So....That didn't quite go to plan! Over 12 months since my last blog. I must try harder but if I'm honest I've simply spread myself too thinly for a while so something had to give. Having a baby had a fair amount to do with it and running two businesses whilst trying to find time for everything else it just wasn't happening.
In the last instalment I ended by saying I would talk about the early growth of the carp as they spent their first couple of years in the lake. So, let's make a start!
The first year was pretty simple with regards to the carp's progress. They were clearly all going to start growing at a decent rate as they were all so small and had acres of empty lake to swim around in. In addition to this they were being fed about 25kgs of Coppens carp pellets every week. I was by no means over feeding them but I knew there was plenty of natural food for them to go at as well. 2015 came and went with only visual tabs kept on the fish. I had no interest in trying to catch them yet and besides, when one threw itself out the water they were still small enough to potentially confuse them with a bream! (Don't panic, there aren't actually any bream in the lake!)
So 2016 arrived and with it, the second year of the carp living in the lake. As every month went by I slowly became more and more curious as to how the fish were progressing. I had already had to fight off growing numbers of friends asking to have a fish, as I was adamant that the stock should be left undisturbed to feed without the stress. Well... I made it as far as September 2016 until I caved.
It was a typical long weekend trip with just Dad along for company whilst I went about all my regular fishery maintenance work. This time however, we each got a rod out, and for the first time, father and son sat fishing our own lake without a care in the world. It was a magical feeling and a one off experience of making that first cast and fishing your own place. Dad actually had to wait until the following day to catch one where as I managed three fish that first afternoon.
The first bite we had was from a mirror carp a friend had given me from his pond in central France the year before. It weighed about 4lb in Summer 2015 when I stocked it, and to my astonishment I was now staring down at the same fish fifteen months later at over 21lb, and my very first Brothers Lake carp! Wow, this was not only a shock, but a proverbial carrot. If that one was already a 20 how big were the 20's I stocked!? We moved onto the Dam wall and sat in the sun whilst I fired a single hookbait stack of corn to a load of bubblers. It didn't take long before the rod was rustling through the marsh grass as a super angry common of 24lbs made off up the lake. Two bites, two 20's. I'll take that!
That evening we catapulted out a couple of kilos of boilies and pellets with the intention of fishing the swim the following evening. After another long day of strimming, cutting, pruning and mowing, I was well ready to chill behind a couple of rods and open a cold beer! We didn't have any buzzers. The rods were just laid on the floor or sat in an 'au natural' rod rest! Over the next couple of hours we had no less than six takes, landing five of them. If I remember rightly there was a common of around 20 we slipped straight back, a 20lb mirror, 25lb mirror, 25lb mirror and a common of 29lb 8oz! Now this was mega news. None of these fish were the 20's that were stocked. They weren't even doubles. In fact the 29lb common had only been stocked at 7lbs! We were massively excited and a little taken aback at how quickly these fish had got to this weight as they still hadn't had their first two full years and we were witnessing growth rates in excess of 13lbs per year. Crazy stuff.
To date, the growth of the fish has continued to impress me over the last two years, even though it has understandably slowed a bit. It's now easier to see the growth differences in the different strains. The scaly fish have been doing a steady 3-4lbs per year whilst the Royal strain mirrors have averaged out at about 7lbs per year, which is more sustainable. As the biomass increases along with the need for more food availability, we will see these growth rates reduce.
The fish will soon start to bulk out as their frames stop growing and then I think it's likely that growth rates on the bigger fish will reduce further to perhaps a couple of pounds per year. That's for another time though when I will return to talk more about maintaining the biomass and sustaining healthy growth.