What makes the perfect fishery?

From beautiful natural waters to perfectly run day-ticket lakes, we all love a top fishery. But what exactly sets your favourite places aside from the rest?

What makes the perfect fishery?

by Angling Times |

Anglers are as many and varied as the locations they fish, but surely there are key values that most of us share? From balancing accessibility with natural beauty, to a healthy mix of fish species, you might expect us to have similar wish lists.

In an age when existing fisheries change hands regularly and entirely new ones are created, such criteria are more important than ever. But what makes a truly excellent fishery in your eyes?

OWNER’S VIEW: Rich Wilby

“There’s no such thing as the perfect fishery, only the one that suits you!”

Although the manager of four fishing lakes, Rich Wilby views fishery management not just through a business lens, but as an avid angler and wildlife lover. “If you tried to create a lake to please everyone, you’d please no-one!” he says.

“You have to stick to your plans, whether that’s creating a runs water or one with a small head of big fish.”

One thing Rich always insists on, however, is giving space for nature. “I don’t understand single species lakes,” he says.

“Nature is important, and you know you’re doing something right when your venue produces nesting grebes or a 20lb pike.”

Rich admits he’d like to see more variety of venues for the specialist coarse angler, and he’s currently looking at a tench and crucian pool.

“There’s no such thing as the perfect fishery, only the one that suits you and what you enjoy most!” he says. “That could be about the regulars or the setting as much as the fish. My advice would be to find somewhere you love and stick to it, because that special connection and your venue watercraft will grow over many seasons.”

Peace and quiet rate highly on our wish-lists
Peace and quiet rate highly on our wish-lists

FISHERY EXPERT’S VIEW: Viv Shears

“Happy fish feed more and recover better.”

While we all want bites, stocking density and water quality are vital for any fishery. “A natural lake may only have 200lb of fish per acre, but that can be pushed to as high as 1000lb or more in a stocked venue,” says Viv.

“Venues differ, but the priority has to be maintaining the environment so fish are healthy, not just putting more fish in.”

“It can be dangerous to push a habitat above what it can sustain,” he asserts.

“There’s more pressure for big weights these days, but you’d hope anglers would also value nicer habitats and well-conditioned fish.

“Sound fishery management is about being proactive and putting water quality and fish first, rather than just stocking heavily and reacting when issues arise.

“Happy fish with space to grow not only feed more, but recover better after capture.”

Natural cover and features are loved by fish and anglers alike!
Natural cover and features are loved by fish and anglers alike!

Natural balance and features

Even anglers who like convenience appreciate natural cover. Water lilies, reed beds or islands provide features to cast to as well as food and protection for fish.

Space and tranquillity

Well-spaced swims help to avoid stress and conflict, while a zero-tolerance approach to litter and excess noise can help cut out antisocial behaviour.

Good access and parking

Parking is a commodity easily overlooked on natural waters. Well-cut paths and fishable swims are a must, especially for the elderly and less mobile.

Predator–prey balance

Today’s angler understands that pike and perch remove sick or stunted fish and keep numbers of tiddlers in check to maintain a healthy balance.

Clear communication

An active Facebook page or website is a must for most venues. Sensible guidelines around issues like litter and fish care are for everyone’s benefit.

Healthy mixed stocks

It’s important to have plenty of the species anglers desire most. For some of us, the top priority is lots of bites – for others, the demand is for larger fish. In truth, though, a healthy fishery should have a mix of species in all year classes, from fingerlings to specimens. This way fish occupy different niches, while there is resilience against predation and sport for tomorrow as well as today.

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