I want to be able to draw people's attention to things I think important in the world of crucians, whether it be articles in the angling press, conservation initiatives, new books, etc. Contributions from all of you out there would be very welcome.
Please do contact me.
With reference to Andrew Cooper’s suggestion about how to sex crucians outside of the breeding season (see ‘Sexing Outside of Breeding Condition’ under ‘Garden Ponds’ in ‘Natural History and Management’) I found the following support for his observations in the book that I regard as the very best guide: A History of Scandinavian Fishes (1895 edition) by Fries, Ekstrõm, Sunevald and Von Wright, updated and translated by Professor Smitt:
“Both pectoral and ventral fins are generally longer in the males than in the females.”
It will be interesting to see if we can make some comparisons when (if!) we have a batch of crucians from the Saxon Ponds one fine day. The next question, I suppose, is “Why?” Does there have to be a reason, I wonder. Men have more facial hair than women, for example – does that serve any purpose?
For Andrew's further thoughts on this subject, please see 'Correspondence'.
I’ve been reading Historical Aquaculture in Northern Europe. There’s a link to this book on the ‘Reference Books’ page.
On the cover is a particularly fine illustration of a crucian that I wanted to find the source of. It’s by a Wilhelm von Wright, a Swedish/Finnish painter who illustrated the first edition of the famous book on Scandinavian fishes (also on that page) that I used in research for Crock of Gold…. I wondered where I’d seen them before! If you look him up on ‘Google Images’ you can see more of his very fine work.
Here are his paintings of what were then called Lake Crucian and Pond Crucian. They beautifully illustrate the different shapes of crucian we have become used to in UK, revealing how responsive to various conditions this remarkable fish is.
Andrew Cooper, an avid crucian researcher, thought that you might enjoy these crucian images from around the world:
Well worth a look is the correspondence between me and Andrew Cooper, which will shortly be on the ‘Correspondence’ page. Also from Andrew is some really interesting research he has done on the sexing of crucians. This is on the ‘Garden Ponds’ page.
"Crock of Gold – Seeking the Crucian Carp" was the first and only book on the species. Now it will be joined by another, due out shortly. Watch this space!
It is an up-to-date look at the crucian fishing world today with chapters covering all aspects of crucian fishing, fisheries and conservation, along with lots of fishing stories written by crucian enthusiasts from England and Sweden. Contributors are Chris Yates, Chris Turnbull, Martin Salter, Peter Rolfe, Mark Wintle, Mike Holcombe, Ed Matthews, Trevor Harrop, Carl Sayer & Bernard Cooper, Phil Smith, Gary Boyce, Richie Martin, Julian Barns, Russel Shaw, Matthew Fernandez, Andy Bettis, Steve Nunn, Hugh Miles, Mike Lyddon, Steve Frapwell, Gary Knowles, Richard Naylor, Tim Norman, Matt Wright, Max Loesche and Ken Wilkes.
This month the big news was that there has been another record crucian claim, a fish of 4lbs 11oz from Johnson’s, the crucian specimen anglers' Mecca, though Milton Abbas is beginning to run it close. Several of us were asked for our opinion as to its identity, because an advisor to the British Rod-caught Record Fish committee had cast doubts on its authenticity. I personally had a niggle of doubt but we concluded that it was more likely a true crucian than not, and expressed that as our group conclusion.
Godalming Angling Club have gone to great pains to ensure that their famous crucian stocks remain untarnished by any hybridisation with carp or goldfish, so to have the identity of a Johnson’s fish questioned was a serious matter.
In the event, the trophy photographs submitted were just not clear and precise enough for certainty. On this website and in "Crock of Gold" there are detailed instructions about how to take a photo for crucian ID.
Of particular interest is that this fish was caught in the winter, after dark, which I’ve theorised about before. I could never understand why a northern European fish like the crucian, so well equipped to withstand the cold, should need to hibernate through our mild winters, and it is now becoming clearer that in fact they feed throughout the winter during the hours of darkness. Why then, I wonder. Perhaps to avoid predators in clear water?
Lately, on the ‘Facebook’ ACA page, there have been accounts of crucians caught during daylight hours, so obviously we still have a lot to learn. Once upon a time it was thought that carp fed only in the summer and now they’re caught all through the year. So perhaps the same will prove to be true of crucians.
Another thing to notice about the Johnson’s fish is that despite its size it is quite low-backed, in contrast to the Milton Abbey fish described last year, below. There are no pike in Johnson’s, I believe, but they are certainly in the Milton Abbey lake, which probably explains the different shapes. I do wonder, though, whether we can talk about different strains of crucian, in the same way that we can of carp. There’s room for much more research there, I think.
If you’re interested in this, may I recommend having a look at A History of Scandinavian Fishes where you’ll see pics of what they called ‘Pond crucian’ and ‘Lake crucian’. You can access this super book, free of charge, on the ‘Biodiversity Heritage Library’ website. It’s a gem of a site.
Well worth a visit.
A possible new British Record crucian has been landed at Milton Abbas. The full story here at the 'Angling Times'. Wow!
The crucian was nearly 16" (40cm) in length and 8" (21cm) wide and weighed in at 4lb 11oz.
After some superb photographs and some very tight judging decisions, the Angling Trust can announce the winners and runners-up of the fourth annual Catch a Crucian Photographic Competition organised in conjunction with the National Crucian Conservation Project.
Some very fine pictures on display and the eagle eyed may spot "The Upper Pond" in one of them.
I don't know how many of you may have seen the ACA's Crucian Chronicle ezine?
It's well worth a read (and it's free).
An excellent blog entry from Hugh Miles on the 'Catch a Crucian Month', with one or two passable pictures.
Registrations are now open for 'Catch a Crucian Month' - a special photographic competition organised by the Angling Trust and the National Crucian Conservation Project (NCCP) in partnership with the Association of Crucian Anglers. This year features new prizes and an opportunity to fish a great new crucian water holding genuine three pounders that is normally reserved for members only.
The Daily Mirror have also run an article on 'Catch a Crucian Month': Catch a Crucian Month is back with a photo competition to celebrate three great years of progress in restoring the prospects for crucians in England.
I was asked, at the last meeting of the National Crucian Conservation Project meeting, to write a summary of the position regarding the status of the crucian, whether it is a native fish or not. This is that article. I hope you are not too upset by it!
CRUCIANS - Native or Introduced?
Many anglers like to call the Crucian "our native carp", to separate it from the common carp Cyprinus carpio, which we all know was introduced here in the Middle Ages. The statement reflects the affection with which the crucian is held but it is now clear that it cannot be justified.
Firstly, the crucian is not a carp, as the Latin name shows, Carassius carassius. Some think that it would help if we dropped "carp" out of its name entirely and called it just "crucian", to emphasise that it is a completely separate species.
Secondly, latest research1 now indicates that the crucian was introduced to the British Isles and is not a native fish. By "native" we mean the presence of a fish in the British Isles before the land bridge between us and the continent was finally flooded.
We do not know when the crucian was introduced to Britain. It has been suggested that it has been here since Roman times or that it came in with the common carp because the two species are easily confused, but these are unproven.
On the other hand, the literature of natural historians and anglers2 suggests that it was introduced here early in the 18th century, at roughly the same time as the goldfish, Carassius auratus. For example, John Ray in 1713 lists it as a foreign fish but Pennant in 1766 obviously knew of it but describes it as not a native fish. Later writers refer to the crucian as having come into the country "lately" or "from the beginning of the (18th) century".
As to where it came from, the common 18th and 19th century familiar names of "German Carp", "Prussian Carp" and "Hamburg Carp" suggest one possible source. I go into a full discussion of this in my book, Crock of Gold - Seeking the Crucian Carp, written before scientific research confirmed my basic argument, that the crucian is an introduction and not indigenous.
However, what is more important for the conservation of the crucian is that it is a species long established in this country. It is benign and offers no threat to other species or to the environment.
Moreover, the British Isles, because of our isolation from the continent, offer a unique refuge for a species under serious threat. In its native range in Europe the crucian is in serious danger of becoming extinct because of habitat degradation, lack of awareness, and hybridisation with the invasive gibel carp, Carassius gibelio.
Anglers, naturalists and scientists need to work together for crucian conservation here. In addition, and vitally, we must ensure that the gibel carp never crosses the Channel, so that the UK remains an "ark site" for the preservation of the crucian.
1. See: Jeffries DL, Copp GH, Maes GE, Lawson Handley L, Sayer CD, Hänfling B. Genetic evidence challenges the native status of a threatened freshwater fish (Carassius carassius) in England. Ecol Evol. 2017;00:1-12.
2. See 'Crock of Gold - Seeking the Crucian Carp', Mpress 2010.
The National Crucian Conservation Project aims to 1) Promote the conservation of the species and its habitat and 2) Encourage the development of well managed crucian fisheries. The NCCP group is supported by the Environment Agency, Angling Trust, and prominent members from the crucian conservation and angling community.
Thanks to the support of Environment Area fisheries officers, numerous suitable sites were identified for stocking with fish. These sites were stocked genetically assured true crucians reared at the Environment Agency's fish farm at Calverton. This summer, we stocked a total of 11805 fish into 23 separate waters. This is in addition to the 33,869 year 1+ fish we stocked in 2015 into 44 waters. Over the last few years we have stocked loads of waters all over the place to promote and develop the crucian fishery, the map below shows where the fish were stocked in 2016. Our next stocking programme is planned for June 2017. More details on how you can get involved in this stocking programme will be made available nearer the time on the NCCP website.
For further details contact Russell Robertson (Russell.Robertson@environment-agency.gov.uk).
We had some welcome guests at the Saxon ponds at the beginning of September, following the success of the Angling Trust's 'Catch a Crucian Month' competition in June. The worthy winners were treated to a surprise day's fishing on the Saxon Ponds.
Catch a Crucian Month June 2016 - Great prizes to be won in brand new photo competition!
If you catch a crucian in June and take a brilliant photo of the fish, you and the fish, the fishery, etc., you could win a super prize. Do register and support the crucian cause.
I can't enter because I'm one of the judges along with prestigious names like Chris Yates, Hugh Miles and Chris Turnbull.
The BRFC met at Fishmongers' Hall, London, on 8th June 2015. Present were: Mike Heylin OBE (Chairman), Nick Simmonds (Secretary), Oliver Crimmen (Scientific Advisor, Natural History Museum), Nigel Hewlett (Scientific Advisor, Environment Agency) and Andrew Nellist (Angling Trust - freshwater specialist).
The following claims were ratified by the committee as new or equal records:
Species: Crucian (Carassius carrasius)
Record weight: 4lb 9oz (2.070kg) (Equal record)
Captor's name: Peter Cardozo
Date & venue: 2nd May 2015 - Johnson's Lake, Marsh Farm, Surrey
Previous record: 4lb 9oz
Species: Crucian (Carassius carrasius)
Record weight: 4lb 10oz (2.098kg) (New record)
Captor's name: Michael James
Date & venue: 4th May 2015 - Surrey Stillwater
Previous record: 4lb 9oz
Species: Crucian (Carassius carrasius)
Record weight: 4lb 10oz (2.098kg) (Equal record)
Captor's name: Stephen Frapwell
Date & venue: 10th May 2015 - Johnson's Lake, Marsh Farm, Surrey
Previous record: 4lb 10oz
The Association of Crucian Anglers (ACA) has a new (and excellent) blog. Another excellent resource on crucians and well worth a few moments of your time.
The National Crucian Conservation Project has produced a video to encourage angling clubs and fishery owners to develop crucian fishing.
It is so encouraging to see the work that is being done to bring the crucian back into favour amongst anglers. Martin Salter has driven forward the idea of crucian conservation through the Angling Trust, in partnership with the Environment Agency, and Chris Turnbull's Facebook Association of Crucian Anglers is going from strength to strength.
Why not join in!
For the second year running, big crucians have been coming out of Johnson's Pond, available to Goldalming members, one of which weighed 4lbs 10oz, potentially a new record. Another fish at the same weight was caught at another, undisclosed water.
It's interesting that even in a lake fed heavily for carp - I believe - and even pre-spawning and presumably carrying eggs, the top crucian weight remains much the same. The crucian seems not to have followed the example of other species like barbel, tench and bream - all of which are now caught at weights far exceeding those of 10 years ago. If the weight of eggs is deducted, these crucians would perhaps be struggling to make 4lbs.
The National Crucian Conservation Project has this week launched a new information video aimed at encouraging angling and fishery interests to embrace crucian conservation and draw up plans for more crucian waters in their areas. The video is also part of a new episode of the Fishing Britain series produced by the YouTube channel FieldsportsChannel.tv and features the Angling Trust's Martin Salter as a guest presenter.
If you look carefully, 'Pete's Ponds' are featured.
The National Crucian Conservation Project, an article on the formation and background of the newly formed NCCP, on the Angling Trust website.
Here's a Swedish beauty of 6lbs 9.7oz, caught in Ursjön by Kim Preducic, float fishing with pellet. It is 49cm long and 50cm in circumference. This must be close to the Swedish record, though I haven't had any confirmation of that. Henrik Ragnarsson Stabo tells me that it is a known fish (shades of carp fishing!) from a lake famous for its huge crucians for the last 20 years.
I should have reported this before. The National Crucian Conservation Project committee has had two meetings since the inaugural one. Our second meeting was at Reading on 25th May and the third at the Epping Forest offices of the City of London Corporation on 13th October, followed by a field trip to see the work being done on crucian conservation in the Forest ponds.
We discussed involving relevant organizations like the National Trust and various freshwater conservation groups. Progress is being made on producing crucian fact sheets for angling clubs and other water managers and on an up-dated E.A. crucian identification chart. There are plans to produce a DVD dealing with identification and fishery management. New crucian waters are being developed in several places and the E.A. has identified redundant waters of their own that could be managed as crucian growing on ponds. The website list of crucian waters is growing, though much verification needs to be done.
The next meeting is planned for some time at the end of winter at Calverton, to see the E.A. fish farm, where thousands of crucians are being raised annually.
So things are happening on the crucian front and in time all of us who enjoy fishing for this marvellous species will find it much easier to do so.
Victorian naturalists claimed that the crucian could be caught from the Thames and here is the proof that sometimes they still can be. This magnificent fish weighed 4lbs 2oz and was caught after dark on a boilie! 'Angler's Mail' asked me to confirm that it was a true crucian and I had no hesitation in doing so although I should have liked to see the dorsal fin shape. The fish looks very like some of the Swedish specimens I've seen photos of and its splendid condition suggests that it finds living in the Thames very agreeable. The captor was Justin Gray and he tells me that he has since caught the fish for a second time.
28th May saw the official launch of the National Crucian Conservation Project (NCCP), at the Angling Trust Coarse Fishing Conference in Reading, complete with new logo designed by Chris Turnbull, angler and artist. Here are the details of the group's intentions.
National Crucian Conservation Project - Terms of Reference
The National Crucian Conservation Project is a group of representatives from public, academic and voluntary sector organisations and individuals who share a common interest in furthering the status of Crucians (Carassius carassius) in the UK. The group came together in 2014 following widespread concerns about the loss of crucian habitat and the threat to the species through hybridisation caused by inappropriate stocking practices.
Crucians are endangered across their natural international range and as such are designated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as a red listed species. Therefore this project is also designed to assist in the UK government's IUCN obligations.
The primary objectives of the project are to:-
The resulting benefits will include: improved understanding and protection of 'wild' or 'pure' crucian stocks; habitat restoration; creation of 'community waters'; more angling opportunities; increased resources for young anglers and better sharing of information on lake and pond conservation.
Some suggested outputs and/or aspirations are:-
1 Geographical remit
1.1 The area covered by the project is England and Wales, however there is likely to be a more concentrated effort and focus in areas where crucian fisheries are more prevalent and in particular if there is evidence of wild populations.
1.2 It is anticipated that a list or database of waters will be developed in time in order to guide priorities and resources.
2 Membership and Supporters
2.1 The project will canvass support from all organisations and individuals with an interest in crucians. In order to better organise the project, it is proposed to have a Steering Group who lead the work and are responsible for effectively engaging with the wider project and external interests.
2.2 Membership of the Steering Group is limited to a maximum of 16, and reflects a range of interests and expertise. The current membership of the Steering Group is shown in Appendix 1.
2.2.1 Each member organisation on the Steering Group has equal status.
2.2.2 Membership will be reviewed annually.
2.3 Wider engagement with the project will include all those who have expressed an interest in being involved. It is anticipated that they will kept informed of progress through direct communication and/or through the media. It is important to ensure that everybody feels they can contribute ideas, influence the direction of the programme of work, and receive useful and timely information.
3 The Role of the Steering Group
3.1 Establish the strategic aims and oversee their implementation.
3.2 Develop a plan of action and facilitate its delivery. Ensuring that there are clear accountabilities and a mechanism to monitor and report progress.
3.3 Steering Group arrangements.
3.3.1 There will be an annually elected Chair and Secretariat. In the first year the Angling Trust and the EA will take on the roles of Chair and Secretary respectively.
3.3.2 The Steering Group will meet as necessary, normally 3 times a year.
3.3.3 Meetings can be via teleconferences but at least every other should be a face to face meeting.
3.3.4 All members can request an item for consideration to go on the Agenda; a final version and any associated papers will be circulated at least one week in advance of the meeting.
3.3.5 Where possible the Steering Group will operate on a consensus basis but if this is not possible it will be by majority view.
3.3.6 The Steering Group will be quorate to make decisions with a third of the group present.
3.3.7 Any decisions made by the Steering Group do not necessarily reflect the views of their individual organisations.
3.3.8 Minutes from Steering Group meetings will be produced by the Secretary that record the substantive decisions and enable actions to be subsequently tracked.
4 Funding the Project
4.1 The cost of running the project will involve in kind contributions of time, meeting venues etc. This will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
4.2 Any particular actions that require a delivery budget will need to assessed and applications for funding made as required.
These terms of reference will be reviewed annually.
Terms of Reference agreed by the Steering Group at the meeting on 28th May 2014.
Martin Salter- Chair (Angling Trust) Roger Handford- Secretariat (EA)
Mark Owen (Angling Trust)
Carl Sayer (University College London)
Gordon Copp (CEFAS)
Graham Peirson or Ros Wright (EA)
Mike Lee (EA) Phil Belfield or Adam Hilliard (EA)
Steve Colclough (IFM)
Martin Moore (Moore and Moore Carp)
James Harrold (Rockland Mere Fishery)
Keith Wesley (Bedwell Fisheries Services)
Malcolm Richardson or Mike Holcombe (Godalming AS)
Mark Wintle (Association of Crucian Anglers)
I had to miss the photo call to get home but enjoyed the day very much, particularly the very positive NCCP steering committee in the morning, chaired by Martin Salter, who is driving the whole thing forward with plenty of support from the Environment Agency and plenty of other enthusiasts.
One interesting fact to emerge from a scientific presentation by Daniel Jeffries is that it is beginning to look likely from DNA analysis of European and UK crucians that the fish is not native, as has been presumed. Research suggests that the fish came here about 500 years ago, which puts its arrival at about 1500 AD.
I find this interesting. I can understand how it might have come in by accident as part of a consignment of common carp from the Continent but how then did separate crucian populations develop? The fact that crucians have survived in distinct populations suggests deliberate stocking with the species, doesn't it - or am I missing something?
Why would someone want to stock with crucians? For food? This seems very unlikely, given the fact that they are slow-growing in most situations and, by reputation, don't taste too good in comparison with the more readily available common carp. For sport? Again this seems unlikely, given that no angling book before the very end of the 18th century that I have yet found lists them as quarry.
That leaves the ornamental motive. Medieval land owners seem to have regarded ponds and lakes as status symbols and some might well have been interested in obtaining a wide range of species for their waters. But how would they have known about crucians if the species had come into the country only as part of common carp consignments?
My own pet theory is that crucians came in later, at about the same time as goldfish, that is at the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries. If they came in as part of a mixed goldfish/crucian importation then the same argument applies as above - hybridisation would have been rife and separate populations would not have become established. However, we all know that young crucians are a much more beautiful golden fish than young, unturned goldfish, and this suggests a reason why they might have come here in separate consignments. Surely they must have come here separately.
Perhaps our present population dates from this possible later stocking with crucians. This of course doesn't preclude the 500-year theory but complements it.
Anyway, it is gratifying that so much good will exists towards this lovely fish and that so much expertise and energy are available to ensure its welfare.
You can now find the list of crucian waters here. Please remember that inclusion of a fishery is no guarantee that the crucian fishing will be worthwhile, just that there are or are said to be crucians on site. You will need to make further enquiries before fishing there.
We intend to update the list monthly and to add information whenever we can.
"The Crucian Study Group" has been re-named "The National Crucian Conservation Project" and the next meeting takes place on 28th May at Reading during the morning of the Angling Trust Conference. The steering committee will join the full conference after lunch and two of us will give short presentations, Carl Sayer on the Norfolk crucian conservation project and me on managing crucian fisheries.
The plan is also to launch our draft on-line list of crucian waters in the UK. This has come about thanks to Chris Turnbull forming "The Association of Crucian Anglers" on Facebook. There has been an enthusiastic response and the complete list is be published on this website, and will be regularly up-dated.
Please note, though, that the information on that list will have come from many sources and we cannot guarantee its accuracy.
That said, we hope to build into a really useful resource as more and more information comes in. Mark Wintle is the man to feed facts to and JAA () is the webmaster who'll be putting it all on line. We thank them in advance for all their hard work.
Please remember that photos should show the fish clearly, with all fins, particularly the dorsal fin, fully extended. There are hints on how to take a good identification photo here.
I've added an outline of an interesting scientific paper (number 8 under "Abstracts from Scientific Papers", which can be found under "Natural History".) Apparently, through examination of head bones found in the faeces of fish-eating birds and mammals it is possible to find out which species they have been eating. Until now, though, there has been no way of identifying the different sorts of Carassius bones. This study shows that now there is a way to find out how seriously crucians, for example, are being predated.
Also, this new knowledge can be applied to bones excavated from ancient sediment and may one day settle the argument about whether or not crucians are native to this country.
(A) The Angling Trust, represented by Martin Salter and Mark Owen, organised the inaugural meeting of the provisionally named "Crucian Study Group" at the Environment Agency offices in Peterborough on 14th January at 11am, as reported in "Angling Times". This was initially at the instigation of Chris Turnbull, whom most of us know by name and whom I've now had the pleasure of meeting. There were a dozen or so of us there and it was very encouraging to hear about all the work that is going on at various places: Carl Sayer in Norfolk, the E.A.'s Mike Lee in Yorkshire, the EA in partnership with the National Trust and the Corporation of London in Epping and Hatfield Forests, and so on.
The plan is to set up an organization to widen knowledge and understanding of the crucian. We want to see it more widely spread in the country and as a first step aim to agree a series of guide-lines for anyone interested in the fish. This would cover both small pond conservation of the species and fishery management. Then we want to produce booklets/advice sheets for individuals, angling clubs, land-owners and others. Thirdly, we hope to make as many people as possible aware of the resources we have created - this through Angling Trust contacts with other organizations like the National Trust and through the angling media, as an on-going thing, not just a one-off. Fourthly we hope to create fisheries, where the crucian will have a major role, building on Martin Salter's work for young/disadvantaged people as well as for keen fisherman.
The next meeting will be prior to the Angling Trust annual fish and fishery meeting in late May, early June, when we intend to make progress on these objectives.
I'll keep you posted.
(B) For ages I've been meaning to update this fact but you probably all know that the British record for rod-caught crucians is officially jointly held by three anglers now, Martin Bowler, Josh Blavin and now Phil Smith with his fish caught in 2004 - all at 4lbs 9oz.
The list of countries inhabited by crucians continues to grow. So far I've had contact with fishermen and naturalists in all of northern Europe and New Zealand, confirming that crucians swim in their lakes and ponds. It looks as if we can add Australia to the list. Needless to say, just as in the UK - if I'm right - the crucian was introduced from abroad. The brief correspondence can be found this section of the website.
Mike Holcombe of Marsh Farm fishery writes...
Hi Peter, very remiss of me not keeping in touch, but prompted by a short session on our Johnson Lake catching crucians I thought I could up-date you with our current crucian fishing. Picture attached of a "three" to remind you who is calling !!
As you will have seen in the Angling Press, "names" have joined our Society to target our specimens with some success. Fish topping 4lb being recorded earlier this season.
Now that the spawning season is well and truly past, the Crucians being caught now are at their "true" weight.
This week, Marsh Farm has been fishing superbly for both Crucians and Tench.
Example, Bill Rushmer landed 52 crucians to 3lb.4oz and 20 tench to 6lb in two sessions (Monday and Tuesday). Another of our anglers, Martin, had good numbers of crucians, with a best of 3lb.14oz (pics to follow).
Best regards, Mike.
Duncan had the most extraordinary red-letter day catch of fifteen crucians to 2lb 8oz, eight of them over 2lbs, on the Victorian Estate Lakes.
This charming video of crucians and rudd filmed in a Norfolk pond was sent to us by Jack Perks, many thanks.
One of the early reviewers of "Crock of Gold"...thought I was being unrealistic in hoping that people would restore or create ponds just for crucians. He was wrong. It gives me a lot of satisfaction to know that there are so many of you out there who are doing just that to preserve this super fish. Stuck indoors with a cold gives me an opportunity to give you a flavour of some of the correspondence from the last few months, showing the enthusiasm that so many of you have for this sort of management.
It's not just in this country that the crucian has a following. There are crucian enthusiasts across northern Europe, as well as such unlikely countries as New Zealand and the USA. I've had contact with people in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland. Tantalisingly, there are still thousands of lakes and ponds waiting to be explored in Scandinavia, many of them undoubtedly containing huge crucians.
Worryingly, though, in many of these countries the spread of goldfish and gibel carp is beginning to cause problems - even the eastern Baltic has been invaded by gibel carp, which cross-breed with crucians resulting in hybrids very difficult to distinguish from the true species. We probably envy the wilderness fishing available in other countries but at least here, with smaller waters and more intensive management, we can do quite a bit to control the spread of undesirable alien species and so give the crucian a much better chance of survival.
So, Happy Christmas to all you hard-working crucian crusaders! I hope you are all enjoying the winter work of netting, dredging and re-stocking and cutting willow and alders. Come the spring, when the warmth comes again, the crucians will begin to move and those small bubbles will break the surface near the float...!
We've added some interesting stuff under "Wetlands" - at least, I think it's interesting!
There was an outstanding catch of crucians from Johnson's Lake, Marsh Farm, reported in the Angler's Mail of 29th May. In two sessions, Shaun Hodges caught 18 over 3lbs and 4 over 4lbs to a maximum of 4lbs 5oz. I see from today's (June 26th) edition that he returned to the lake after the fish had spawned and caught another 46, including a "load of two-pounders and 3s up to 3lbs 12oz".
The photo of the original catch shows the crucians heavily in spawn, which raises an interesting question that I welcome your views on. The morality of fishing for fish carrying eggs is up to each of us to decide but I'm more interested in two other points.
First, I don't know whether the two current record crucians were caught when they were in spawn or not - but if one was full of eggs and the other not full of eggs, are they still equally remarkable fish or is one "bigger" than the other? As we see from the paragraph above, apparently very big (ie heavy) fish lose a large percentage of their weight once they have spawned, to become not very much bigger than those we catch after the traditional closed season in "the Lakes". Should we allow fish heavily in egg to hold records?
Secondly, do we record the maximum size of a species by its weight when in spawn or out of spawn? Is it right to say that crucians in this country run to "about 4½lbs" or should we lower our sights somewhat and say that "4lbs is about the maximum?"
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The Lands End
Lands End Lane
I've been invited to take part in a Swedish project examining crucian DNA from various European countries. When we netted "The Ponds" recently, we took 20 fin clippings and these have been sent to Håkan Olsén, Prof. in Zoology at Södertörn University College.
Perhaps this research will throw some light on the reasons for U.K. crucians apparently peaking at about 4½lbs, whereas those in Scandinavia/Finland reach 7lbs or so. I don't believe that environmental differences alone explain this - after all, there are many gravel pits in this country where crucians could grow just as big.
The Gold Valley "crucian" has been DNA tested from a scale taken by the captor and has been confirmed as an f1 hybrid, presumably crucian × goldfish.
Josh Blavin's crucian has been accepted as a new record at 4lbs 9oz. Martin Bowler's 4lbs 9oz 9drms previous record has been re-assessed at 4lbs 9oz, so the record is now held jointly.
This is the BRFC statement:
"a) In order to ensure that there is no advantage to weighing a fish on inaccurate scales, the weight recorded following a scales check has for many years been rounded down to the nearest unit, equal to the units of measure of the scales. For example where the scales weighed in one ounce divisions the weight recorded following the scale check would be rounded down to the nearest ounce. The effect of this, makes it an advantage to weigh the fish on accurate scales with small divisions.
"b) At the meeting the committee considered a claim by Mr Josh Blavins for the Crucian record. The existing record of Martin Bowler of 4lb 9oz 9drms was weighed on one ounce division scales and had the claim been considered now the weight would have been recorded as 4lb 9oz. The Scale check for the scales used by Josh Blavins resulted in a weight of 4lb 9oz 15drms which was rounded down to 4lb 9oz as the scales used to weigh the fish also weighed in divisions of one ounce. The committee has therefore decided that the Crucian Record will be held by both fish and the weight recorded for both will be 4lb 9oz."
Nicka Hellenberg reports from Sweden that their old record has been rejected as a hybrid, as suggested here and here (picture 4) and that the new record fish is the same one caught by Stefan Burnert and shown in the book and in the Crucian Gallery. When Stefan banked it, it weighed a massive 6lbs 6oz. This time it weighed in at just under 6lbs 1oz, probably this time without spawn.
A Gold Valley 'crucian' has been caught at 5lbs 3oz and a scale sent for DNA confirmation. You can see it here.
I hope I'm wrong, but it doesn't look quite "right" to me. Watch this space!
There are now more and more people beginning to manage crucian ponds on the principles suggested in "Crock of Gold - Seeking the Crucian Carp", in this country and abroad. The latest I know of is Martin Salisbury in Lancashire.
Ryan Hawes kindly sent me a picture of what he hoped was a crucian of 5lbs 15oz. Sadly it was a cru × goldfish hybrid. For a pic and my reply, see Correspondence.
I received some interesting pics from Nicka Hellenberg in Sweden of apparent hybrids, provisionally DNA tested in Sweden as crucian x gibel carp (sometimes known as "Silver Crucians" or - confusingly - Prussians). I've put a couple of these in the 'What is it?' Gallery (pics. 6 & 7), with my and Nicka's comments.
It looks as if the crucian record may have been broken (subject to a weighing scales check) by Josh Blavins' 4lbs 10oz beauty from the Leather Pit, one of Verulam AC's Moor Mill Pits near St Albans in Hertfordshire. It is a beautiful fish and certainly looks to be a genuine crucian to me, though as usual the trophy shot doesn't show all the relevant details like the shape of the dorsal. If it is the same fish as the 4lbs 6oz specimen on their website that makes me even more convinced that the fish is a true crucian, though the 2lbs 3oz "crucian" caught from Riverside Road certainly isn't. Go to their website to make the comparison for yourself. Click on "V.A.C. records", bottom left of Home Page.
Incidentally, "Angler's Mail" headlined it as "Record Carp". Why, oh why do they do it! You know and I know that the crucian isn't a carp, except in the most general sense: it's a CRUCIAN, no more a carp than a goldfish!
Miles Rice sent me this picture of a Thames crucian he caught on a bream session. Once upon a time it was thought that the crucian was confined to the Thames and neighbouring ponds. Now we know better but it would be very interesting to hear if anyone else out there has ever caught crucians from this river.
This was my reply to a request from the "Angler's Mail" to identify a big 'crucian'. I didn't know at the time that its weight was 5lbs, which would probably have put more doubt in my mind. But here is the fish, followed by my observations, for your consideration. I might have added that the pelvic fins look rather small but that they might well be within the natural variations that one finds in any species.
"My first reaction on seeing shape, colour and proportions was "That looks like a crucian". Scale counts too are right. 33 lat. line scales, which is what I make it, rules out goldfish and makes a cru × goldfish hybrid unlikely. It looks like a 7 count from lat. line to dorsal, which again conforms with crucian guidelines."
"I would like to see the shape of the dorsal fin, as always - the tail fin, extended, too. The fins look to be the right colour, as do gill covers."
"I can't see any sign of barbules, which makes it unlikely to be an F1 - which it doesn't resemble in general anyway."
"I see nothing from those pics. to make me doubt that it is a typical low-backed crucian, different in form from a Summer Pit fish, say, more like a Marsh Farm one, but for my money still a crucian."
"In reporting this, would you be able to refer people to my website https://crucians.org. There I give some advice on how to photograph a crucian so as to make identification easier. It's all in the book, too. Trophy shots like this one are fine, of course, but they don't make some details clear, like the mouth or fin shapes."
"The only way to remove any doubt (could it be a back-cross, for example?) is a DNA test, unfortunately."
I should be very interested to hear other people's views on this one.
Received an email from Gary Truman, talking about crucian fishing in Epping Forest ponds. There have been some interesting conservation work and scientific research going on there and you can get up-to-date on that by going to The risks & impacts of non-native fish introductions to ponds in Epping Forest and north Norfolk.
There is also information here on the North Norfolk initiative in which Gordon Copp is involved.
Received two photos from Henrik Ragnarson Stabo of a new record crucian from their Swedish club lake, caught on a small piece of prawn. You can see them in the gallery of crucians, pictures 23 and 24.
In "Birds", the RSPB magazine, there was an article about utilizing pits and quarries as nature reserves when they've been worked out. It made me think about potential crucian preserves. All over the country there are small, disregarded pools just waiting to be stocked with crucians. I'm thinking particularly about silt trap pools on National Trust properties, for example. At Stourhead, which I know well, there are several such ponds upstream of the main lake. They are small and inappropriate for angling but ideal as crucian havens. Chances are, this situation occurs on many of our estates, large and small. The same goes for the water features on golf courses nationwide.
This would be an opportunity for the Angling Trust to raise its profile amongst members of the public and to underline its conservation principles. Wouldn't it be a good idea for the AT to lobby the interested parties to stock with crucians, to help to preserve a threatened species. If the RSPB can do this for our birds, why can't the AT do it for our fish, in particular for a species that is in danger of dying out in the UK.
Of course, the AT is handicapped by lack of funds - though what I suggest need not cost very much: you only need a few mature fish for each stocking - and I hope that all of you reading this have joined the organization. Perhaps it is the will that is lacking or perhaps the idea has never occurred to anyone.
Anglers claim to be conservationists, "the guardians of our rivers, canal, lakes and ponds". A "spread the crucian" project such as I suggest might help put the theory into practice.
A number of big 'crucians' have come out of our local Revel's Fishery but the ones I've seen pictures of are hybrids. A pity - but there may well be some true crus. there.
Henrik tells me that a sample from the record Swedish 'crucian', at 6lbs 12oz, has recently been DNA tested, results awaited. Other 'crucians' from the same lake on the island of Gotland have been DNA confirmed as hybrids between gibel carp and crucians. Here is the current Swedish record 'crucian' from the same lake. What do you think?
For another photo of this cracking Baltic crucian look in the gallery.
The Angling Times published a picture of a 4lbs 'crucian' "caught on free-lined maggots" that was obviously a common carp × crucian (or goldfish) hybrid. The trouble is, every time the angling press gets it wrong, the more people get confused.
A nice article in the Angler's Mail (24th May) on crucian fishing, by John Bailey. It's good to see other people, especially someone as famous in the angling world as John, helping crucians become mainstream. What do you think of the fish pic. below the article title, though? It's a brown goldfish or, more likely, a goldfish × crucian hybrid. Confusion lives on!
It seems to me that if the crucian and the goldfish came into this country at about the same time, some time at the beginning of the 18th century, then, logically, preserving the goldfish (Carassius auratus) as a species is as important to biodiversity as preserving the crucian (Carassius carassius). Before you get too hot under the collar about this, please read on!
(please tell me any more you can think of!)
Dave Redwood sent me this picture of a case of fine crucians he found in a certain English pub:
The 'funny fish' season is beginning! We're already beginning to see in the angling press pictures of giant "crucians" that are almost always hybrids. Sometimes, though, it's very difficult to be sure, as in the case of the Gold Valley fish reported in February. What a shame that better photographs were not available.
I've been told of several fish apparently over the record weight, where the angler concerned couldn't be bothered to go through the red tape necessary when the claim is for a species as difficult to identify as the crucian. If you follow my recommendations then at least you would have a chance of establishing whether the fish was a true crucian or not. For DNA testing - and remember that there are two categories of record crucian, with or without DNA evidence - you only need to take one scale from the fish, put it in a hook packet, for example, and send it to the BRFC with photos, witnesses' names, etc. Probably one or other of the angling weeklies should receive the first phone call - I'm sure that they would be only too pleased to help!
If people don't make record claims, then we may be missing out on very useful information. So far, crucians in this country have peaked at about four and a half pounds. Other species have grown considerably over the past 20 years or so, but not crucians apparently. Perhaps one or more of these "can't be bothered to claim" anglers could have re-written our knowledge of the species; perhaps British crucians do grow much bigger than has so far been proved.
I've just watched a "Country File" I recorded on Sunday. It's interesting that in Scotland the wild cat is in danger of being hybridised out of existence by the domestic tabby. Does that ring any bells?
The Angling Trust and the CLA Game Fair are delighted to announce that Peter Rolfe is the winner of the first Fred J Taylor Award for Environmental Stewardship in the world of Angling.
Peter was selected for his work over nearly four decades studying and conserving crucians, a species which has suffered a dramatic decline in numbers due to destruction of its habitat and hybridisation with feral goldfish and other carp. Peter was awarded with the Fred J Taylor Award at the CLA Game Fair on Saturday 20 July in the main theatre, along with a cash prize of £1,000 to spend on furthering his work.