Monday, 10 August 2015

ACA Fish-in - Hinderclay, Suffolk

The most recent Association of Crucian Anglers fish-in took place at Hinderclay lakes in Suffolk. The fishery is more known for it's match fishing then it's crucian fishing but is gaining a reputation for producing big catches of crucians. It's not unusual to have in excess of 20-30 in a day session with most fish being in the 1-2lb range. Plus the odd bigger 2lber. The lake we would be angling on was Spring lake. The largest on the complex. Stuart, the owner of the venue kindly reserved the whole of the deep water bank for the fish-in. There were 7 members fishing so this gave us plenty of choice. There were classic crucian swims all along the bank with Lillie’s, overhanging trees and reed lined margins.

  It did not take long for the swim choices to be made. Robert Turrell was just fishing for the day so he made the most of his time and the first crucian was swiftly landed. It did not take long for the news to filter down the lake of the first capture. There was a steady trickle of crucians coming out over the morning and into the afternoon. The crucian fishing was not as fast paced as expected but the Bream were keeping us busy in between the crucian bites! Kevin Sanders had some fun with a rather large Carp that stripped the line from his centre pin at an alarming rate! Unfortunately this did not end well and the fish found it's way to the other side of the lake and shed the hook! Not long after this though Kevin put the net under a 2lb crucian. Most of the lads had caught a few crucians by the time mid afternoon came around.


Chris Netto was not setting his stall out completely for crucians and had a ledger out for the Perch. Commercial waters like this often produce big Perch. He had been getting constant bites using prawns as hook baits but up to now only small Perch were falling to his rod. One fish coughed up a small Roach so the Perch were feeding well. As the evening was drawing ever closer there was the hope a bigger fish may come along. Alas the bigger fish stayed a mystery so maybe it would be worth a go for them come the Autumn?

By mid afternoon everyone was pretty hungry. Our hunger was postponed for a while as earlier Robert Turrell made a trip to the local shop and bought ice cream for everyone. It was much appreciated as the sun was shining all day! Good for the tan but not for the fishing! We all gathered around the bbq and tucked into the burgers and sausages (not so much the salad). We had a good feed and a good chin wag about all things fishy before getting back to our swims and settling for the night.
Evening fell and it was getting increasingly difficult to see the float. Kevin dropped a method feeder in the margin and within a few minutes had a take that turned out to be a Cucian of 1lb 8oz. A few of the guys came equipped to float fish through the night and had several crucians between them. Others elected to get some sleep and make an early start the following morning.

The 2nd day continued in the same fashion as the 1st with a steady trickle of crucians falling to float tactics. Luncheon meat and pellet paste seemed to catch well. Chris Turnbull ended up with around ten crucians to 2lb 4oz and most of the lads had 4-8 crucians each. While nowhere near as prolific as it can be we still managed to net around 40 between 7 of us. Not forgetting the ravenous bream!

Chris Turnbull decided to return the next day for a follow up day session. He went on to catch as many on a day session as he did during the whole of the fish-in! 

If you can make it to Hinderclay you may be in for one of the big catches it is getting a reputation for. It will be well worth the trip!

Kevin Sanders

Thursday, 23 July 2015

New PB - Angling Trust's Martin Salter

Angling Trust's Martin Salter took time out this week to have a session at Johnson's and he's glad he did because he broke his crucian PB of 2lb 12oz twice!

First was a cracking 2lb 13oz specimen and then this superb 3lb 2oz.

Martin also saw the great work done being done on crucian preservation by the NCCP and EA Calverton fishery where some of the first NCCP growing on crucians were stocking into the Godalming Angling Society lake.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Crucian Crusade

Not so very long ago crucians could be found in almost every pond throughout much of England. However, a lot can change in a short space of time and now their numbers are in a steep decline. Unless we take strong action to halt this, they will soon disappear from the few waters they still exist in.

While I’d always believed that crucians are indigenous to the UK, DNA testing undertaken at Hull University suggests that they have probably only been in the country for between 500 to 600 years. It is possible they were introduced as an ornamental species but in this relatively short space of time, this beautiful little fish managed to assert such a position in our affections that it has become as quintessentially English as cricket on the village green. Almost every English angler over the age of 40 or 50 will have fond memories of catching crucians from idyllic lakes and ponds in many parts of England in his or her childhood. Yet, today, most younger anglers struggle to recognise a true crucian as is evident by the number of photographs of brown goldfish posted on social media sites that have been mistakenly identified as crucians.

There are various factors leading to the demise of crucians. They are a hardy little fish that can thrive in farm ponds that present poorly oxygenated conditions that would defeat most other species. Back in the days when anglers freely moved fish from one water to another, these little ponds provided a major source of small crucians to stock into larger fishing lakes. But today most of our ponds have fallen into neglect, becoming overgrown with trees and ended up so stagnant that they cannot support fish. Others have dried up in drought weather conditions, been ploughed over or backfilled for land development.

Secondly, and something that anglers alone must take the blame for, is the relentless stocking of king carp into every drop of available water. Unfortunately for true crucians, their sexual habits may be a bit louche. They will happily interbreed with other species of carp to the extent that they crossbreed themselves out of existence. While there are a few waters where crucians and king carp populations manage to coexist, these are vastly outnumbered by the number of waters where crucians have disappeared altogether.

A third reason for their decline has been their crossbreeding with the brown goldfish Carassius auratus, the presence of which can mostly be directly attributed to dodgy fish farms passing off brown goldfish as true crucians to unsuspecting fisheries. To the untrained eye, brown goldfish and crucians can look remarkably similar. In crucian waters that are stocked with goldfish, the fate of the crucians is doomed!

If the situation is bad in England, in mainland Europe they’re really up against it due to the presence of a foreign invader called the gibel or Prussian carp Carassius gibelio. Gibel carp are a crucian’s nightmare. They look similar to crucians and will happily jump into bed with them. This liaison is proving the kiss of death to European crucians. We should be extremely grateful that, for the moment at least, we do not have gibel carp in the UK. One look at the German top 50 crucian list reveals that all but two of these fish are some form of hybrid. This underlines the importance of conserving what is left of our crucians in England, for it may well be their last European stronghold. However, not only do we need to preserve the few crucian waters we have, we also need to start creating bespoke crucian fisheries to help take the strain (and the pure strain at that, pardon the pun).

One doesn’t need to look far back in angling history to find angling writers undervaluing crucians by referring to them as being “jolly little fellows” or suchlike, as if they were some kind of comical lesser species compared to king carp. Of course specimen carp fishing was in its infancy in those days, with king carp waters still few and far between. Since then, however, specimen, pleasure and match fishing for carp has taken over angling, with stocking more and more king carp becoming angling’s answer to just about everything. In the process we have tragically overlooked the fact that biggest does not necessarily equate to being best. Fishing for crucians has a charm and magic entirely of its own, but as the saying goes, “You never miss your water until your well runs dry!”

Last but not least, crucians are extremely vulnerable to being predated upon. Ask any hard-bitten pike angler of old and they will confirm what good live baits crucians were, back in the days when there were plenty of ponds to plunder. Whatever it is that makes them so attractive to predators, it isn’t unusual to see entire stocks of them slowly disappear due to predation by pike. We often find waters where a few adult crucians reach specimen proportions, before dying out altogether. Forward thinking fisheries can get around this problem by creating a crucian nursery pond containing no other species. In these nursery ponds they can be left to breed as prolifically as only crucians can, before being cropped and transferred into the main fishery once big enough to stand a chance against predators. Incredibly, crucians can actually change their body shape over time as a defence mechanism, by growing a higher back to present a more awkward mouthful for predators to swallow. Crucians found in Scandinavia and parts of the Baltic Sea often exhibit exceptionally high backs for this reason.

On the 28th May 2014 the National Crucian Conservation Project (NCCP) was officially launched at the Angling Trust’s Coarse Fish Conference in Reading. Since then, the project has moved forward at great pace. Its objectives include the creation of a regional network of growing-on centres to increase the availability of crucians large enough to withstand predation when stocked into new waters. The creation of a ‘pure’ crucian accreditation scheme that fisheries and fish farms can apply to be part of is also envisaged. A crucian ID guide is being published, alongside fact-sheets on creating and managing crucian waters. Eventually courses and events will be run for fishery owners and managers. The angling community has responded enthusiastically, with a growing number of crucian fishery projects being started throughout the country .

To compliment the NCCP — and with social media being such an important method of networking in these digital times— the Association of Crucian Anglers (ACA) was set up as a Facebook Group. The aim of the ACA is to provide a means for anglers and fisheries to support the NCCP at a ground roots level. It is a closed group, where membership is either by invitation or has to be applied for. This protects the group from being swamped (and watered down) by serial Facebook group joiners with only a limited interest in crucians. But the door is wide open to anyone that wants to get involved. In 2014 the group held its first fish-ins at various waters in order to assess the condition of their crucian stocks, and this will continue. The group also set about putting together a directory of crucian waters. This quickly grew into a long list which at first glance gave the impression that crucians are still widespread but many of these fisheries turned out to be anything but true crucian waters, with the double threat of brown goldfish and king carp especially prevalent. Of course there may be true crucians in some of these waters but being crowded out by hybrids and goldfish they have are unlikely to thrive and breed.

More than anything else, the joint efforts of the NCCP and ACA has succeeded in identifying the huge affection many anglers have for crucians. Hopefully now we can now harness that affection and get it working on building a brighter future for the species. Who knows, eventually we might even start returning angling to a place where youngsters can once again discover the joys of catching beautiful crucians on the float in the margins, rather than their first steps in angling being spent behind matching rods and bolt-rigs without ever learning the basic skills!

Chris Turnbull ACA. NCCP

Monday, 29 June 2015

Creating Record Breaking Crucian Fisheries - Angling Trust

The National Crucian Conservation Project (NCCP) have produced a second video aimed at encouraging angling clubs and fishery owners to create crucian friendly waters in order to protect the species and encourage anglers to take up fishing for this delightful species.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

My Crucian Carp Rigs & Methods – Paul Hiom

Crucians are one of my favourite fish, they have that wow factor and can almost certainly be counted as one of the very few cute and cuddly of our indigenous fish. I have a fondness for them that can only be described as “a bit worrying,” but for me a little plump bar of gold can bring out a smile in me that is markedly different from the smiles I get with other fish captures. They are plain and simple, very lovely fish to catch, handle gently for a very short while, admire and release. The fight can only really be regarded as interesting, as they will not give you a screaming reel churner, but they will entertain with their “shall I go this way, no I’ll go that way, no I think I’ll roll over and tail slap my thigh,” attempts at freedom. I like them a lot!

Everyone has their favourite rigs, presentations and variations on popular themes, when it comes to specialist fishing. When targeting crucians, I think of not one, but several fish feeding in quite small areas, maybe no bigger than a dinner plate. My rigs and float fishing especially therefore, are as precise as I can make them allowing for the fact that not every cast I make will be bang on the money. I try to keep my hook baits in that feeding spot or as close to those tight free offerings as possible.
With a float, when fishing close to lilies and marginal reeds, it is easier to fish with precision, but when casting a feeder, it will, even with the utmost care land slightly off target. The object with the use of a feeder is of course to get a compact area of food close to the hook bait, so in effect we are achieving what we set out to do and perhaps do not need to worry so much about precision when feeder fishing. If we work on the principle that crucians may be feeding in the area of free offerings deposited by the last feeder, we can assume that they will find the next feeder full, without too much trouble. The only question we may need to ask ourselves from time to time is; “ will the feeder, dropping through the water column, spook the feeding shoal,”? My experience is that it will not, especially not in deeper water and providing you are not using a large feeder and take some care feathering the cast to avoid a big splash.

When crucians are feeding in small areas and in close proximity of each other, I do not believe they move very far at all when picking up items of food.  I will therefore try to get away with the shortest hook lengths when using a feeder. This can have drawbacks, as the shorter the hook length, the less stretch available to help take the strain of hooked fish. Very fine hi tech co polymer lines, say under 0.11mm, will not cope well with fighting fish and are prone to snap if they are too short. If I do use a fine line I will stick to 0.11mm and above and ensure the hook length is no shorter than 6”. The other problem I have encountered with short fine hook lengths, is when using maggot on the hook, they can crawl back into the feeder. It has happened to me on too many occasions to write it off as unlikely to happen again. In fact the last crucian I caught from Harris Lake, Marsh Farm, took a couple of maggots that crawled in and back out of the maggot feeder, with the hook length trailing through two of the holes of the feeder.  So far, it hasn’t caused any major problems, but it does knock my confidence if I haven’t had a touch for a while. It is best therefore to re-cast with some frequency, just to make sure you have a hook bait available to any interested fish.
As far as feeder methods go, I tend to use either a very small 25g ground bait method feeder or a 12g Drennan feeder bomb, which I allow to run freely on a 6lb fluorocarbon leader of around 1 metre. I tie the leader to 5lb Preston reflo power max mainline using a leader knot, which is small enough to allow the method feeder or feeder bomb to pass over it.  Above the knot, I will often place a small rig bead and a running back lead to pin everything to the bottom of the lake. This keeps everything free running, with no chance of a fish dragging any fixed weights should the line part. With the method feeder, I will use a 2-4 inch braided hook length and with the feeder bomb, I will use a 6-8 inch 0.11mm to .013mm Preston reflo power line hook length.

In muddy water, you can do away with the flouro leader and replace the leader knot with a mono or co polymer knot tied 1 metre above the feeder, as long as the feeders can slide over the knot, it is still a safe method. With braided hook lengths, for hair rigs, 8mm pellets and 8mm boilies etc,  I will use a Drennan specimen hook in size 14. With hi tech lines, when using maggot with the feeder bomb, I use a Drennan specialist wide gape in size 18.  The above methods can be fished with light bobbins or with a light quiver tip. 

I find that most traditional leger rods are unsuitable for crucian as they are too stiff or powerful. I prefer to use a pair of 11ft pellet waggler rods with a soft tip and through action, the same rods that I use when targeting big perch. In spite of claims to the contrary, there are very few if any rods in the marketplace that cater for small specimens and I hope this will change over the coming years as we see a return to the popularity of targeting small specimen fish.
When float fishing, I will try to get away with the lightest hi tech line that I can, usually fishing with a 0.9mm or 0.10mm hook length of around 12-18 inches tied with loop knots to the mainline. I use a fine tip Drennan still water blue or the more recent Drennan glow tip antenna floats. These are very light and sensitive and will detect the most delicate of bites. 
My preference when feeding is to avoid a catapult unless it is absolutely necessary, especially when using red maggot, as they will create a larger feeding area and they will also attract tench into the swim, that I am trying to avoid. Small pellets and caster seem slightly easier to feed and tend to stay in a tighter area. A bait dropper then, is my preferred choice for getting bait on the deck and for topping up the swim from time to time.
When fishing with maggot or caster, I like to fish the bulk of the weight near the float and dot the rest down to within a few inches of the hook. This helps get the bait down quickly onto the deck and helps avoid roach and rudd muscling in on the hook bait. I prefer to spend a bit of time with the plummet, getting the tip to show around 5mm above surface and to ensure that the bait is fished dead depth.  The float will either dip or lift depending upon how the crucian suck in the hook bait. It goes without saying that crucian bites can be frustrating. A friend refers to them as excruciating carp and he does have a point as they can have you pulling your hair out. But stick with it and you will naturally become accustomed to learning the best times is to strike.

 One of my favourite methods when using the float is fishing large lumps of very soft paste, which when fishing at dead depth, you can use to cock your float without any shot. The paste sinks slowly to the bottom, cocks the float and will stay put long enough until bits of paste are nibbled off by the crucian. The float will bob and dip for some time and when the paste bait is small enough, the crucians will engulf it and give you a very positive bite to hit. Occasionally they will nibble the paste down to the enth degree and the float will just lift up and lay flat on the surface. This is because all the paste has been nibbled off the hook and what’s left has softened or disintegrated from the hook. Time to try again with another lump of paste!

It is always best to fish for any fish in the knowledge that you can protect it from damage when removing hooks, retaining it in the net and taking photographs. Crucians can withstand a lack of oxygen better than most other species, but they do still need looking after on the bank. Use an unhooking mat at all times and try to get the fish back in the water as quickly as possible. The pleasure in crucian fishing from the dipping of the float to the returning of your fish is in the realisation that you were treated to a special moment with a special fish, that you ensured its safety whilst in your company and gently sent it packing to rejoin its gang on the bottom of the lake.

Happy Crucian Fishing! 

Paul Hiom ACA

Friday, 12 June 2015

Crucian British Record

The British Crucian record have been broken, twice within a month and then equaled by another capture.

Check out the Angling Trust news story here Crucian record

ACA's Kevin Sanders - Grand Day Out

Well crucian fever is in full swing, even with the inclement weather we have in the east, but that did stop Kevin Sanders on a recent day out.

Check out his latest blog entry. Enjoy!

 Grand Day Out - Kevin Sanders

Friday, 5 June 2015