Acquiring the "Etangs de la Croix Blanche" I must admit, was a huge stroke of good fortune. I had been toying with the idea of my own waters for some time. I had had enough of the rat race Paris had become. But dreaming of such a project and turning it in to reality, however, are two very different things. Then through a casual chat with a fellow journalist, I let slip my ideas. A colleague told me of his cousin who was selling his lakes. The place, then, just landed in my lap.
Immediately, I saw the venue and realised that this was it. It was as though somebody had gone about creating a carp fishery, but had given up before the project came to fruition.
My second stroke of luck was that the waters already held a head of carp with numerous thirties and a few fish over the magic 40lb mark. These specimens, many of which I was fortunate to catch in the first year's fishing, were a real bonus. The general stock level, though, was too low to put up with sustained angling pressure.
The common mind of a carp population soon cottons on to rigs and baits. Fish that had never been caught before once they had succumbed a couple of times became very hard to tempt and takes started to dry up. Early in the year I was getting at least one run in a 24 hour period. By the end of the autumn fish were very hard to come by. Curiously enough certain fish that I was able to observe never got caught, during this first summer, but could be seen regularly with other carp that had graced our nets 2 or even 3 times.
The next step then, was to add fish to supplement the current stock of originals. I therefore set about trying to find some good sized carp from reputable sources to restock the lakes. Only a few of the reputable fish farmers regularly had lots of stock fish of a good stamp for sale. These, despite their inflated price tag, had numerous buyers and I was pretty much forced to pay the going rate for fish. After a number of years in France and with a few well placed contacts I was able to obtain what I was looking for.
The very first load I went of to pick up in my old and pretty tired Renault van. These consisted of seven commons up to 29 pounds and 3 mirrors to 28 pounds. I trundle my load about 100kgs back up the autoroute the suspension bottoming out and the clutch slipping all the way. But I had a nice group of fish that were all in good condition and swam off strongly, when they were released into the Tortue lake.
In the meantime, I was given permission to fish and remove the large carp from a small gravelpit behind my own waters. Here I was lucky enough to capture four super carp, mirrors of 25 & 31 pounds and commons of 17 & 32 pounds, the later was one of the best conditioned carp I've ever had the pleasure to catch, scale perfect.
The second load of stockies, came following a phone call early on a cold November morning. "Hello Mr Watkins - the first load of carp are ready, we'll be at your lakes at around 2pm." So with a chilling easterly wind blowing, a large lorry with tanks aboard turned up at the waters. The task of netting out and weighing the fish before releasing them into their new environment, was undertaken.?In all around 32 fish were stocked for a total weight of 300kgs. The best fish went over 25 pounds, with the others from 15 to 24 pounds. Sixteen fish were put into the Croix Blanche and sixteen in the Tortue. At the end of it I was tired and wet through, but very content with my purchase. They all swam off well. The majority were short fat mirrors with huge humps on the shoulders, strong chubby fish, the sort that pack on the weight very quickly. The rest were dark, golden commons, super fish up to about 24 pounds.
For the next load, I had decided to sleep at the waters, in the chalet, as the fish farmer told me he would be arriving at 7am. True to his word, before daybreak I was woken by his headlights.
This load of fish contained about 10 grass carp, which were stocked into the Tortue. I was a bit concerned about these delicate fish, which are living torpedoes when out of the water. They thrashed around as we tried to calm them down and avoid any further stress. They really don't like to be transported or manipulated. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they all survive okay. Their introduction was really a bit of an experiment to see how they coped with the weed in this water. Towards the end of August this year it got quite prolific. Fishing was still possible, but I don't want the weed situation to get out of hand.
The rest of the fish were quite long, dark mirrors with deep orange/brown flanks and the odd common all in super condition. Around 60 fish were stocked weighing between 15-24 pounds each. Half went into the Croix Blanche and half into the Tortue. (We also stocked a load of crucian carp as fodder for the catfish, pity as they are lovely looking fish.)
I don’t know why the fish farmers always want to turn up so early, but for the second time the guy wanted to arrive at the crack of dawn. Once again I slept at the lakes so as to be there on his arrival. Well he arrived late, which suited me, as it was now late enough to take some pictures. This time I took delivery of 11 giant catfish. Absolutely monstrous things from 40-55 pounds. I know the Saone and Ebro has much much bigger ones, but this was the biggest freshwater fish I had ever set eyes on out of the water. These fish were in absolutely excellent condition, and didn't seem to have suffered in the slightest from their trip. The total number of catfish should be around 50-60 by next year with weights starting around the 25 pounds mark up to the 55 pounds giant stocked this week. I think we’ll all have fun trying to catch them next year.
The total for this first phase of the restocking programme had resulted in 108 carp to 32lb being released, split between the 2 main lakes 10 Grass carp and 11 large catfish.
To be continued.........
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