Are snake lakes cruel to our fish?


Shadows are being cast over commercial snake lakes this week amid concerns their fish are becoming too pressurised and are foul-hooked too often.

Several owners who have become concerned over the issue have now chosen to construct new open-water lakes which they feel are 'less cruel’ to fish and give them space to get some respite from anglers.

Adrian Phipps is planning to build a new 50-peg lake at Oakfield Fishery, in Aylesbury, Bucks, after witnessing the fish in his own snake lake become very coy, often refusing to feed in matches because they constantly have several metres of a carbon pole over their heads.

Snake, or canal lakes as they are sometimes called, are typically long and narrow (11m-16m wide) with shelves on either side and a deep central track.

Adrian claims that foul-hooked fish are one of the most common problems on such waters and he has seen his snake lake switch off for lengthy periods, even in summer.

“I’ve seen anglers getting line bites from fish that aren’t feeding, and they become unsettled if foul-hooked. The fish in my snake lake are so wary that they will sometimes only take 'overspray' bait that falls in against the far bank. The better specimens hardly ever get caught in matches,” he said.

Adrian’s solution is to build a new four-acre lake with no islands or features, designed to give fish 'space'. With the access roads and paths he hopes to build, Adrian is even hoping the venue may become a contender to host the prestigious Fish O’ Mania final.

“Fish need somewhere to shoal up and feel safe in the centre of a lake - they can’t do this in a snake lake. You can sustain 200lb-plus weights in open water without overstocking,” said Adrian.

One man who disagrees with the view is Neil Dale, of Heronbrook Fishery. The venue is based around a series of canal-type lakes which are all a minimum of 14m wide, with 5ft-plus of water down the central track and an 11m gap between each peg - figures which Neil claims make a huge difference.

“An 11m wide snake lake, with 20 pegs and 8m of space between them is no good for fish or fishing. A featureless lake actually has a danger of having too much water and too much room for fish, so catches are low. This results in venue owners coming under pressure to put more fish in, so it ends up overstocked,” said Neil.

Oakfield Fishery isn’t the only snake-lake venue to plan an open water lake.
The popular Oaks Fishery complex, in Sessay, North Yorks, is constructing three featureless lakes between 1.5 and two acres in size to cater for rod and line anglers.