If you want to catch bigger fish, my best advice would be to give the fish in your lake a little treat now and then, as nothing does the fish more good that a constant supply of good quality bait. Whilst they will get lots of nutritional benefit from many natural food items they come across in their day to day meandering, the benefits they’ll get from an extra supply of good quality bait are immense.
As with all things in angling, etiquette is key, and I’m not suggesting you suddenly tip in five kilos of bait when packing up whilst other anglers are on the lake, but when you can, give them a little treat.
The benefits are twofold. Firstly, if you’re putting a bit of bait out to spots on a regular basis without hookbaits, it will give fish confidence to feed over the spots, but secondly, it will benefit the health, weight and longevity of the fish.
Too many people see bait as a few freebies around the rig put out when you’re actually fishing, and only when you’re fishing, but you have to remember that if you want to see them grow, then there’s a good chance they are going to need more sustenance than they are currently getting from their immediate environment.
For many years, fishing other people's waters and my own, I’ve always treated the carp I’m fishing for. Again, there are two reasons for this; foremost is a genuine want to do the fish some good, and secondly I don’t like to keep thawing and refreezing my fishing bait, preferring to use fresh each time out, so usually I’ll take a good amount with me to easily cover the session – and none comes home. At the end of the session, whatever is left will get put into the lake, usually to spots I like to fish to. If there are others anglers on, I’ll take it home but will keep it separate, and then take it to treat them next time I’m passing.
I know there will be those who frown as they might be the ones to turn up and fish afterwards, but I’m not talking about putting kilo upon kilo on every spot – just a kilo or so spread about a few spots every time I fish. The bottom line is that many anglers would be astonished if they saw just how much feed a few hungry carp cut put away in a matter of minutes if they are feeding hard. As a fishery manager, I witness it on a regular basis, and it’s one of the most spectacular sights you’ll see – and once you have witnessed it, you’ll never think about baiting in quite the same way again!
What you also have to remember is that the bigger the fish get, the more they eat. Most proactive fishery managers work on the basis that the fish need to be eating 2% of their body weight per day to attain their full potential – and if they are not getting this then quite simply they won’t grow! If your lake is absolutely rammed full of natural food, then fine, but if it’s not, then it never hurts to give them a bit of a treat!
In truth, I can’t be doing with stingy anglers – those who put out ten baits and leave it with them, and the rest gets tucked away and taken back home. I remember having a right do at a fishing meeting once where most of them on the water fished like this all the time. Normally, I’d say nothing, but a load of them started moaning about the growth rates of some carp we’d stocked, despite the fact they never gave them any any extra feed - they had both barrels!
You’ll only get out what you put in. I left the water soon after to start setting up my own waters, where the fish have had proper feed and all the anglers fishing for them all do their bit to treat the fish – they have the right mind-set and understand it’s totally in their own interests to feed the fish well.
The water I left stocked their fish in summer 2007 at three years old. I stocked three year old fish from the same supplier in summer 2010, and this summer my own fish will overtake theirs in terms of weight – despite the fact that mine are three years younger! It’s all down to the amount of quality feed they’ve had – much of it the treats they’ve had off the members!
A typical example is the Priory mirror pictured below, stocked at 4lb in 2010, caught at 8lb summer 2011, and then caught at 12lb in summer 2012, so averaging a steady 4lb a year growth - compared to the other water where after being in for five years they’ve averaged about 1.5lb a year growth, simply because nobody ever gave them any feed!
Quality bait does not come cheap, I know, but as the example shows, every little helps!