In an age when match attendances on natural waters are on the wane, there’s one fishery in the North West that’s been bucking the trend and reporting healthy angler numbers in the constant battle against local commercial waters – Carr Mill Dam.
While matches on the St Helen’s water once read like a who’s who of the British match scene, including Ashurst, Makin, Heaps and Roper, the rise of carp fisheries and increased choice put a dent in numbers during the late 1990s, but matches this spring have seen a rise in bums on seats, and not just by a dozen or so. Last week welcomed 65 anglers and match organisers are confident that figure will go over 100 by the summer.
But why the reason for this rise? The fishing remains as good as it was when Carr Mill was a regular host of the UK Champs 20 years ago. St Helen’s match secretary Billy Delves and venue regular, England boss Mark Addy reckon it’s the payout that’s packing them in, last week’s event seeing the winner pick up £280 and second pocket £220 – and it’s all thanks to the lack of peg fee.
“Where commercials charge £7 or £8 for a peg before you’ve even paid your pools, we charge nothing. That means every penny the anglers put in is paid out,” said Billy explained.
“I know one commercial that paid £120 to the winner of an 80 peg match, which is crazy. The anglers fishing Carr Mill know there’s a decent few quid to fish for and with only £10 pools plus a £5 optional super pool to pay it’s not costing them a fortune either. This summer I reckon we’ll have over 100 anglers fishing the charity match we run with Leigh Tackle & Bait and numbers for the opens will remain high as well.”
Mark agrees and also believes the fishing keeps the anglers returning. While catching bream normally wins it, the roach fishing is equally as good with 20lb weights not uncommon. He also thinks the influx of anglers that fish the River Weaver in winter, as well as those little jaded with commercials, are helping to boost the numbers.
“Carr Mill is a big lake so you feel like you’re fishing a proper venue and you can catch on any method and win from any area as the fish spread out well when it warms up,” Mark said. “It wasn’t always like that and I can remember my first match on there in the early 1980s when I won with 3lb of roach. By and large the fishing is good and even in winter when there was 1ft of ice on the lake we were catching 8lb of little roach. The numbers they’re getting tells you how fair the place is.”
From mid-May open matches will be run on every Saturday up until the end of September. These are for St Helen’s AA members only but with books costing just £24, that’s a snip in comparison to peg fees for commercials.
Visit the St Helen’s website at www.sthelensaa.co.uk for details.