2021 Cherry Lake Report and Reflections
Time to declare for the Cherry Lake 30+ club as we pass 250 members
Monday 6 December 2021
As regular readers of my latest news blog know, I normally write an 'annual report' during December looking back over the past year. Similar to last year, I will write this in two parts. The first part being focussed on Cherry Lake, with part 2 covering the three smaller lakes.
With the complex closed until April, we essentially missed the first quarter of the year, as far as guests were concerned due to the last Covid lockdown. Fishery manager Dave and I though did take advantage and did a fair amount of fishing during March. We caught a good number of Carp (my fading memory does not help with how many), including 3 entries which remain in our 30's+ catalogue for the year.
Given we are now in the dark cold days of December, I have deliberately over-indulged with the number of photos here. If nothing else, it should make most Carp anglers both long for the warmer days of summer as well as want to get your rods out!
The Cherry Lake 30+ club has now gone passed the 250th member milestone and I have decided it is time to declare! I do not intend to give a running commentary on the number of different anglers who have caught a 30lb+ Carp from Cherry Lakes. On the basis that I think I would have a riot if I withdrew them.................we will continue, at least for the next year, to 'award' 30+polo shirts (30-35lb), 35+ Hoodies (35-40lb) and 40+ Fleeces (40lb+) to our guests for the first time they pass each of these milestones.
I wrote last year that I was slightly disappointed with the Covid impacted total of 46 different 30lb+ Carp caught in 2020. I came into this year looking to comfortably beat the 50 thirties barrier in 2021. I am very pleased that we have smashed this number and ended 2021 with 64 different Carp over 30lb+. Wow! It is just 9 years ago when we reported our first 30+ ('The Broken Mirror RIP).
In the early years we did invest in some good strains of young Carp. However, I am in no doubt, that the most important factor in both the normal top condition, as well as good growth of our Carp, is our on-going feeding programme. From day 1 in 2013, we have continued to feed a combination of boilies, pellets and spod mix in addition to anglers baits. Based on how well the Carp have done, we will continue to do so. This is not cheap, and after people, Fish Feed is our second biggest operating cost.
I see this cost as essentially a fixed one, which we must make to help ensure a healthy growing fish stock. Indeed, we had to spend even more on Fish Feed, during the lockdowns, because the normal feed supplement provided by the anglers was absent! Sometimes our guests comment that our boiles are expensive. My view, even ignoring the convenience and service provided by having them available on-site, is that they are contributing in a small way to all the pre-baiting provided by our feeding programme!
Now for some numbers. The 2021 Cherry Lake 30+ return of 64 different fish can be sub-divided in the following ways
Reflecting my preference for Mirror Carp and past stocking, and the fact it gets progressively harder to confidently identify individual Common Carp (and so I stop counting after a point), 41 different Mirror Carp were landed, 17 Commons and 6 Fully Scaled Mirrors. Of these 6 were Ghost carp (4 x Ghost Mirrors and 2 x Ghost Commons).
We had 5 different Carp over 40lb+ landed.
'The Scuff' Common which had not come out for two years was landed by Oliver Wells at 42lb, pictured in the lead photo above top, whilst Wayne Poole had the other new 40, a 40-04 Mirror. These two 'first time 40's, were joined by 'Ruby' caught by Charlie England at 41-08, as well as the two biggies 'Dick' whose best weight in 2021 was 48-04 (Dick set the lake record in October 20 when caught at 49-12) and 'The Patch' at 46-12. Meaning we had 3 Mirrors and 2 Commons over the 40lb mark caught during the last year.
Of the 59 different 30's, 45 weighed in between 30-35lb and 14 were between 35-40lb, including 4 Carp of 38lb+ (2 Commons and 2 Mirrors) which are knocking on the '40+' door! In fact my best guess right now is that we have around 8 Carp swimming around Cherry Lake over 40lb+ as we speak!
Regular readers will know that 'Dick' suffered a badly broken pectoral fin , and 'The Patch', took a lot of coaxing to swim off, when last caught. I am pleased to confirm that neither of these Carp have been seen since and are assumed to be doing well. I remain extremely grateful to the diligence of Adam Smith who caught 'the Patch' during October. He called me around 02.30 in the morning to say that he had caught a massive Common which he could not keep upright in the retainer. Long story short, after holding the 'monster Common' in the water and rocking it gently to get water flowing over it's gills, the Carp eventually kicked off out of my hands. Unfortunately the sacrifice made by Adam for saving this Carp was not being able to take a photo. I have as a result re-run the shot of 'The Patch' when previously last caught by Tom Nixon-Taylor in July 20
I have written before how amazed I am at how Carp can disappear for a long while even in a lake like Cherry Lake which is steadily (but not heavily) fished. Dave says it can be partially accounted for by Carp being lost. Whilst this may be true, I think a lot of the rarely caught Carp have learnt that washed out baits are much safer, and they also love the pellets (which is why the Carp seem to be bubbling a lot more than when we first had the lake). The pellets breakdown into mush which requires the Carp to suck and blow even more? Interestingly, I rarely see either of these approaches fished properly.
This year we had 5 Carp appear in our 2021 catalogue which I had to go back to 2018 or 2019 catalogues to find! This included 'The Scuff' Common held by Oliver Wells in the lead photo above.
We also had 20 new first time 30's caught in 2021, which doing the math suggests at least two Carp from 2020 are missing! This strong growth in new thirties, typically caught weighing between 30-33llb, is again further testament to the positive impact of our fish feeding programme and wider lake management. Assuming no disasters, which I will admit to regularly having sleepless nights over, I would expect a good proportion of our bigger Carp to continue to grow and thrive.
For those of you who have seen our stock pond, know it is connected to Cherry Lake by a pump which drives the waterfall on the stock pond, with the water returning to the lake through a 6'' pipe. The Carp in the summer often sit underneath this pipe with the water pouring over their backs. The Carp in our stock pond continue to do well and are the hand picked progeny from the Cherry Lake Carp.
We have some fantastic young Carp typically from 3-6lb coming through. These Carp have largely all been through a selection process where I have removed the less distinctive ones. The Carp remaining almost always have something attractive about them, including lovely scale patterns, great shapes and colours. The lack of predation, and my love of Ghost Carp, ensures a high proportion (c10%+) of the Carp selected are Ghosties.
This year I have again introduced about 20 of these Carp into Cherry Lake. This number should be sufficient to replace the known Carp deaths plus a few for other forms of predation, keeping the numbers of Carp in the 300-350 range.
This process ensures a steady stream of young Carp coming through and avoids the need to purchase and introduce Carp from outside. As much as I would like to buy some new strains of Carp, the risk of inadvertently introducing a disease is simply too great. Hence it is good to have our home grown safe replacements coming through. At this size I hope they are largely Pike and Cormorant proof! Given I have been doing this now for a few years, I would be confident in saying that any Carp being caught under 17-18lb is now 'home-grown', which as you can imagine is a source of great satisfaction to me. A 'proud dad' is how Judith describes me!
We are now into the quietest time of the year from a guest perspective, and it is now the time when we undergo much of our annual heavy maintenance work. The lower deck on all three of the Lodges have already been renewed this year. We are in the process of replacing all the bathrooms in all of the Lodges (except Egret) to ensure our high standards are maintained. We also plan to replace the flooring in Pochard Lodge which has been particularly heavily used and looks worn. An expensive time consuming job which unfortunately must be done.
We also plan to have the tree surgeons back and they will be with us for about a week. As always we will be pollarding the Crack Willow and Alders which grow so fast and always seem to be leaning over the water, often in an unsafe way. I never cease to be amazed how much work trees require to keep them safe and well kept
We will be doing a Christmas message to our guests as normal, but just in case we miss you, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all our past guests, and in particular those who visited us in 2021, for your support and feedback (the vast majority of which is over-whelmingly positive). We hope you have a great Christmas and that we all have a lockdown free 2022!