It may have escaped most people’s notice, but the British Record Fish Committee (BRFC) has taken action to reinforce the integrity of the record fish lists. This move has come in the wake of some fisheries’ owners attempts to bend the rules.
Henceforth, the committee will demand proof that any record fish is of the weight claimed and has been taken by the means claimed. They will also require evidence of the fish’s background and growth. The rules apply to all species of freshwater fish but the real targets are fish which have been reared in fish farms and then placed in angling waters. In other words, carp.
Carp do not readily spawn in the wild in this country and so must be reared before being placed into the lakes. When Richard Walker famously caught a 44-pound carp in 1952, carp really began to excite anglers and reached what can only be described as cult status after Chris Yates landed a 51-pounder in 1980.
Fishery owners realised that the bigger the fish they had, the higher the number of anglers who would pay to fish their waters. They have been deliberately stocking larger specimens which have been reared for the purpose.
The carp controversy hit top gear in 2016 when a claim was lodged for a carp of 69lb 3oz. The fish was a pound heavier than the 68lb 1oz fish then acknowledged as the national record. The potential new record holder, which had been dubbed Big Rig, was caught by a legitimate angler, was correctly weighed, witnessed and photographed. But then the BRFC rejected it. This was because the owner of the lake from which it had been taken had bought the fish when it weighed 40lb and then hand-reared it to near record weight before he put in his lake.
Engineering Carp Records
The rearing of the carp was viewed as an attempt to engineer a new record and an outcry ensued. The BFRC were forced to concede that enough was enough. The committee has previously only required proof that any fish submitted was a true specimen of the species claimed, was not of a protected species, was caught by fair angling means when in season, was weighed on accurate scales and was supported by reliable witnesses backed by photographic evidence.
Now, the BRFC has warned anglers and fisheries that it will need to know the weight of the fish at the time of stocking, the length of time that the fish had been in the water from which it was caught, how it was fed and more. If the information isn’t provided or something seems a little fishy, if you will pardon the phrase, the catch will not be ratified.
New Rules Have Bite
The new rules have already begun to bite. Tom Doherty recently caught a 71lb 4oz carp but the fish was denied a record because it had been artificially fed. The owner of the fishery said that he had been responding to his clients’ demands for bigger fish. Doherty’s catch had been imported from Israel and sold to the fishery in Shropshire. It was then reared in a farm pond and moved to the fishing lake when it was close to record weight. Anglers and fisheries are asking for greater clarity regarding which carp can and can’t be record fish.