Reading what Russ Fowler, formerly of Goldthorpe Angling, now Fishing Republic and Richard Foster, boss of Fosters of Birmingham have to say, there is no doubt that commercial fisheries have saved angling. Or have they?
I’m sure that FR make far more on 300kg of pellets than they would on 200 gallons of maggots. The profit margin is probably much higher too and there is zero waste.
It only takes a quick glance at rod licence figures to show that the number of coarse anglers has risen dramatically since the coincidence of the closed season ending and the commercial fishery boom. What worries me is the niggling question that it may not be sustainable.
My main concern is for the ‘fish that saved angling’: Cyprinus carpio, the king carp. Sooner or later, koi herpes virus, KHV, will be endemic and fisheries with massively overstocked pools will find much of their stock dying off.
Carp have saved angling, not commercials, because the specialist side of our sport is probably the best growth area and the massive majority of those specialist anglers target carp.
If carp disappeared tomorrow, you could wave goodbye to most tackle shops, most fisheries and most anglers. Carp are greedy fish that, when kept in sufficient numbers in conditions where there is little or no natural food, will feed heavily and therefore get caught easily.
Go back 25 years and the average Joe sitting by a river or gravel pit chucking out a feeder needed a fair degree of skill or luck to catch a reasonable fish. Now that same Joe can turn up at a pond stuffed with fish, close his eyes and cast out a baited hook. In normal circumstances, he won’t have to wait long for his rod to be dragged round.
That ‘success’ makes him believe he can fish, so he buys another rod, a bedchair and a bivvy and the other ‘essentials’ for carp fishing.
When the Apocalypse comes, they will go because there are no other fish as daft as carp, or as hungry. Because they grow bigger they eat more so even twice as many bream will not produce as many bites as half as many carp.
Maybe we’ll end up like China, where everyone fishes for fish similar to F1s.
Even the real specialist carpers, the people whose names you probably won’t know, whose waters you will have never heard of and whose fish don’t have names will become a dying breed because the fish that they fish for are dying of old age and replacements are considered ‘stockies’ and unworthy.
What can be done? Well, you probably won’t believe me but in my opinion it is vital that every angler on the bank should support zero importation of fish, or any living thing that needs water, animal or vegetable. SVC, KHV, signal crayfish, floating pennywort all came here and escaped or were released into the wild and all have caused, are causing and will cause massive problems for angling.
Anglers who illegally transfer fish ¬ yes, those who moan about otters eating fish but happily fish for illegally stocked zander that consume far more fish than 20 times the otters we have now.
So, as far as the future of angling is concerned, I reckon that without carp, there isn’t one.