Correspondence 2012

Contributions may be sent to Peter Rolfe.


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30th August 2012

Matt Smith's email from North Yorkshire goes to show how even a big population of crucians can go undetected:

Hello Peter,

Being a bit slow to catch onto how great crucians are I only discovered your website the other day and I'm really enjoying going through it. Some of the bits you say on there really give me hope that the crucians I put into a friend's farm pond three or four years ago are still likely to be in there.

As a bit of background, the pond is less than acre, generally shallow though there are areas that go down to five feet. It is mature and surrounded by trees and as far as we're aware contained no fish before we put approximately 500-600 first year crucians in. I left the pond completely alone until this summer, even now I've only had three short evening sessions fishing it. The thing is I haven't had a bite or seen what I could definitely say was a fish top.

The water was tested by the EA before they supplied the fish from Calverton, and it was obviously fine in that department. The pond, being near the house, doesn't attract cormorants.

Now there is every chance it is down to my ineptitude being a complete crucian novice, though I managed a dozen at my first attempt at fishing for them at a venue other than my pond. It's really the lack of signs of activity that is leading me to worry that they have perished for some reason. What do you think? Any advice would be appreciated. I guess seine netting the place would show whether the fish remained but resources would be an issue. Is the fact that there were no fish already present in a pond that is decades old a cause for concern?

Any pointers would be more than welcomed. In the meantime I'll just keep fishing it.

Best wishes,

Matt

Matt, hi.

You could try a trap - I started with an adapted old Ali Baba linen basket. You might catch a few in that way. As for angling, sometimes crucians will prefer to feed at night and only at the very last hour or two of daylight will they top in any numbers. If the water quality was ok and there are invertebrates, snails and things in the mud and weed then there's no reason why your crucians shouldn't still be there - except that there would probably be some mortality among the very young fish. Crucian young are quite "soft" and vulnerable to damage and shock from water T changes, etc. How long were they when you put them in, Matt - and are there any signs of insect life, etc., in the pond? If the fish were 3" + when you stocked them, they'd probably be second year fish, with a good chance of survival.

Best wishes

Peter

Peter, hi again

I'm hopefully going to be able to set some fyke nets tomorrow and will have a bit of a poke about in the mud and see what the natural food supply is like. I hope I am pleasantly surprised and trap some crucians - I will let you know either way, Peter.

Should the worst come to the worst, is there any hope for the pond in your opinion? Would it be worth stocking more fish? I can't be sure, but the stocking of the crucians may have been followed by that very harsh winter - could that have been their undoing? Without you even seeing the place it might be impossible to say, but are there any measures that could be taken to 'improve' the pond? I am up in North Yorkshire by the way, should that make any difference.

Matt

Hello again Peter,

I was in touch recently about the apparent demise of the crucians I stocked into a friend's farm pond three or four years ago.

I eventually got hold of some fyke nets and left them out for a couple of nights. Though I wasn't at all hopeful, I went to check them tonight and there were hundreds of crucians trapped. Thankfully it was simply a case of lack of angling skill on my behalf that had me doubting their survival! There were what appeared to be several year classes amongst the fish, some were approximately 2½" (any smaller than this would have been able to evade the net mesh) while the largest were possibly 8". Would a crucian of, say, 8" be reasonable for four years old?

Anyway, I am pleased the fish are doing okay and breeding successfully. I have sent you some photos, they aren't the best but I am happy that they are true crucians due to their origin and that nothing else appeared in the traps. Your thoughts would be welcomed though.

Regards,

Matt

crucian carp crucian carp

Hi, Matt

Yes, they're the real thing alright. I'd expect an 8" crucian to be 3 summers old in an uncrowded pond but yours look to be in fine condition and certainly not stunted. You will need to do some cropping to reduce numbers, though, if you want to keep them growing. The dilemma is what to do with surplus fish - but you should find a ready market with most fish-dealers - ask at least 4 per lb!

Best wishes

Peter

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15th July 2012

Tim Ridge wrote from Yorkshire, describing a situation all too common in this country but which we're beginning to do something to put right:

Hi Peter

What a fascinating read and some of the catch photo's were mouthwatering. Crucians were always one of my early favourites but unfortunately my area (east Yorkshire) seems to be amongst the worst effected by a spread of brown goldfish. I understand that the owners of C__ C__ lake regularly sold goldfish (as crucians) and these rapidly infected most of the 'crucian' venues in the locality.

Nowadays I don't know anywhere where I think true crucians still exist in the area though I might just be wrong about two ponds in Hemmingbrough village, Cold Heindly Reservoir and another pond near Goole which was stocked when I was a child with what appeared to be crucians. I recently caught a fish from this latter venue and unfortunately it had barbules.

I'm friends with the Angling writer Dave Tipping (who is just as enthusiastic about the species as I am) and we have talked about finding somewhere (a small pond or such like) to preserve the species but it seems almost everywhere in our respective areas is stocked with non compatible species. As such we have never got any further with this.

Anyway I'm very appreciative for the information and the enjoyable read and I'll look in from time to time.

Best Wishes

Tim Ridge

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14th July 2012

Chris Turnbull got in touch from Norfolk, where encouraging work is being done to bring back the crucian to areas where its numbers have been drastically reduced:

Hi Peter,

I just discovered your excellent crucian website and thought I'd best make contact. I have always loved crucian fishing but having witnessed their sad demise, I had until recently I considered them to have become extinct in Norfolk. This season, however, I discovered a small water in South Norfolk that holds a number of pure crucian carp. I say pure, as they tick all the right boxes with fin and scale counts and just look spot on to me, so I got in touch with Carl Sayer who is involved in a crucian project in various ponds in North Norfolk and sent him a photograph of one of these fish for a second opinion and he agreed with me that it was a true crucian. Since then he has visited the water himself and caught other fish which he also considered to be true. I am attaching two photographs so that you can check them out for yourself and give your opinion? I am sending them as full sized files so that you can get a good look.

IMG0404 is a fish of 2lb 3oz that I caught in May and IMG0484 is a small fish of around 8oz that I caught yesterday. 0404 is almost certainly a stocked fish that has grown on in the water, while 0484 will have be born in the water as it has only been stocked once and that was 12 years ago. It being a mixed fishery, the later seems to have developed a higher back?!!!

crucian carp crucian

The full situation with the fishery is as follows. It was dug out as a reclaimed Mere 12 years ago, prior to which it had been swallowed up by succession. After being dug out the owner stocked it with a mixture of species, including king carp, unfortunately. The fact that he got any crucians at all was extremely lucky as the fish farmer that he got them from has something of a checkered history. When the fish first went in they averaged around 6" and there were no other fish in the water in the water. The water now holds a huge stock of king carp, small tench, rudd, roach, pike and perch and I consider it nothing short of a miracle that any crucians have survived. Survive they have, however, but as one would expect there has unfortunately been some cross breeding occurring. The water is not overrun with hybrids yet, though it is inevitable that this will occur unless the situation is addressed.

Anyway to cut a long story short, I discussed the possibility of removing all the carp and hybrids from the water in order to preserve the genetic integrity of these crucians and he has been completely supportive of the idea. The plan is to net it this winter and remove them along with a large proportion of the silver fish. This should give the crucians a good chance to put some weight on and make the crucian fishing more attractive to specimen anglers. Carl Sayer has offered to provide some North Norfolk crucians, which could hopefully strengthen the gene pool and there are other small waters on the site which have the potential of being used as stock ponds in which to grow on and breed new generations of crucians. Altogether this is a hugely exciting project which I expect the EA to support What I would like to do is call on you from time to time in order to gain your advised and input.

One thing that concerns me at the outset of the project, however, is how one would go about getting the purity of these fish recognized once the project has been completed. Presumably before we go any further we should get fin clippings tested?

Any way, I'd love to hear from you and gain your input.

Best wishes, Chris Turnbull.

From Chris's photographs his mere does contain true crucians and I was able to suggest where he might be able to get help with DNA confirmation. P.R.

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23rd June 2012

Tim Sillitoe has an interesting opportunity:

Hi Peter

I am lucky enough to have a pond in my garden (near Colchester, photo attached). It's an old farm pond which over the years has been used as a dump by a previous owner and has been surrounded by Alders which have deposited their leaves for decades. The result is a pond that's between 1 and 2 feet deep in the winter and during the summer large parts of it dry up leaving one area that's only 1 foot deep. Despite the low depths the pond still had some fish 5 years ago. I would often see 3 mirror carp cruising the length of the pond, however I noticed the dead body of one in the pond and shortly after the head of another on the bank. I suspected cormorants but after some sneaking around the pond at night with a torch i found the culprits, not one, but three otters. I assume it must have been a mother with cubs. Very surprising sighting given we are not near a river. I enquired via the Stour Valley conservation project and they explained that in the winter the otters often head up the streams that feed the Stour when the river is in flood. One of the seasonal streams feeding the Stour is about 5 yards form our pond so that's most likely where they came from.

Anyway the result is that I believe the pond has no fish left in it. In September i plan to excavate the pond, improve the banks and remove a large number of the Alders. Once this work is done we should have a good depth all year round and hopefully the pond will be capable of supporting some fish. I had always planned to stock Crucians as this is a small farm pond which i always felt was the traditional home of the crucian. I was delighted when I found your website, I am astonished by the work you have clearly put in over decades trying to understand and conserve this wonderful fish. Having read most of your website I now realise that it won't be a good idea to add many other species so I plan to just stock some crucians and some tench although I am quite intrigued by your idea of adding some chub.

Tim Sillitoe's pond

There are two questions I have which I was wondering if you could help me with. Firstly where can I buy some Crucians (and some tench) that will be guaranteed to be genuine crucians and given the size of my pond I will only need a very small number. Will I be able to find a supplier who will be interested in such a small task? My second question was if I do manage to stock the pond how can I prevent the pond becoming full of stunted fish? I don't have the ability to net the pond and I don't have anywhere to give the small fish to.

I suspect that I will have repeat visits from the otters in the future and so think they would select the larger fish which means I would end up with a pond full of stunted fish. I had thought I would add some perch to help with this problem but having read your website I am worried I would end with no crucians at all!

Any pointers you could give me would be most helpful.

Thanks for the inspiring website,

Tim Sillitoe

Hi, Tim.

You're at the start of a very interesting project. It's easy to get it wrong, though, as I did several times in the past.

As long as you are certain there are no other fish that is a very good beginning. Would the otters still be there if there were no fish, though?

I need a supplier who would send you a small number of crucians/tench via a carrier, when the time comes - I've used John Wall Fisheries - they have a website and genuine crucians. Andy might be able to help - see the website under "Stocking and Management". When your pond becomes crowded with small crucians (second year fish 4" -6") they are worth money and a dealer will come and net them free of charge and probably give you 4 to 5 per lb as well. You have the cropping well within your control when you rely on netting - predators are not controllable. Crucians are easy to net and trap.

I would avoid perch altogether, otherwise you'll have a pond full of stunted perch and fewer and fewer crucians. Chub would be good in a pond with enough depth and oxygen.

Once you have had one spawning from your crucians, you'll be ok for numbers. The problem is preserving your brood stock from the otters, so it's probably safer to stock in late spring to reduce the vulnerability time. You can also try to protect the pond with a low electric fence if you know of a friendly farmer who might lend you the equipment in return for the price of a new battery.

With careful and lucky management, you might be able to get crucians up to a pound after four years or so. Don't set your sights too high with regard to size - after all a fish is a specimen according to the capacity of the water it's swimming in. It's just a matter of mental adjustment! If you think it's a big fish, it is! And you can fish with really light gear.

Coppicing/pollarding alders is environmentally acceptable - they form nice invertebrate-friendly stools. It's important to do this because excessive leaf-fall is detrimental to the pond and the light values are too low if the trees are too numerous - though crucians will survive most conditions.

I've covered most of these things in greater detail in "The Net on the Garage Wall" and "Crock of Gold - Seeking the Crucian Carp" - now I try always now to call them just "crucians" - a super fish.

May I use our correspondence on the website, please, Tim, to help others who may be interested in doing the same thing?

Lastly, don't hesitate to get in touch if I can help further. I'm always interested in any thing "cruciany".

Best wishes

Peter

23rd June 2012

Hi Peter

I will keep you updated with progress once we get started.

I am pretty sure there are no fish left, we haven't seen any otters for the last couple of years.

With regards to the alders we do plan to coppice some but we will remove a number along one bank to make sure some light gets to the pond. We are lucky to have quite a bit of woodland near to the pond which we do coppice. The alders certainly respond very well producing very vigorous growth from the stools.

How soon after we do the work on the pond could we consider stocking? If we finished the work by the end of September could we stock in the following spring or should we wait another year?

Tim

Tim, hello

If you scrape the pond down to the original clay, ideally you'd need to wait a year for the invertebrate population to build up. On the other hand if you leave some of the mud in when you dredge you could probably do a small stocking with brood fish in the April. You could help things on by putting in water snails, etc from another source.

I presume the pond isn't just clay-lined, in which case you'd need to proceed with caution.

Best wishes

Peter

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28th May 2012

Richard Costello has an interesting story to tell:

Hi Peter,

Love the site. I thought I would contact you after some recent events.

I bought a new house in Warwickshire last year mainly because it had a secret little gem if a "pool" attached to the back garden. A natural sprung pool. I love fishing and mainly now do carp fishing but always fascinated by crucians. My son is nearly 9 and he loves fishing too and teaching him in such a lake brings back so many good memories.

It is full of silver fish, about 38 metres by 30 metres, but I was reliably informed by friends (my age, around 40) that when they were kids it was a pool in open fields and was full of crucians, good ones too. That's all it was known to have with a few silver fish. Never known for Carp.

This got me thinking and investigating about what hidden gems I might have.

I was told that 22 years ago the lake had been drained and fish lost. It was then re-filled and re-stocked with Rudd and Roach and as you can imagine is teeming with them. However, I guess you can't kill all fish / fry (crucians) and that is clear. In fact I have proof! There are crucians in my lake, and I have a feeling they have been happily breeding for 22 years. The previous owners never fished it, it is a natural spring lake and full of natural food sources.

This is my first spring in the house and spawning is upon us with the sun. ..... And I am seeing fish! In fact I am seeing one big fish regularly.

Very docile, not spooked and no matter what food I throw in front of its nose not interested. Honestly I would guess this is a 4lbs + fish I am seeing (dare I say bigger). I initially thought common but now am not sure. It never jumps, shows itself rarely and seems docile. Eats off back of leaves and free offerings from trees. Fully scaled and I assumed a common carp. Now I am sure it is not so I need to catch it! In fact I captured it on video and would happily send you a clip to see I you could help ID the big one?

I have also started to see some fish of around 1lbs lazing in the margins in the sun. Assumed carp. Wrong! Yesterday I managed to catch one in my large carp landing net no rod involved (to be honest it wasn't difficult which surprised me). Low and behold it was not a small common, but to me looks like a classic crucian. Picture for you attached. It was absolutely pristine condition, a true beautiful creature that stunned me with its beauty. I have never seen a common or other carp in the lake and having recently introduced a few baby mirrors I am wondering if I made a mistake. Here is the picture of the crucian I introduced. I have read your ID process and I am 100% certain this is a genuine crucian and no cross breed. I am now convinced the large fish I have is a large crucian, never caught and I guess up to 22 years old. I plan to catch it in the net if I can. My carp gear is too heavy for these fish and I am genuinely excited about this big one. If I get it I'll send you a photo!

You may think I was mad introducing baby mirrors, but this was with a view to fishing with my children with floating tactics years to come. Then I realised I had some crucians and now want to find out more! I already plan to net the lake in October / November and I guess the results of this will determine next step. Interested in your thoughts!

Would love to hear from you with any thoughts on me catching the large one and also this fish from yesterday. I don't think they have ever been fished for!!

Kind regards

Richard Costello

crucian carp Richard Costello's Pond

Hello, Richard, and thanks for a fascinating email. Your problem is of course avoiding the tiddlers, so perhaps a biggish, hard bait might do the trick, perhaps on a very light bolt rig (see Martin Bowler's The Eversley Method" under "Angling" on the website).

As for identification, the fish certainly looks the real McCoy, though the oblique scale count is not a clear 7. Did you notice the dorsal fin shape, Richard? It could just be a crucian x common x crucian - such things have been known, though pretty unlikely. I presume there was no sign of barbules at the mouth. If you catch another, I'd like to check out that dorsal shape.

Assuming it's the real thing, though, what a find you have! If I can help in any way whatsoever, just let me know.

Crucians are indeed beautiful fish, which is why (I think) they were introduced into the country in the 18th century. They are just as sensational as goldfish, aren't they.

Best wishes

Peter

Thanks for your response, Peter, and great to hear back from you so quickly. I obviously wish I took more time to picture the fish after such an easy net catch and needless to say I am on the case to catch again! Next time I will for sure take clear pictures of the dorsal fin shape. What I can say for certain is there were no trace of barbells at all. I have caught common and mirror carp for many years and for me the mouth was just so different (and small I might add) compared to the carp I normally see (not in this like where I have yet to see one before putting some small mirrors in last week). Next time I catch it I will take some close pics of the mouth too.

For sure you will get some updates, I am looking daily for the "'big one' which I am quite certain if a crucian will be quite a special weight. We will see!

Richard

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