The owner of one of the UK’s top commercial fisheries may well ban a popular bagging tactic to reduce catches after weights sky-rocketed.
Countless colossal hauls have been landed this summer, including the biggest-ever match haul last week by an angler who took 1514lb in six hours from Arran’s Lake.
The huge Essex catch has divided opinion, with many anglers and fishery owners claiming that match weights have spiralled out of control.
Lincolnshire’s Westwood Lakes has seen records fall many times since water temperatures reached summer levels, but while many are excited at the red hot form, boss Alan Coupland is less than impressed.
In a bid to bring weights more in line with his expectations he is now toying with the idea of banning the prolific big-weight tactic known as ‘slapping’.
He told Angling Times: “I’d always liked the idea of having a fishery where maybe 170lb could be seen as a great weight, but we’ve reached the point where 300lb catches are becoming fairly common – in my book that’s going too far.
“My rule is that match anglers must split their catch between three nets, and while that is being abided by, I’m ending up with up to 100lb of fish in each keepnet. I don’t like that.
“Most of the big weights are taken by anglers who slap the water with their pole rigs to imitate bait being fed. While it is extremely effective, I could well ban it in the future as it’s playing a big part in these huge weights we are seeing.
“Some anglers might look elsewhere if I did bring a ban in, and they are entitled to do that, but I have to think about the welfare of my fish stocks. Current weights are not what I envisaged at Westwood Lakes.”
If the ban on slapping is imposed, Westwood will join a growing list of fisheries that have taken the same stance. North Yorkshire’s Woodlands Lakes introduced the restriction last year, and boss Craig Kent has no regrets. He said: “People were catching 200lb on just their hookbait, and that presented a number of problems.
“First, the fish weren’t getting fed, which wouldn’t have done them any good. Second, a lot of skill was removed from catching big weights. Take away the need to feed and putting together a big weight becomes a lot easier.
“My attendances are now bigger than ever and that just goes to show I was right to ban the tactic.”
Further south in Milton Keynes, Alders Farm officials experienced a similar conundrum last year after weights rose over 500lb.
In a bid to draw back anglers who had looked elsewhere due to the ease of sport, thousands of pounds of carp were removed to make the fishing more challenging. Owner Lewis Monk believes the action has had the desired effect.
“Soon after taking over in October 2014, we realised that the match weights had got completely out of control,” explained Lewis.
“When we decided to net the lakes we did get a few negative comments – however, we felt confident we had done the best thing for the fishery and the anglers.
“We now average winning summer weights around 200lb, which has attracted far more anglers back to Alders, and we certainly have no regrets about the action we took.”