Record F1 in 25th anniversary year of hybrid species

13lb 10oz giant is biggest-ever

Record F1 in 25th anniversary year of hybrid species

by Angling Times |

WHAT could be the biggest-ever F1 has been caught a quarter of a century after the species were first stocked in British waters.

The fish – a hardy hybrid mix of king carp and crucian carp – were first bred in 1996 and have had a huge impact on match angling and commercial fisheries.

Chris Belcher’s 13lb 10oz specimen is likely to be the biggest F1 ever reported, although there’s no official record for the species. It beats the 13lb 8oz F1 from a Lancashire stillwater that we reported on last summer.

The fish was caught from the Square Lake at Warren Fishery, Essex, and is believed to be the descendant of an original stocking of 200 F1s into the venue around 18 years ago.

Chris Belcher’s 13lb 10oz specimen is likely to be the biggest F1 ever reported
Chris Belcher’s 13lb 10oz specimen is likely to be the biggest F1 ever reported

To mark the capture, and the anniversary of the F1’s creation, this week Angling Times spoke to three people who have the species very close to their heart.

The creator

The first F1s were bred by Simon Hughes in 1996 at Riverfield Fish Farm in Kent, solely to eliminate the threat of disease.

He told us:

“They are in every major venue and have saved match fishing and pleasure fishing from KHV [koi herpes virus]. That was the only reason we created them, to produce a fish that wouldn’t be susceptible. Only later did we realised they were rather hardy and would feed all year!”

The hybridisation process makes the fish infertile, so they can’t breed, but this also appears to protect them from the ailments that affect other carp species.

“It’s a bit like if you buy a pedigree dog – there’s always something that’ll go wrong. But if you’ve got a mongrel from up the street you never seem to have any problems, and it’s the same with F1s. ‘Hybrid vigour’ is the term they use to describe it!” he added.

“We initially only bred a pond or two full of them, but they sold out and people quickly wanted more. We ended up turning just about the whole farm over to them.”

Riverfield has stocked F1s all over the UK and even across the Channel in the Netherlands.

“The peak of production has passed, but we still supply about 30 tons of F1s a year – most are three years old and 8ins-12ins. At the peak we were doing 100 tons a year.”

The fish are a hybrid between crucians and mirror or common (king) carp
The fish are a hybrid between crucians and mirror or common (king) carp

The early adopter

Lindholme Lakes, near Doncaster, was one of the first big venues to realise the species’ potential. Owner Neil Grantham says they’re a commercial fishery owner’s dream.

He said:

“I’ve been here for 21 years and I’ve had F1s since that very first year. They offer great all-round winter fishing and I’ve never had a single problem with either KHV or the other main fatal disease carp sometimes suffer from, SVC [spring viraemia of carp].

“The security of knowing that, no matter what happens, you won’t wake up to a full lake of fish gone belly up makes them well worth the money.

“I reckon I’ve spent around £1 million on F1s over the years – certainly well over £700,000 – but over 20-plus years it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

“Some people really don’t like them, but it’s each to their own, and I certainly love them. If I was starting another fishery from scratch for another 21 years, I’d waste no time in buying them all over again.”

The original stocking of F1s at Lindholme , is still going strong after more than 20 years
The original stocking of F1s at Lindholme , is still going strong after more than 20 years

The F1 master

Two-time Fish O’Mania champ Andy Bennett is regarded as one of the country’s top F1 anglers, and is well aware of the contribution these hybrids have made to match fishing.

“In the depths of winter they make bites more accessible and also don’t shoal up as much as carp, so they’ve brought winter leagues alive again, which is good for both anglers and fisheries,” he told us.

“They’re a very hardy fish and the original stockings have survived, whereas stockings of other fish disappear from one season to the next. They’ve also grown a lot bigger than we ever expected. Most people didn’t think they’d reach 5lb, but now we’re seeing some even push double figure down south at places like Cross Drove.

“They will feed in all weathers, but definitely get wiser and stop eating certain baits as they get bigger, which makes it more of a challenge to catch them.”

Two-time Fish O’Mania champ Andy Bennett is regarded as one of the country’s top F1 anglers
Two-time Fish O’Mania champ Andy Bennett is regarded as one of the country’s top F1 anglers
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