Posted: 13th Dec 2016
Sorry for the lack of updates since the doors closed at the beginning of November but we have been gearing up for the lake drain down. It's been 3 years since we last drained and graded the stock, and we have never left it this length of time before, normally opting to drain every 2 years instead of 3. The whole reason for doing this is to reduce the biomass of the lakes, which in basic terms is to control the number of fish in the lakes. A volume of water can only support so many fish and every lake is different, water depth, lake position, lake bed composition and water inlet all play its roll & these elements all have a huge effect on aquatic life. Adding to the mix is anglers bait which increases the amount of waste produced by the fish which all have an effect on water parameters/quality and that's why we have to strike a balance.......with 10 years under our belt running the fishery we now have a good understanding of its limits. I try to keep the predator population high to reduce too many fry surviving and growing on, every fishery owner has a prefered method and whichever predators you use for this purpose they all have pro's & cons which is an article in itself! With 3 years passing I wanted to push the maximum length of time possible and had a clear idea, this season lots of young tench had survived along with roach & for the very first time young carp from 2014 spawning. The reason for this was the last lake draining was in the winter of 2013, the following year with 95% of the tench removed the water was much clearer in the spring which made way for heavy weed growth, thus allowing the small carp a place to hide and avoid being eaten.......so I was more than ready to tackle the lake this winter.
It's a huge task and with 6 of us on board this year it was well planned out beforehand, so after reducing the lake level by 90% we were ready to start harvesting fish a couple of weekends ago. Two of our regular customers helped out along with family & friends and it was interesting for others to see the process, giving them the chance to appreciate the enormity of the task and see what's in the lake!! The main aim over everything else is the safety of the carp, the business is built around the stock so it's vital to get them out safely and quickly before anything else. Once the carp are removed the next fish are the predators followed by the silver fish and smaller stuff. It seems the Zander have now taken over as the main predator, dominating the other species like Blackbass & Perch.
The first surprise was the number of grasscarp which I had under estitmated with 65+ coming out, ranging from low 20lb to quite a few of mid 40lb+ and 1 stood out over the rest being an absolute beast which I would have put around the 50lb+ mark. I know all the carp in the lake so I'm not going to pretend dozens of uncaught monsters showing up, but plenty of the original older fish all hovering around the 50lb+ mark were present along with far too many 40lb+ fish to count, a stonking common in perfect condition showed up and so many of the younger fish have now grown on into the 30lb+ bracket, it seemed an endless chain of big fish coming out over the two days. Once counted up I removed all but 20 of the biggest grass carp, also 8 carp that had seen better days & stopped growing were removed......we returned 124 carp, 20 grassies taking the total carp stock to 144. I was hoping to reduce the stock futher but with so many fish in perfect condition along with the biomass being reduced with the other species I have decided to keep the stock at this level. I was suprised with how little c3 carp we removed from the 2014 spawning, I thought they may have been a hundred+ but no more than 50 where present. They have all gone into a holding pool until the New Year, I will then go through them and keep the best for the future. The one thing that was really evident was the condition of most of the stock and the mouths of some 40% looked like they had never seen a hook. I kept holding fish up for the boys to see and grabbed a few head-on shots with the camera to show the condition, how so many fish are not getting hooked is mindboggling and it was a real eye opener to say the least!
150 Zander, 2 summers old have been returned along with 25 adults around 3lb. The much larger zander have gone into the 15 acre lake to breed next season and it will prevent them doubles predating on the 2 summer fish which I want to grow on because they will control the smaller stuff very well. I will be returning some big Perch as well but more of that after Christmas. My aim was to remove all the Tench which we did, pumping the remaining water out allowed totally removal of all the fish and the total weight of Tench removed was 200kg, but we did keep 10 adults. 5 Female's & 5 males and they are huge. I would say the largest is around 10lb and holding no spawn, the other 4 females are all around 9lb so when they hold spawn in the spring we could do a 12lb Tench.
The silver fish was a shock, once graded and weighed we have removed 750kg of Roach which is a huge strain on the natural food stocks......so in total 950kg of small stuff has come out along with 600kg+ of grassies/carp, then you have the c3 which will be around another 500kg starts to give you an idea that 2 ton of fish have been removed.They are consuming approximately 60kg of food per day which is a serious amount of natural food if you had to fill 10kg buckets with bloodworm & snails!
Now the work has been done you will see a huge change in the average size of the carp and hopefully we can push them on to the next level. Most of the older fish have peaked around the 49-55lb weight depending on the time of the year so I'm hoping they will gain a few extra lbs along with the stunning young fish that are going to be the real show stoppers in the next 2 seasons. We have worked hard on the future bloodlines and I honestly feel the best is just about to happen this coming year and the 2018.....watch this space!
So the lake is now only 12" from the top again, the back bank has all been bladed with the big digger along with all the trees and bushes around the lake having recieved a good trim, cutting back anything underwater level & removing the dead trees.
It's been a great success all round and could not have been achieved without the help of the group, so much lifting and carrying is not for the faint hearted but it will make all the difference next season!
Keep your eye on the Fb page for more regular updates, plenty to come and I'm hoping to put a video together from the footage we managed to grab after Christmas.
We wish all new & old customers a Very Happy Christmas, enjoy yourselves and roll on Spring when the doors will open once more and a new season lies ahead.
Thanks to everyone for showing their support, we could not have continued to keep going without your regular support and we look forward to the catch-ups next year.
Take care, stay happy & healthy
Team Sanctuary Fishery