they grip lines with a higher diameter and are moveable without damaging the line. I am not keen on olivettes, which are a magnet for suspended matter and create a pivot point in the line where a tench or large crucian crashing through weed or reeds tends to snag, rather than slide through. As can be expected how I shot the ﬂoat depends on depth and environmental inﬂuences. I generally start on all but the deepest of venues with shot as per shirt button style. On windier days or greater depths or where rudd and roach are intercepting the bait I will bulk the shot nearer the hook, eight to 12 inches away but always retain dropper shot one to six inches from the hook. When casting with strung out shot I lay the rig out straight on the water and with bulked shot I lower the rig in gently and slowly to avoid tangles. " Reel line will be old fashioned stretchy mono in 3lb most often and hook lengths will vary from 2lb to 3lb, usually
Preston’s Innovations or Drennan as I have total faith in both after landing rogue king carp to mid-twenties on both. I have had quite a bit of practice playing big ﬁsh on ﬁne lines and if you lack the conﬁdence to do this, step up the line strength. Hooks depend on the bait but a Kamasan B911 spade end is versatile enough to ﬁsh everything from caster to a pellet. I now use barbless hooks as most ﬁsheries demand it and in this style of ﬁshing I can’t really say it makes the slightest difference. Rod and reel selection The ﬁrst point is to bear in mind you won’t be casting. You will either be dropping down directly under the rod tip or laying the rig on the surface but there are inﬂuences from wind, current and bankside features to contend with. The rod I now use is a French made14 ft. medium power match rod built on a Japanese blank that will cope with hook links from 1.5 to 6lb. There is no shortage of choice from various companies when it comes to rods but avoid the very light ﬁne match rods. I prefer the 14 foot as it is the best all round length. 12 or 13 foot rods I ﬁnd too short to cope with bankside foliage and in positioning of the ﬂoat to the left or right of the swim. I tried a 17ft rod but this was often too long especially on overgrown venues or those with tree cover. Playing bigger ﬁsh on them is hairy too, especially with tench having a tendancy to crash into the bank at your feet. There is an obvious lack of leverage to counter this from the longer rods. " At present I am using a front drag ﬁxed spool, I have dabbled with a centre pin, and they are very well suited to this style of ﬁshing but I am not convinced it has any practical advantages over the fantastic clutches we are fortunate to have these days. Aesthetically I fully get it though, and there is a certain pleasure to be had from playing a big ﬁsh on a pin. As such I have kept one for the purpose and employ it now and again. Wind Wind is both a boon and a pain. It helps location as many cyprinids will follow the wind giving us a starter for ten but it can make presentation difﬁcult. One of the best and easiest solutions to wind and surface drift is to use a back shot. A back shot is a small shot positioned above the ﬂoat. I tend to place it four to six inches from the ﬂoat tip. This small shot will sink the line above the ﬂoat quickly minimising wind and drift issues. Wind and surface drift can also be negated by where you decide to place the ﬂoat or where you decide to position yourself. Let’s say the wind is causing surface drift from left to right. I plumb the swim as normal, trying to ﬁnd a slope or the base of a near shelf. Once the spot has been found I set up my chair to the left of the spot. I position my chair so that the ﬂoat is about a foot from and to the right of the rod tip, over the spot I have identiﬁed. I always hold the rod but use a front rod rest, positioned to support the rod and make ﬂoat positioning easy and consistent. Drift and wind can now do its worst but that ﬂoat will not move from where I want it. Some waters, usually smaller ones have a habit of surface drift changing direction over the course
of a day or even suffer from swirling winds. In this case I often feed two similar areas in the swim so I can switch from spot to spot by simply moving the front rod rest. However, the most important part of using a pole ﬂoat (or any ﬂoat) is how you set the depth it will ﬁsh. Plumbing, dead depth and lifts One of the ﬁrst things to remember with ﬁshing the margins on waters that hold crucians is you will encounter lots of tench, bream and king carp. These big ﬁsh will betray their presence in your swim one way or another but you really want to avoid foul hooking them. Not only does it mess up a carefully prepared swim but will probably result in retackling and certainly dent your chances of a crucian. The solution to this lies in accurate plumbing and ﬁshing at dead depth. I can’t stress enough how important this is, and if you don’t do it correctly you can forget all the rest and you may as well chuck out a feeder. I try to get lifts as an indication of a positive bite so by ﬁshing the bait at dead depth the result is a slight lift and a sinking of the ﬂoat. As opposed to a liner which is usually a dragging under of the ﬂoat, the ﬂoat being moved left or right, or dips without the precursory lift. " When plumbing a swim I either look for the base of a slope or the slope itself. I then look for the shallowest ﬁshable part of the swim. My plummets are a normal commercially available ones and an AAA shot or a swan shot clamped to a short length of elastic band. Normal plummets are generally too heavy to ﬁne tune but are ok to start off the process. I want the hook just kissing the lake bed with a few millimetres of tip showing. I then begin to shot the ﬂoat to exactly replicate that. Knowing your ﬂoats helps here as can testing at home. Once you have your ﬂoat shotted correctly the AAA plummet goes on to ﬁne tune everything. " Once I am happy I mark the position of the ﬂoat in tippex on the rod with the hook in the hook keeper. This will be one dot of tippex. Next I ﬁnd the midway point of the slope. Before doing this I take into account the wind or drift. I want the ﬂoat to drift into the slope after placing it carefully a few feet upwind of the spot. This depth becomes two dots in Tippex on the rod. Finally I ﬁnd a ﬁshable shallow area adjacent to bankside reds or foliage. Again the hook just kisses the lake bed and three dots of tippex go on the road to mark this spot. The front rest position may change for each spot, as may my chair position. Once all that is done, (and it can take an hour or so to do it properly), conditions then dictate where I decide to ﬁsh ﬁrst. This will be inﬂuenced by temperatures and wind with warm conditions dragging me to the shallow spot, and colder to the base of the slope. The actual slope will be tried periodically during the session. " With different baits you may need to move the ﬂoat by a few millimetres to adjust for the weight of say sweetcorn over a very dark caster for example. You may also need to move the tell-tale shot nearer to the hook with lighter baits than you might with corn, meat or a bit of prawn. " In tricky conditions ﬁshing dead depth may not be an option as even using the solutions to wind and drift I mentioned, undertow will place enough bow in your line under the ﬂoat to ruin presentation. We are talking millimetres of accuracy here. In this case I will go up a ﬂoat size and ﬁsh the lift method with a pole ﬂoat. This is done by ﬁshing an inch over depth with a no. 8 dropper that causes the ﬂoat to be overshotted. To do this I set the ﬂoat up a small amount of tip showing and set the ﬂoat to one inch over depth. Add the no. 8 one inch from the hook and position the ﬂoat in the swim. It should settle with just the amount of tip showing as before you added the no.8. If the ﬂoats sinks move it up a fraction, if too much tip is showing set it fractionally shallower. This can take a while to get right and you have to concentrate on an exact position in the swim. A twig or large lump of gravel can mess this up if you keep moving your rig to different
positions. The bites on this set up can be spectacular and unmistakable, aided by a thick hollow buoyant ﬂoat tip. The no.8 magniﬁes the effect, but if you ﬁsh a really pressured venue you can downsize everything.
Thick Tips I mentioned a thicker tipped ﬂoat earlier, and have explained my liking in lift bite situations but another is visibility. Match anglers ﬁsh 9-3pm generally. The rest of us ﬁsh early and late. At the wrong side of 50 years old very ﬁne tips on ﬂoats are difﬁcult to see at dawn and dusk regardless of light conditions. The colour can help with black good in shaded water and red or orange otherwise. I carry some removable ﬂoat tip paint to avoid carrying too many ﬂoats but be aware as some of these paints will affect the buoyancy of the ﬂoat. Finer tipped slim bodied ﬂoats help in very windy conditions as they are affected less by drift than the more usual rugby ball bodied ﬂoats. The long slim ﬂoats are sold as Roach ﬂoats by a number of companies but the Perfect Roach Pole Float below gets my vote.
A KC Carp Grinner on the right and a Perfect Roach Pole Float on the left
" If you watch a top match angler they continually adjust shot, depths etc to get the best from the swim they are in. Be like the match angler. Another tip is to move the ﬂoat by lifting a few inches and dropping the bait back down regularly. This often encouragers a bite. Last tip, if the ﬂoat isn’t sitting properly move it a few inches to the left or right as debris dug up by feeding ﬁsh can affect the balance of everything. Imperfect Science I will ﬁnish with feeding the swim. This is a whole subject on its own and potentially for another time but it is safe to say you have to be accurate. I go to the trouble on deep or windy waters of using a bait dropper or pole pot on the rod tip to feed the spots I have chosen. I will keep a bit of bait going into each of the areas I have chosen throughout the session and whilst concentrating on one depending on conditions, I will check the others. You may well get indications of where the ﬁsh want to feed anyway. " To summarise, none of the above is an exact science and every time I ﬁsh like this I either learn something or remember something I have forgotten. You have to work at it but get it right and sport can be hectic. You will never completely remove those days when crucians are infuriating but thank goodness for that. The reduction of these glorious ﬁsh to just another bolt rig statistic is taking us further from what angling is supposed to involve. Tight lines For further reading, I recommend Mark Wintle and Graham Marsden’s book Pole Fishing, A Complete Guide. Benwick Sports carry a huge selection of pole ﬂoats and other varieties and are recommended for a reliable on line service.
Unconventional Crucians Kevin Sanders
I absolutely love ﬂoat ﬁshing in the margins for crucians. But we all know how hard these ﬁsh can be to hook when they are being ﬁnicky! When bites are hard to come by there is one less traditional way of catching these ﬁsh that will get you bites when the ﬂoat stays motionless. The method feeder. " One particular occasion where the effectiveness of the method feeder was shown was on a trip to Harris Lake on the Marsh farm complex. I was happily catching crus on the method feeder while next door a guy was ﬁshing the pole. He had crucians ﬁzzing and even jumping right next to his ﬂoat but catching absolutely nothing. He packed up a beaten man. Well I could not resist dropping a feeder in the now vacated swim and within minutes I had a take and a crucian was duly netted.
A double take on method feeders resulted in a brace of 2 pounders when everyone was struggling on the
" " To anyone that has not used a method feeder I will now describe the setup I use myself. Setting up a method feeder is not rocket science but there are tweaks you can do to make the rig even more effective. I use the inline feeders so they are free running giving fantastic bite indication. I use a tail rubber instead of a buffer bead to protect the swivel knot from the feeder. This gives a little bit of resistance on the take to aid hooking. I like to pinch a chunk of tungsten putty a couple of feet above the feeder to pin the line down to prevent too many line bites. To make sure the putty does not stick to the line too tight I lightly grease the line so the putty is free to move.
Above: The unloaded and loaded method feeder. Note the hook bait is inside the ground bait.
" " " For my hook-link I favour braid. I like to place the hook bait into the ground bait on the feeder. This is much easier to do with braid than a mono hook-link. The length of the hook-link is extremely important. If it’s too long the ﬁsh can miss your hook bait completely as they will be feeding directly on or around the feeder. I ﬁnd a length of 3-4 inches is very effective. Remember you are ﬁshing for 1 to 4lb crucians, not 20 and 30lb carp, so there’s no need for 8 to 12 inch rigs. " I generally use two different hook baits. On one rod I will use a hair-rigged 6mm yellow pop up. And on the other I use a single hair-rigged buoyant maggot or caster. I sometimes just directly hook the buoyant maggot or caster with the real thing if I feel the bare hook is spooking the ﬁsh. If one hook bait is outﬁshing the other I will switch the other rod to the going hook bait.
Above: Note the large loop in hook link for quick changes of hook baits. " The ground bait I use is a simple mix of 50% method mix to help the mix stick to the feeder and 50% sweet ﬁsh meal. I also add a good helping of strawberry ﬂavour for extra pulling power. I don't like to add too many larger food items as I want the ﬁsh to pick up my hook bait as soon as possible. A sprinkling of sweetcorn is enough and helps make the yellow pop up look more natural. " So next time the crucians are not co-operating try putting a method feeder out on your baited spot. It could turn a slow days ﬁshing into a frenzied action packed day to remember!
The Mysterious Moat By Stu Harris Barely half a mile from my workplace is probably one of the most unique ﬁsheries I’ve ever had the pleasure to cast a line into. Not only is the old Victorian fort a mouth-watering backdrop, but the moat that surrounds it harbours a plethora of marvellous ﬁsh of all species. There is something different to target all year round, and as well as angling for its inhabitants, there is much wonderful wildlife to observe too. I’ve been angling here for a few seasons, but now I work so very close by I visit the moat most days for a walk, mainly at lunchtimes but occasionally before I start my shift should I arrive early. ! Of all the ﬁsh that live in the moat, it’s the crucians that captivate me the most. ‘Ancient Wonders’ I call them as they all look as though they’ve been around since the dark ages. Every one of them has its own unique character, high backed, delicate little ﬁns, dark conker like ﬂanks, battle scars, they’ve got it all. I regard myself very lucky indeed to have such a terriﬁc venue at my disposal, ﬁshing for what are probably the ﬁnest looking crucians in the land and among such unbelievable surroundings. ! It all began when I spotted a couple of photos of the crucians on the ﬁshing club’s website. They weren’t the clearest photos but I could tell that there was something a bit special about these ﬁsh. It was early-summer so it was the perfect time to be targeting them, although with frequent hot sunny days the conditions were far from ideal. Numbers of ﬁsh were unknown, as was information on how big they grew and whether or not they were successfully breeding. These were burning questions, and just added to the air of mystery surrounding the moat and its crucians, I just had to set about trying to catch one as quickly as possible.
! As far as I was aware, very few (if any) folk actually targeted the crucians. The odd one was sometimes caught in the matches that took place most Wednesdays, but apart from that the moat saw the odd carp angler and a few pleasure anglers throughout the warm months. Needless to say the place was very much under-ﬁshed, and with ﬁsheries thriving on neglect I was elated to think that I’d stumbled upon my very own little goldmine which could very well contain something very special indeed. ! As I began to piece more and more of the puzzle together it seemed that there were very little in the way of small crucians ever caught. There were large numbers of perch and jack pike present too which was a shame, but something that could be addressed at some stage I was sure. For the meantime I was busy hatching a plan to catch one of these delightful ﬁsh, they’d been at the forefront of my thoughts for a long time and I couldn’t wait to get started. Tiny delicate ﬂoats were made, brand new light line was wound onto my favourite centrepin reel and swims with regular ﬁzzing and other crucian like activity were earmarked. ! The fateful day came. I began ﬁshing in swim number thirteen; this boasted two large sets of lily pads with a small channel running between them. It was roughly ﬁve feet deep in the channel and relatively weed free. I’d done my homework (being fairly new to ﬁshing for crucians) and was waterside before the sun had begun its ascent into the clear blue sky. I began by feeding a few handfuls of small pellets along with a few grains of sweetcorn. With everything ready, rod set up and plumbed, tea poured and single grain of hooked corn swinging in the gentle breeze I made my ﬁrst cast. ! It started fairly uneventfully, nothing much happened for at least half an hour or so. I was actually thinking of moving swims whilst it was still early when I noticed the tiniest of pin prick bubbles rising to the surface near my ﬂoat; that was when the excitement really kicked in. Patches of bubbles rose all around the area, more and more with every minute that passed. I could tell by the patterns that there were multiple ﬁsh, streams of bubbles moving left to right, right to left, sheets of bubbles I associated with ﬁsh scraping the bottom, it was alive with ﬁsh and just minutes after looking so dead. ! With all the activity it was tricky keeping a watchful eye on the ﬂoat tip, but now and again I noticed it dip a few millimetres, dance around in pirouettes and sometimes it would rise ever so slightly, but no matter how much I stared at it, it just wouldn’t disappear. Now and then the bubbling would subside, but after introducing another handful of pellets and a few grains of corn they’d soon be back, and so would the dips, rises and spirals. This went on through breakfast time, past second breakfast and was hurtling towards elevenses; things were getting rather frustrating. ! The early start was beginning to take its toll too, my eyes felt heavy and the concentration was starting to give me a headache. Then like a bolt out of the blue it happened, the ﬂoat wasn’t there anymore, just a few fast diminishing rings of water. I struck and watched as the rod which
had remained straight so long began to curve, and it curved, and worryingly it kept on curving. Line was dragged from the pin and whatever was attached to the end swam quite at leisure through the pads, out the other side and then decided to break my hook link. Yes, it was obviously a tench, or maybe even a small carp, but it certainly wasn’t a crucian. ! Now I was faced with another dilemma, do I strengthen my tackle in order to land the larger ﬁsh? It was a possibility, but then I faced the issue of my tackle being too crude for the delicate crucians. I felt certain that the crucians had been feeding on the pellets, perhaps they’d even picked up my hook bait a few times, I just had to work out the winning formula, and I was well aware it wasn’t going to happen straight away. After licking my wounds, retackling the rod and making a cup of tea, the sun was well up and very warm, it was approaching lunchtime and my mind was beginning to wander. The carp would be on the move and a crust of bread cast among the weed might well bring something worthwhile to the bank. ! I decided to give up on the crucians for the time being, re-group and resume later in the day. After lunch I spent a few hours gallivanting around the moat trying my best to ﬁnd something to cast my crust at, but it seemed to be one of those days when nothing much wanted to get caught. I have this theory you see, that ﬁsh actually enjoy our company and that quite often they decide to come and visit us. This was obviously not one of those days. No matter how stealthily I wandered the banks, those ﬁsh just seemed to be one step ahead of me. ! Back in swim thirteen the sun had begun to disappear behind the trees behind me, it was fast approaching teatime and the thought of another crack at the crucians sounded tremendous after such a quiet afternoon elsewhere. Presently there was no ﬁzzing in the swim, and although I knew that a few handfuls of pellets would certainly get them going, I wondered if perhaps the pellets were causing the ﬁsh to become preoccupied, thus making them harder to catch. This time, after getting myself comfortable and everything ready I decided to feed just with a dozen grains of corn, and then a few more grains every ten or ﬁfteen minutes, so to keep a steady trickle of bait going in but not too much to get them preoccupied or full up. ! It was a good ploy too, soon enough the bubbles started. Not as vigorously as before, but I could clearly see there were a few ﬁsh down there. It felt good, conﬁdence was through the roof and after just ten minutes I thought I’d cracked it. The ﬂoat dipped half way and held dead still for a few seconds, then the rest of it went under and as soon as the tip dipped out of sight I struck and was met with a satisfying resistance. It wasn’t the classic jagged zig zag ﬁght I was expecting to feel, more of a strong bore with the hooked ﬁsh trying to get its head into the weed and pads. ! After a few hairy moments it rolled on the surface for the ﬁrst time, I was kind of disappointed to see a small tench was the culprit, but at the same time I felt relieved that my new tactics had worked and that the tackle had stood up
to the battle. It was a beautiful tench nevertheless, very dark green with ruby eyes and massive paddles. It looked stunning lying in the mesh alongside some pond weed and the little handmade ﬂoat. A crucian would of course have been much nicer, but this made a fairly decent substitute. ! With the ﬁsh returned and the swim disturbed it was as expected a little while until the activity resumed. I went back in among the bubbles, the ﬂoat settled and once more I was full of conﬁdence. One thing I’d changed was to doctor the piece of corn on the hook; it was something I remembered from my days ﬁshing Longbridge Lake near Romsey. One particular day I had a shoal of crucians feeding close to some reeds and found that in order to hit the delicate bites I would have to cut my piece of corn in half, sometimes quarters. As to why I’m not entirely sure, but small pieces of whole corn didn’t work as well, perhaps it was because being cut they leaked more ﬂavour. ! Although the light was beginning to fade there was still more than enough time to catch a crucian, and this was probably the best part of the day for it. More dips and lifts of the ﬂoat tip were observed and more grains of corn were introduced into the swim. A kingﬁsher ﬂew past shrieking as it went and a fox cub
poked its head out of a hole opposite me, it’s little wonder we miss so many bites. Badgers, deer and even goats also take up residence at the moat, it is quite a menagerie. ! With my concentration back I noticed the ﬁzzing start to intensify; a mass of tiny bubbles rose and popped all around my ﬂoat which dipped once, twice and then slowly slid off sideways to the left. As I lifted the rood high over my shoulder I felt a downwards jag, a ﬂutter up in the water and then another jag downwards, this was more like it. It pulled quite hard, the ﬁght was reminiscent to that of a crucian, but the bend in the rod told me that if it was it had to be a decent one. With every few feet the ﬁsh rose up in the water it jagged back down again but avoided breaking the surface. I half expected another small tench to rear its ugly head at any moment, so when a hooﬁng great dark crucian showed itself my legs instantly turned to jelly. ! This was it; I’d done it, although I still had to land it. I stood up and reached for the net whilst trying to keep the ﬁsh under control and a tight line, this was a big one, certainly the biggest crucian I’d ever hooked. A few more lunges and the great ﬁsh appeared to be almost ready for the net. I reached out and gently guided my prize over the ash hoop and lifted. The sense of elation was overwhelming. I peered brieﬂy into the net and marvelled at the most beautiful ﬁsh I’d ever set eyes upon, even though it had half its tail missing. ! I kept it safely in the water whilst I sat on my basket for a few seconds to steady my nerves. I then went about setting up the camera, wetting the matt and making sure I’d only have to get the ﬁsh out for a short period. The scales were also zeroed, I’m not one usually for weighing ﬁsh but this was much larger than anything I’d caught before so I didn’t feel quite so bad about putting a number on it. By leaning over the net I managed to unhook her whilst still in the water, gently lifted her onto the matt and shook my head in disbelief at just how incredible a ﬁsh it was. I set the self-timer on the camera and held her up for a few snaps, recorded a weight of two pounds and nine ounces and then returned her to the net to regain some energy before dipping the frame and watching her swim graciously away. ! I’ve caught many crucians from the moat since, nothing quite so large as that very ﬁrst one but each and every one just as marvellous. I’ve since paved the way for friends to visit the moat and taste some of the superb ﬁshing on offer, and I’m pleased to say that a good number have themselves caught one of those magical little ﬁshes. I’ve helped where I can too by advising the ﬁshery team how best to preserve the priceless stock, which I’m very pleased to say is a work in progress. As I type this it’s late spring and as yet I haven’t caught a moat crucian this year, but I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m acquainted with what have become without doubt the quarry that excites me the most.
CRUCIANS – Native or naturalised? Peter Rolfe
Many anglers like to call the Crucian “our native carp”, to separate it from the common carp Cyprinus carpio, which we all know was introduced here in the Middle Ages. The statement reflects the affection with which the crucian is held but it is now clear that it cannot be justified. First, the crucian is not a carp, as the Latin name shows, Carassius carassius. Some think that it would help if we dropped “carp” out of its name entirely and called it just “crucian”, to emphasise that it is a completely separate species. Secondly, latest scientific researchi now indicates that the crucian was introduced to the British Isles and is not a native fish. By “native” we mean the presence of a fish in the British Isles before the land bridge between us and the continent was finally flooded. We do not know when the crucian was introduced to Britain. The literature of natural historians and anglers suggests that it came into the country early in the 18th century, at roughly the same time as the goldfish, Carassius auratus. Equally, It has been suggested that it came in with the common carp in the fifteenth century because the two species are easily confused. The discovery of a crucian bone during excavation at a British/Roman site, gave rise to the idea that the crucian has been here even longer. However, what is more important for the conservation of the crucian is that it is a species certainly long established in this country. It is benign and offers no threat to other species or to the environment. Moreover, the British Isles, because of our isolation from the continent, offer a unique refuge for a species under serious threat. In its native range in Europe the crucian is in serious danger of becoming extinct because of habitat degradation, lack of awareness, and hybridisation with the invasive gibel carp, Carassius gibelio. Anglers, naturalists and scientists need to work together for crucian conservation here. In addition, and vitally, we must ensure that the gibel carp never crosses the Channel, so that the UK remains an “ark site” for the preservation of the crucian. i
See: Jeffries DL, Copp GH, Maes GE, Lawson Handley L, Sayer CD, Hänfling B. Genetic evidence challenges the native status of a threatened freshwater fish (Carassius carassius) in England. Ecol Evol. 2017;00:1–12. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.2831
Crucian pools of Great Britain Chris Netto
Locations of identiﬁed crucian waters in England and Wales that hold ACA list ratings of A = DNA tested and B = not tested but 'conﬁrmed' via informed visual ID. This map started as a JFYI exercise to satisfy my own curiosity as to where the crucian strongholds in Great Britain actually were and if there was a pattern to them. The locations were taken from the ACA list of known and potential waters, but only indicates A and B rated pools, of which about three map locations are best guesses. Encouragingly, it seems crucians remain widespread and any geographical gaps are more to do with lack of information rather than anything else. We are keen to develop our list further and so if you know of any waters which you think hold crucians, use the ID facilities indicated in this journal and please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org . We will then add them to our list for further investigation. I am exploring the use of google maps to create a living, searchable, and more accurate facility, so by the time the next issue of The Crucian Chronicle comes out, we may be right up there with the rest of 21st century.
Sutton Gold Ed Matthews I may as well start at the beginning of my journey with crucians. In the late 90s whilst electric ﬁshing with my college as a student, we caught a small handful of large crucians. These were showing their age but I was in awe. For a number of years after that I never saw another, only hearing about a few in local catches and it became apparent to me that they were a species in decline. ! In the early 2000s I joined the EA and took part in a number of stocking programs across my home region around Shropshire. This was encouraging work but also frustrating as some of the receiving waters were not up to scratch, or the club didn't appreciate what they were being given. In many cases, due to predation, I doubt that many ﬁsh made a second winter in their new homes. ! I was then offered the chance to take on a six acre lake set in farmland in north Shropshire. It had previously been a trout ﬁshery but now held only sticklebacks and gudgeon. In order to make it work and ‘turn a coin’ I ran the lake as a carp syndicate, I also introduced roach and perch to keep the spawning carp at bay. A couple of years in I made the decision I wanted to do my bit for crucians so I stocked a couple of hundred one inch ﬁsh, this was a bold move as the perch had become established and the little crucians would have them to contend with. It wasn’t a lake you would normally associate with crucians, but I thought it was worth a punt. ! A couple of years went by and every now and then I wondered if any had managed to evade the predators within the lake. Other predators I took care of but underwater, the crucians would have to fend for themselves. Then one afternoon whilst moving the boat I saw one. It was only six inches or so long but was 100% a crucian! The following summer the lake got weedy in the shallow end, so in order to keep swims free I started raking the weed out. To my delight I started bringing in one year old crucians within the weed. They had spawned - Brilliant!
The next few years past without incident, then about three seasons ago the crucians started making an appearance to carp anglers ﬁshing small baits. These were respectable 2lb ﬁsh. Now was the time for me to start angling for them. I only had a couple of sessions each year but over the ﬁrst two seasons, I banked crucians to 2.06. The ﬁshing wasn't easy as I was doing all the leg work myself, along with whatever I could glean from occasional captures from carp anglers. After that I had the odd report of crucians scraping 3lb falling to the carp lads. Deciding that I really needed to try harder, in August 2016 I went for an afternoon session as the weather was too good to ignore. This time I ﬁshed the feeder at about 25 yards out on small bolt rigs. It’s not traditional tactics I know, but with a strong south-westerly pushing up the shallow end it was the most sensible approach. I didn't have to wait long to get a bite and then another, then before I knew it I had four crucians in the net and had also returned two carp! To my delight I had a brace of two pound crucians at 2.05 and 2.10, alongside which I also had a brace of threes. In so doing I’d achieved two personal goals, not only of catching crucians in excess of three pounds but also growing them in my lake. These two ﬁsh went 3.02oz and 3.04oz. I made a phone call to a friend and syndicate member who was coming to ﬁsh, hoping he could take some photos. He was overwhelmed for me and said he would be with me soon, but he wasn't! He had got held up in traﬃc but this turned out to be an unseen blessing as whilst we were taking the photos one of my two rods tore oﬀ! It was a carp, ‘bugger’! I didn't bother re-casting as I was intending to leave as soon as possible, so we carried on trying to take some pictures, but then the last rod sprung into life. A crucian was on and it felt like a good one. It tried to make it to some reeds as I went to net it but soon I had it up on the surface and spouting water. This ﬁsh smashed everything I had previously caught. We wasted no time weighing her and settled for 3.13. This was one of my biggest achievements in angling, both from an angler’s perspective and that of ﬁsheries management. She was an amazing creature which having been caught in August, set my mind into wondering what the possibilities were pre-spawning.
Ed with his prize 3.13 Sutton crucian.
4lb 1oz of Sutton Gold
As I write this in mid May 2017, I can conﬁrm that my thoughts about those possibilities were right. Only a couple of days ago Sutton gave up a rare jewel to me, this time to a more traditional ﬂoat ﬁshed corn down the margins. After lowering a ﬂoat set slightly over depth in amongst a small patch of tiny ﬁzzing bubbles, after only a few hours ﬁshing I caught only one crucian, but this was a crucian to shout about, and shout I will. She was 4.01oz of Sutton gold!
Protect the future of fishing. Join the Angling Trust today. If you love your crucian fishing please join the Angling Trust today and help the National Crucian Conservation Project go from strength to strength…
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Catch a Crucian Month – June 2017 Photographic competition Four categories, with the best three in each going into a final judging: 1. Best Crucian Picture - a single ‘bar of gold’ or a nice catch of crucians. 2. Best Picture of a Junior with a Crucian - the sense of wonderment on a youngsters face as they hold a particularly beautiful fish is hard to beat. 3. Best Scenic Picture of a Crucian Water - crucian fishing is as much about the scenery and the atmosphere as it is about fishing. 4. Best Short Crucian video – no more than 90 seconds that captures the magic of crucian fishing.
Win some of our great prizes! Thanks to generous sponsorship, each of the four main winners will receive a £100 Angling Direct tackle voucher and a special hand-made presentation crucian float from Andrew Field. All 12 finalists will receive a giant bucket of special crucian groundbaits, pellets and additives from Bait-Tech. For instructions on how to enter go to www.catchacrucian.wordpress.com and complete the registration form.
Going On A Gold Hunt John Cheyne
As someone more than a little obsessed with catching predators on lures, until recently, crucians were not really at the forefront of my ﬁshing aspirations. I think I may actually have caught a couple of crucians about eight years ago when waggler ﬁshing a lovely lake in the South West while on holiday, but I never took any pictures and they may well have been hybrids, so I can’t really count them. I don’t remember them being particularly beautiful so they can’t have been true crucians, more likely brown goldﬁsh, beautiful in their own way but a bit like ﬁnding iron pyrite when you are searching for gold. ! It all changed last year when as part of my job working for the Angling Trust, I was asked to help put together a website for Catch A Crucian month and the photography competition that goes with it. Suddenly I felt a little bit of a fraud. Here I was helping to tell everyone how wonderful these beautiful little ﬁsh are and encouraging more anglers to get out there and catch a few. Yet I was far from sure that I’d ever actually caught one myself and certainly not intentionally. What’s more, the photos that ﬂooded in for the 2016 competition showed off some absolutely stunning ﬁsh and I began to feel like I was really missing out on something. So I gave myself a little talking to and decided that I’d better put some plans in place and catch myself a Carassius carassius in 2017. The gold rush was on! ! The ﬁrst job was to research a few venues that weren’t too far away that would give me a good chance to get my ﬁrst intentional crucian and then to identify somewhere that I might catch a really decent one, maybe even something over 2lbs. For this job the list of crucian waters that has been compiled by the Facebook group the Association of Crucian Anglers and the guys running the National Crucian Conservation Project was a huge help. Having scanned the list for suitable waters, I decided that Priory Pool at Lemington Lakes in the Cotswolds would be my ﬁrst target water. As a day ticket water it was easy to access and by all accounts there seemed to be a really good stock of true crucians in the water along with a big head of small tench and the odd bonus roach. So with my Drennan Acolyte 14ft ﬂoat rod in hand I headed off to the Cotswolds on a fresh May morning hoping to strike a rich seam of gold. ! Lemington Lakes are not your average day ticket “commercial” waters. For one thing you actually have to register and become a member to ﬁsh the waters, although membership is free. Then Andy and Debbie Machin who run the ﬁshery ask that you book at least a day in advance if you want to come and ﬁsh. Access to the ﬁshery is via an impressive looking electric gate that members are given the push button combination for and once inside the place is immaculate. Andy and Debbie don’t put up with any littering, poor ﬁsh care or anti social behaviour so you can be sure that once inside the ﬁshery you will be in a little haven of ﬁshing and nature. Bio security is also taken very seriously and once you have popped into the well stocked café/tackle shop to pay for your day ticket, you are then required to use the ﬁsheries own mats, weigh slings and net heads, they are not some cheap rubbish either as they are all top quality Korum kit. So I headed over to Priory Pool which is reed fringed and surrounded by over-hanging trees and at around one acre in size, was small and intimate enough to make me feel conﬁdent about ﬁnding some crucians at the ﬁrst attempt.
! I started out by feeding a few balls of groundbait laced with a few maggots and ﬁshed a couple of rod lengths out in 3 foot of water using double red maggot as my hookbait. It didn’t take long before the ﬂoat began to stir. The silver gleam of roach was the ﬁrst precious metal that graced my landing net, and it was a good one too, just a little over a pound. Then the ﬂoat slid away again and this time it was that lovely greeny shade of oxidized bronze that can only mean tench. More tench followed and the sun began to rise and bites slowed down and there was still no crucian gold to be seen. I rebaited with single red maggot on a size 20 and ﬁned down my hooklength to 0.08 Reﬂo and tried casting a little off to the side of the groundbait where the small tench had been dominating matters. At ﬁrst nothing happened, but then the breeze dropped to nothing, the lake surface became a millpond and a few tiny bubbles appeared beside my ﬂoat. I waited. First there was a tremor, then a tiny dip and ﬁnally when the ﬂoat edged a little to the left I couldn’t resist striking. Somehow I knew that the darting, ﬂuttering resistance on the end of my line was the ﬁsh I was after. As my ﬁrst ever intentionally caught crucian slid over the landing net frame, the sun intensiﬁed and the light reﬂected off it’s burnished ﬂank making it look as though it was wearing a delicate suit of armour fashioned by the worlds ﬁnest goldsmith. ! At just under 1lb it was hardly a spectacular capture, but it was a special moment and since I had my camera/phone set up on a bankstick, my crucian and I decided that a selﬁe was in order. I’m pretty sure he will have shared it on ﬁshy Facebook ! ! I caught a few more lovely crucians that ﬁrst day and it really whetted my appetite to try to catch a real specimen. So I got on the phone to Martin Salter who is one of my colleagues at Angling Trust and who has been a major player in the National Crucian Conservation Project and National Catch A Crucian Month campaigns. “I want to catch a big crucian” I told him. “well you better get yourself down to Marsh Farm then” was his short reply. As luck would have it, I was scheduled to be running an Angling Trust Fisheries Forum in Reading in Mid May and was staying over in a hotel with a couple of my colleagues afterwards, less than an hour away from Godalming Angling Societies famous Marsh Farm complex. I soon persuaded them to take a day off after the forum and that we should all head down to see if we could get hold of one of their specimen sized crucians. A few days before we were due to head down there, I spoke to Martin again and he gave me some advice that was to make a huge difference to the day. “If you want to catch a big one, then ﬁsh the method feeder across to the island and just put a single artiﬁcial ﬂoating caster hair rigged to a bait band on a size 18 hook as bait. Don’t ﬁsh too light either as there are some big old tench in there.” Sometimes it’s good to ignore advice and go your own way, but very often, and especially when you are ﬁshing a water for the ﬁrst time, it makes a lot of sense to go with local knowledge. So the quiver tip rod was duly packed, fake casters were bought and we headed off to Marsh Farm with great excitement. ! The facilities as Marsh Farm really are a tribute to Godalming Angling Society. They had a vision for what a day ticket water should be like and having bought the land next to its famous Johnsons lake back in 1997, raised the funding required to build a truly stunning ﬁshery. Fully equipped with a teaching centre and a fantastic tackle shop, Marsh Farm really is the template for other clubs to follow. Even the toilets are lovely! So having spent far too much in the tackle shop (as
ever) and having chosen our swims on Harris lake, the three of us set up with very different tactics in mind to see if we could capture a big bar of gold. Ian ﬁshed the pole, Andy ﬁshed the waggler and I ﬁshed Martin’s suggested method feeder set up. The water was very clear and the the guys in the tackle shop had warned us that it was ﬁshing quite tough and so it was no surprise that we were ﬁshless for the ﬁrst hour. I began to wonder what a take on the method feeder would be like if a big crucian took the bait. Tench and carp generally just tear away and the rod tip just bends round as the ﬁsh hooks itself on the weight of the feeder, but I kept wondering if the shy crucians would react in the same way and that maybe I would need to strike the slightest of knocks. At this a ﬁsh decided to answer my question, the point my rod tip ﬂew round violently and before I knew it, the rod was in my hand and something big and solid was thumping away on the other end of the line. I called to Andy who was in the next swim and by the time the ﬁsh came into view he was by my side. “Blimey that’s huge” was his response at seeing the ﬁsh ﬂank in front of us. I knew a ﬁsh this big could only be a tench or a crucian and as the ﬂank we had just seen shone like a jeweller’s shop window I knew it wasn’t a tench. Slowly, slowly the ﬁsh came in and as it slid over the net I couldn’t quite believe it. First bite, ﬁrst ﬁsh and it was a very big crucian. Weighed on a brand new pair of Reuben Heaton Flyweights it went 3lb 1oz. A ﬁsh of a lifetime. A few photos later and it was gone. I kept wanting to look at the photos to convince myself I’d really caught it, but Ian had taken them on his SLR so there was nothing on my phone to stare at. The day progressed, Ian had a couple of lovely crucians out up to 2lb 5oz. Andy and myself caught some cracking tench up to 5lb + but it all seemed a bit surreal after that ﬁrst crucian. It wasn’t until the next day when Ian sent me though a copy of the photos by email that I really convinced myself I had caught a 3lb ﬁsh in the ﬁrst hour of my ﬁrst trip to Marsh Farm. What an amazing ﬁshery! ! The one thing I hope this has convinced you is that it doesn’t matter if you are a dyed in the wool lure angler (like me) a ﬂy angler, a big carp specialist, a river roach fanatic or if barbel are your passion…take a little time out and track down some beautiful golden crucians, not only might you catch yourself a new PB, but you will also add a little bit of golden bling to your ﬁshing soul.
Norfolk Crucian Project saving Norfolk’s farmland pond crucians Dr Carl Sayer As a nine year old boy my journey as an environmentalist started by a little pond on the edge of a corn ﬁeld and with a ﬁsh, so memorable, I can still see it now lying in the grass - as golden as the ﬁelds behind me. I am a naturalist, scientist and importantly a ﬁsherman because of the crucian carp. ! In 2007, I started to worry about crucians. I was sitting by a pond ﬁshing with good friend Bernard Cooper catching, what we latterly worked out, were crucian carp x wild carp hybrids, and we both realised that we could not think of anywhere to catch a true crucian. Then, in 2008, an EA “Bite-Size” article came out suggesting that the species was “thought to be almost extinct in Norfolk” – no further encouragement was needed and at that point the Norfolk Crucian Project was born. ! When I was touring around North Norfolk villages with a ﬁshing rod strapped to my bike in the 1980s crucian carp were everywhere. Almost every sizeable ﬁeld pond (old marl pits) had them and many people ﬁshed for them young and old. Jump forward, 30+ years and it is incredible how the situation has changed, with a major crucian decline clearly evident. However, slowly we are starting to turn things around. Over the last 8 years our team of University College London researchers and local people has been out every year surveying for crucians in spring and often in autumn too. We were helped in the early days by Keith Wesley of Bedwell Fisheries who provided necessary expertise on crucian sampling and conservation learnt from years of working in Epping Forest with the wonderful “Wyn” Wheeler. Also ﬁsh expert Gordon Copp has been a huge help.
An overgrown, former crucian carp pond during restoration by scrub and mud removal
The same pond after restoration... restoring crucian ponds is great for pond biodiversity.
! Our approach to ﬁnding crucians is simple. We talk to local people and follow all sorts of leads on the possible location of crucian ponds. Sometimes the telephone takes me all over the place from post ofﬁces to farmers kitchen tables and to old anglers who cant believe it when I ask “where did you catch crucians as a boy?” We then go to these and other likely ponds to look for crucians. We survey using fyke nets pulled tight across the largest diameter of each pond. The fykes are deployed overnight and retrieved in the morning – a very effective method for catching crucian carp even at very low densities. And every time we net a pond told to us by an angler, we always try and get them there for the occasion. Sometimes this can be quite an emotional return to childhood and if we catch a crucian carp it can bring with it huge happiness. There can be no doubt that crucians are hugely loved in Norfolk. ! Thus far we have surveyed 110+ ponds and we have now located some 23 wild populations of crucian carp, many of them previously entirely unknown – so the crucian carp is deﬁnitely not close to extinction. Nonetheless, it is threatened and our comparisons of past (1970s-1980s) and present show a 75% decline in its distribution (see Figure 1 which shows a crucian carp decline in one region of North Norfolk). But there is more to this story. Many crucian populations are contaminated by hybrids with goldﬁsh and various king carp varieties, or they are dwindling, aging populations, with this often the case in overgrown “scrubbed-over” ponds. In fact, it is the abandonment of traditional scrub clearance practices in farmland ponds which is the main cause of Norfolk’s crucian decline. Population structures in overgrown ponds suggest that crucian carp can survive, but they apparently fail to recruit under these conditions likely due to very low oxygen levels. ! So what are we doing about this? Well linked in the wider Norfolk Ponds Project, we have been restoring ponds for crucian carp and then re-stocking them into the places that they used to be from wild, local stocks. And we have been successful. Thus far we have stocked some 18 ponds with 9 successes (recruiting populations) known so far. We do not publicise the location of the ponds and we do not actively promote ﬁshing in them, but it is nice to know that, if a little boy with a bike were to stumble on one of our ponds, they might just catch something very very special. We will keep the Norfolk Crucian Project going for many years to come for the beneﬁt of Norfolk’s ponds and its pond ﬁshes.
Carl Sayer stocking crucian into a restored Norfolk farmland pond.
A huge thanks to all the landowners, countryman and local Norfolk people that have supported the Norfolk Crucian Project so far. Dr Carl Sayer (@carlsayerUCL) (Reader in the Department of Geography, University College London)
For further information please see: UCL Pond Restoration Research Group web: http://www.geog.ucl.ac.uk/ponds Twitter: @uclponds Norfolk Ponds Project web: http://www.norfolkfwag.co.uk/norfolk-ponds-project/ Twitter: @norfolkponds
Figure 1. Distribution of the crucian carp in North Norfolk in the 1970s-1980s (a) and 2010s (b). Source Sayer et al. (2011) Journal of Fish Biology.
Juvenile crucian carp from a restored and stocked Norfolk pond - success!
One of Carlâ€™s many fully restored Norfolk mystery ponds
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Crucian Carp Field Identification Guide This identification guide has been compiled by the Environment Agency, in collaboration with the Angling Trust and the National Crucian Conservation Project group.
The crucian carp, Carassius carassius (Figure 1.) lives in still waters, from very small farm and woodland ponds, where it is commonly found in stunted populations, to moderate sized gravel pits and mature estate lakes, where it can attain weights of four pounds and above. Increasingly, crucian carp populations are threatened by direct competition and hybridisation with feral goldfish Carassius auratus and carp Cyprinus carpio, with loss of suitable habitat contributing. The body shape of the crucian carp varies greatly between sites, so much so, that two morphologies have been recognised, a deep bodied form and a shallow bodied (or stunted) form (Figure 2). Body shape is dependent on factors such as habitat, food availability or even the presence of predators. Due to the difficulties of identification between the crucian carp and the feral goldfish (Table 1.), and hybrids of the two, assessment of the present distribution of crucian carp is very difficult (Table 2.). Much of the work presented has been adapted from previous work by A. Wheeler and P. Bolton.
How to recognise a crucian carp
Figure 1. General morphological features of a crucian carp (left hand image shows the convex dorsal fin).
Body depth Lateral line Operculum Anal fin Pectoral fin
Figure 2. Examples of the two body shapes, typically displayed by crucian carp, the slender, shallow bodied morph (left hand side) and the high-backed, deep bodied morph (right hand side).
Table 1. Common identification features used to differentiate between crucian carp (Carassius carassius) feral goldfish (Carassius auratus) & carp (Cyprinus carpio).
Blunt caudal fin
Deeply forked caudal fin
1st major anal fin spine lightly serrated
1st major anal fin spine strongly serrated
Convex dorsal fin shape, 1st major fin spine lightly serrated
Concave dorsal fin shape,1st major fin spine strongly serrated
Short gill rakers (21 â€“ 32)
Long gill rakers (35 â€“ 43)
4 Barbules present
Crucian carp x common carp hybrid
Barbules present (2 or 4) but reduced in size
Table 2. Common external and internal identification features of cru Crucian carp
EXTERNAL FEATURES Lateral line
Scale count 32 – 34
27 – 29
Often interrupted/ Description fragmented, sometimes fades towards tail
Continuous, often strong (rarely broken)
Dorsal fin shape Pelvic fin Colour
Straight/ slightly concave
Orange, often with dark tips
Usually pale, occasionally brown/ black
Dorsal area Green/ brown Flanks Golden bronze
Brown Golden brown
Ventral area Golden yellow/ orange
Body depth Laterally compressed
Caudal fin shape Blunt with shallow fork
Deeply forked (lobes sometimes elongate)
Anal fin spine Lightly serrated
Dorsal fin spine Lightly serrated
INTERNAL FEATURES No. Of rakers on 1st gill 21 – 31 arch Gill raker length Short
35 – 43 Long
ucian carp, goldfish, common carp and carp hybrids. Common carp
Crucian carp x Goldfish hybrid
Crucian carp x Common carp
33 - 49
29 - 32
34 - 36
Continuous, may be fragmented (mirror carp) or absent (leather carp)
Generally continuous, often strong (sometimes fragmented)
Sometimes present, can be interrupted or complete
Concave anteriorly with long fin base
Straight or convex (can vary)
Often intermediate of the two
Usually dusky with red tinge
Variable: Dependent on parentage and environment
Variable: Dependent on parentage and environment
Variable: Dependent on parentage and environment
Variable: Dependent on parentage and environment
Forked (lobes sometimes elongate)
Strong/ moderately serrated
Variable: Dependent on parentage
4 in total (2 in corner of mouth, 2 on top lip)
Present, very reduced in size and number (2 or 4)
32 â€“ 44
38 â€“ 43
26 â€“ 32
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