‘Anglers are bored stiff by fisheries stuffed to the rafters with carp, and that’s why this silverfish-only complex is the future of commercial fishing in this country.’
These are the bold words of the man behind a fishery that produced the biggest silverfish net in history, who is just about to unveil a new venue where there won’t be a single ‘pastie’ carp in sight.
Traditional species, such as bream, tench and roach will dominate the new Redbridge Community Lakes in Essex, which is due to open next spring.
It is the brainchild of Colin Bartlett – the co-owner and fishery manager of Lake John, the Waltham Abbey venue that hit the headlines earlier this year when it produced a staggering 252lb 8oz net of skimmers.
Contrary to popular opinion, Colin firmly believes that you don’t need to stock carp to keep pleasure and match anglers coming back for more.
“I genuinely think that carp have had their day. I’ve shown at Lake John that massive weights are possible with other species and I’ll prove it again with Redbridge,” said Colin, a director at the new venue, which is owned by local fishing fanatic and building contractor Go rdon Bullock.
“All the anglers who left Lake John 10 years ago to be part of the commercial carp phenomenon are now coming back. One of the guys said to me recently, ‘I’ve just caught a tench – I haven’t caught one of those for five years!’ I find this really sad – it just shows how obsessed with carp some people have become.”
“Fishing commercials these days is like taking part in a race, with far less emphasis on technique, feeding and really having to think about your approach, which is wrong.
“I can promise big weights for anglers who want traditional fishing and I won’t rely on carp.”
Both lakes will boast 30 pegs and have been designed to ensure they offer identical depths and features to limit the possibility of the venue becoming ‘peggy’ – a charge levelled at many commercial carp waters.
As with Lake John, there will be small numbers of big carp in Redbridge in order to maintain a healthy biodiversity, as well as adding some variety for anglers.
Colin is not alone in extolling the virtues of offering quality, mixed fishing. Andy Seery, proprietor of the popular Stafford Moor Fishery in Devon, also believes variety is key.
“Mixed fishing is the way forward – all my lakes have both roach and carp, making it possible to catch in excess of 70lb from every peg without catching a single pastie,” said Andy.
“The number of anglers in search of variety is increasing and I think that more fishery owners need to consider this, especially with the increasing threat of carp diseases like KHV.”
However, silverfish-only venues are not necessarily a new idea. Several venues dotted around the country went down the route in the past, only to revert back to carp-only waters after day-ticket sales and match bookings dropped away.
One such fishery was Moorlands Farm in Worcestershire, which is now run by Mal Watson. Back at the start of 2001, the then owner of Moorlands Farm, John Talbot, opened a silverfish lake, before restocking it with carp later the same year after customers stayed away.
Mal believes that decision by the former owner was a wise one, and that carp will remain the matchman’s favourite for the foreseeable future.
“If we stocked one of our lakes exclusively with silvers again I’d guarantee that day-ticket sales and match bookings would fall by at least half. Most anglers still want to target match carp, and that’s the unavoidable truth,” said Mal.
This is an opinion shared by Cyril Brewster, owner of Cudmore Fishery in Staffs and chairman of Premier Fisheries. He said: “It’s crazy to suggest that carp have had their day. If we relied solely on silverfish, this fishery wouldn’t survive and that’s a fact,” said Cyril.
“I give Colin Bartlett every credit for his vision and drive to create a fishery like this, but I just don’t think waters with this kind of fishing can be guaranteed long-term survival.”