‘Fishery’s own pellets’ – are they a marketing stunt used by commercials to make money out of anglers, or are they a sign of good fishery management?
That’s the question being asked this week by a number of leading anglers and fishery owners who are calling for nationwide standards to be established to ensure anglers get value for money and fish stocks the healthiest diet possible.
The trend towards ‘fishery’s own pellets’ has been the result of venue owners’ growing concerns for the welfare of their fish following revelations that the excessive use of fatty, high-protein baits, such as halibut pellets, luncheon meat and catmeat, can lead to unhealthy stocks and poor water quality.
But do anglers need to buy low oil feed pellets from the fishery, or should they be trusted to use their own?
“I’m fed up with having to splash out on bags of pellets every time I visit a new commercial venue and I know plenty of other anglers who feel the same way,” said AT tackle editor Mark Sawyer.
“Ninety-nine per cent of the time these ‘fishery’s own pellets’ are nothing more mysterious than a bog-standard, low-oil coarse pellet exactly the same as those you had to buy at the last fishery you visited.
“Isn’t it about time that we had a bit of parity and common sense between all the commercials and had one set of bait rules for all? Surely setting a single bait limit has got to be the way forward, especially for match anglers?” he asked.
The consensus of scientific opinion i s that low-oil , nutritionally-balanced pellets like those used in fish farming are the best feed for carp and are what they’re usually reared on.
“It’s luncheon meat, catmeat, halibut and trout pellets, and any other baits containing high levels of fat that are damaging when used in large quantities,” explained fisheries consultant Dr Bruno Broughton.
“But it’s only really the small, heavily-stocked venues that are at risk, especially when they’re holding three or four matches each week where most of the pegs are filled. In the vast majority of angling situations, it doesn’t matter what you feed the fish,” said Dr Broughton.
The effect of anglers’ feed depends upon the type of water, its size and stocking density, together with water temperatures and the kind of bait being introduced.
Not all fisheries have adopted rules insisting anglers use the pellets they sell on-site.
One of the busiest fishery managers in the country, Clint Elliot, of White Acres, takes a broader view than some.
“We only insist on our own low oil pellets being used during festivals due to the sheer number of anglers on the bank at the time. We prefer our anglers use coarse fish pellets for feeding, but we don’t insist on it,” explained Clint.
“When it comes to selling their own feed pellets, I’m not convinced all fishery owners are putting fish welfare as their main consideration,” he added.
Elsewhere Steve Barnes, owner of Quiet Sports Fisheries, insists that in 14 years in the fishery business he has never had a problem with pellets making his fish ill because they’re regularly health checked every 26 weeks.
“We don’t restrict the amount of any pellets used on any of our fisheries. Instead, we encourage their use. We’d prefer our customers didn’t take them home and fed our fish instead!” said Steve.
The subject was put into context by Dave Hulse, senior lecturer in animal management at Reaseheath College in Cheshire, who presented a talk dealing with the explosive debate about what you should and shouldn’t feed fish during a recent meeting of fisheries experts at Sparsholt College.
“Fishery managers need to know how much of the various types of feed that carp can eat at a certain time of year and what the biomass is in their water. That way they can try to influence how much bait is being used by anglers,” explained Dave.
“If I ran a fishery then I’d want full control over which baits go in and in what quantities, so that I could ensure the long-term health of my fish and the quality of the ater as a whole,” he added.