HUGE WEIGHTS ‘A STEP TOO FAR’

Westwood Lakes boss is con­sid­er­ing rad­i­cal rule change

Angling Times (UK) - - NEWS - TONY GRIGORJEVS Se­nior re­porter

THE owner of one of the UK’s top com­mer­cial fisheries may well ban a pop­u­lar bag­ging tac­tic to re­duce catches af­ter weights sky-rock­eted.

Count­less colos­sal hauls have been landed this sum­mer, in­clud­ing the big­gest-ever match haul last week by an an­gler who took 1514lb in six hours from Ar­ran’s Lake.

The huge Es­sex catch has di­vided opin­ion, with many an­glers and fish­ery own­ers claim­ing that match weights have spi­ralled out of con­trol.

Lin­colnshire’s Westwood Lakes has seen records fall many times since wa­ter tem­per­a­tures reached sum­mer lev­els, but while many are ex­cited at the red hot form, boss Alan Cou­p­land is less than im­pressed.

In a bid to bring weights more in line with his ex­pec­ta­tions he is now toy­ing with the idea of ban­ning the pro­lific big-weight tac­tic known as ‘slap­ping’.

He told An­gling Times: “I’d al­ways liked the idea of hav­ing a fish­ery where maybe 170lb could be seen as a great weight, but we’ve reached the point where 300lb catches are be­com­ing fairly com­mon – in my book that’s go­ing too far.

“My rule is that match an­glers must split their catch be­tween three nets, and while that is be­ing abided by, I’m end­ing up with up to 100lb of fish in each keep­net. I don’t like that.

“Most of the big weights are taken by an­glers who slap the wa­ter with their pole rigs to im­i­tate bait be­ing fed. While it is ex­tremely ef­fec­tive, I could well ban it in the fu­ture as it’s play­ing a big part in these huge weights we are see­ing.

“Some an­glers might look else­where if I did bring a ban in, and they are en­ti­tled to do that, but I have to think about the wel­fare of my fish stocks. Cur­rent weights are not what I en­vis­aged at Westwood Lakes.”

If the ban on slap­ping is im­posed, Westwood will join a grow­ing list of fisheries that have taken the same stance. North York­shire’s Wood­lands Lakes in­tro­duced the re­stric­tion last year, and boss Craig Kent has no re­grets. He said: “Peo­ple were catch­ing 200lb on just their hookbait, and that pre­sented a

num­ber of prob­lems.

“First, the fish weren’t get­ting fed, which wouldn’t have done them any good. Sec­ond, a lot of skill was re­moved from catch­ing big weights. Take away the need to feed and putting to­gether a big weight be­comes a lot eas­ier.

“My at­ten­dances are now big­ger than ever and that just goes to show I was right to ban the tac­tic.”

Fur­ther south in Mil­ton Keynes, Alders Farm of­fi­cials ex­pe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar co­nun­drum last year af­ter weights rose over 500lb.

In a bid to draw back an­glers who had looked else­where due to the ease of sport, thou­sands of pounds of carp were re­moved to make the fish­ing more chal­leng­ing. Owner Lewis Monk be­lieves the ac­tion has had the de­sired ef­fect.

“Soon af­ter tak­ing over in Oc­to­ber 2014, we re­alised that the match weights had got com­pletely out of con­trol,” ex­plained Lewis.

“When we de­cided to net the lakes we did get a few neg­a­tive com­ments – how­ever, we felt con­fi­dent we had done the best thing for the fish­ery and the an­glers.

“We now av­er­age win­ning sum­mer weights around 200lb, which has at­tracted far more an­glers back to Alders, and we cer­tainly have no re­grets about the ac­tion we took.”

Are match weights soar­ing out of con­trol?

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