The capture of a Mirror Carp from a British water, weighing a potential record breaking 70lb 4oz is causing a huge row among those in the Carp fishing world and UK angling in general.
Nobody is doubting the weight of the fish, the place of capture or the fact that the fish was caught legally on rod and line.
What they are in uproar about is the historic heritage of the fish in question!
On Monday 19th September, British angler Tom Doherty, hooked and landed a 70lb 40z Mirror Carp, nicknamed “Bog Rig” from Rob Hales’ The Avenue Fishery in Shifnal, Shropshire. The fish was caught legally, on rod and line using a boilie, fished at around 60 yards.
The Controversy surrounding the fish is to do with how the fish was “hand reared” to record proportions, until it was released into the lake a short while ago.
According to fishery owner Mr Hales, the carp was originally reared in France, until it was bought and transferred over to the UK, then weighing around 39lb. It was then subject to a 3 year “growing project”, in a professional fish rearing environment, before being released into the lake.
By his own admission, Mr Hales has told a number of newspapers that he intentionally set out to grow Britain’s largest ever carp “as a sense of achievement”.
It is thought that the fish had been released into the lake, just weeks before the capture, at what would have already been a record weight. It’s slightly unclear as to what the exact weight of the fish was when it was put into the lake, due to conflicting stories but according to the Sun Newspaper, it may have been “slightly bigger” when put into the lake 7 or 8 weeks prior to the capture.
Mr Hale’s argument is that many record fish have first started life in a “rearing” environment, many of these overseas. However he maintains that the fish has been in the UK for 3 years, which should class it as what he calls a “bona fide” British record.
Others in the Angling community are in complete disagreement stating that the fish had been hand reared, in an unnatural environment and has not achieved this weight in the venue at which it was caught. They also claim that the “project” has been nothing more than a stunt to publicise the “invitation only” fishery and that a “true carp angler” would never consider even applying to get this fish a genuine “British Record”status.
Before I give my full opinion on this, I’d just like to say that everybody is entitled to their own say on this matter but directing any anger or frustration, directly at the angler involved (apparently he has received death threats), isn’t something I’d agree with. I’d prefer to open this debate up to the bigger picture. In other words… “Is this really what we want to see as the future of Carp fishing in Britain?”
Animal and fish breeding has changed to much in the last 20 or so years. Advances in science, nutrition, straining and breeding mean that growing a carp to over 70lb, in a completely “hand reared” environment, although expensive, is not actually very difficult.
It may be that a small amount of acknowledgement should be given to the fact that this fish did spend the last 3 years of it’s life in the UK, where it grew to such a weight but if this was in a false temperature, false diet and an altogether alien environment to where it ended up being caught, this surely cannot be classed as a true British Record capture.
Growing a fish and then plopping it into a pond to be caught, doesn’t really constitute the skill, determination, long hours and hard work that should typically go into catching a record fish. Worse than that but if the fish had been reared on a particular food source, flavour, shape or size of food, well it would be possible to emulate that food and make the capture of that fish, pretty easy.
I remember many years ago, a couple of canny trout anglers were tying flies in the shape of pellets, aware of what food the trout were being fed on before being released. A big rainbow was released into the venue and caught pretty easily, and again, this caused a certain amount of uproar.
I’m not suggesting the fishery owner “tipped” anybody off on what “might” be the best bait to use but because the fish had been hand reared, it was probably more likely to lose weight over the course of the first year, than continue to gain it. When Dick Walker decided not to kill the famous “Clarissa”, the British Record 44LB carp way back in 1952, it was transported, alive to London Zoo, where it’s weight was verified. However, out of the environment of the famous Redmire Pool, the fish soon started to lose weight and quickly dropped to “30 something” pounds.
It would therefore stand to reason that a fish, which probably didn’t need to put much effort into obtaining food, in an unnatural environment, would have to use up more energy and might struggle to obtain that weight in a new place. This is one of my big concerns.
If this record was allowed to stand, and I personally don’t think it will, it would set a precedence for a few different things that could happen in the UK Carp fishing world.
Firstly, encouraging the unnatural growth of fish and possibly causing harm to its welfare by trying to get it to pile on weight in the shorted possible time.
Secondly, the possible use of drugs or alien substances, to maximise the growth rate.
Thirdly, the need to encourage a quick capture, in order that the fish be caught at the right weight. This may even go as far as to releasing it at a certain time of year.
There would be no point spending money on a fish to grow it to 70lb, only for it not to be caught for 4 years at 63lb or less. So the incentive for a quick capture, is definitely there. Not only that but it could even go down to “who caught it” and “what bait it was caught on” and even the rig or hook.
It might sound a little far fetched and I am not saying any of this has taken place in this case but if you had an ambitious consortium of sponsors, who managed to get a record fish, placed into a venue and caught by the angler of their choice, it could be commercially lucrative for all.
We already know that some of the big fish venues abroad, spend a lot of time and money working with “known” anglers and bait companies, to gain publicity by using their names, baits and angling stars. It already happens over here too. I’m pretty sure some well known venues don’t charge the likes of Korda, to turn up on their banks and fish. They’d be happy to have them there.
Nothing wrong with allowing reputable anglers to fish your waters for free. It’s good publicity but as I mentioned above, a fish like “Big Rig”, if accepted, could lead to less scrupulous forms of publicity.
I don’t know Rob Hales and have no direct contact with Tom Doherty. I have absolutely nothing against them and Mr Hales seems to have been pretty honest surrounding the history of the fish. I’d be interested to hear what it weighs the next time it comes out but that might not be publicised so heavily.
Personally, had I caught that fish, I wouldn’t even dream of trying to get it to dupe it’s way into the record books. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have even fished for it in the first place. I don’t blame anglers for wanting to catch big fish, it’s part of the sport but not in this way.
If this fish is allowed to stand as a genuine record, it will open the floodgates for similar captures from now until the end of time. We’d soon have 100lb fish and the arguments would continue and possibly cause a real divide within the sport.
It’s a bit like the American businessman who flies over to Africa, hands over a pile of cash and is then driven to within about 30 feet of a huge, game reserve reared lion. He then shoots the loin and claims to me a hunter!
I’d hate to live in a country where “super” carp were being bred, thrown into tiny lakes and caught within days of release, just for the bragging rights and trophy shots. It’s not fishing.
It would be nice if Tom Doherty had a 2nd thought about applying for a British Record. That would for me be the perfect answer to this argument. I think it would also demonstrate his acknowledgement that the capture of this fish was “no marvel in British Carp fishing history”.
Whatever the outcome, I think British Record (rod caught) Fish Committee may need to look at setting some very clear guidelines as to what will in the future, constitute a genuine British Record Carp