English born and bred
The amazing new carp of Airfield Lakes
Social media and forums are the breeding ground for negatives about stocking carp, their merits and immigration status. Despite this time old debate and the popularity of imported carp, there are, however, many fisheries in the UK that pride themselves as having home-grown fish.
One such fishery is Airfield Lakes in Norfolk which is owned by well-known carp angler Rich Wilby. The complex offers exclusive carp angling across two fantastic lakes: the traditional Spitfire Pool and the younger Mustang Lake. The former was in residence when Rich bought the site and is home to some particularly special fish, topped by the Wood Common that has reached over 50lb. Having realised the potential of this incredible stock, Rich has decided to harvest the eggs and now boasts some of the finest young English carp in existence.
Rich told Carp-Talk: “Many moons ago I learnt the art of spawning carp at Sparsholt college. But the farming side of the carp industry was not really my thing. I was into the fishing side and lake management. I always thought let the experts spawn them and I’ll grow them and give them optimum conditions. Guys like Viv Shears and Simon Scott really have carp reproduction down to a fine art and I will always be buying in a few stunners from them. However, watching my big old carp spawn in my lakes, particularly the special fish in Spitfire Pool, made me think about keeping this strain myself. A couple of good friends talked me into it, so a few years ago I set up a small hatchery in my barn and started to collect eggs immediately after spawning and hatch them out. It was like being back at college and I made several mistakes before I got better at it. Getting them from egg to one-inch long is not easy and I must thank a couple of good anglers I know, called Paul Harradine and Ben Jeffery for their encouragement and tips.
It’s well documented that Rich has stocked Mustang Lake regularly since it was dug in 2008. Fast forward to the present day and Mustang now boasts 150 hand-picked carp with over 50 different thirties, topped by a number of forties. He has never stocked Spitfire Pool since the original stocking many years ago. However, in one, maybe two years, when his fingerlings have grown, some of the very best will be cherry-picked from his stock ponds and introduced into this amazing big fish venue.
Rich added: “I don’t plan to sell the fish I’ve been growing. I have four carp lakes (including two syndicates on separate sites) and my own fish will be trickled into these to ensure the future is good. I’ve no plans for any new waters, four lakes is enough for one person to run, even with good help from friends. I have dug a larger stock pond this year to grow on fish to doubles and I plan to put some real gems into Spitfire in the next year or two when they’re big enough. I’m not sure how big they will get. They are growing steadily at the moment and I’m not rushing things as I’m trying to keep the water quality in the stock ponds and hatchery tanks as good as possible.”
Some of the fish that Rich has been grading are absolutely spectacular. He has commons, mirrors, fully scaleds, linears, and one or two very special fish which have to be seen to be believed. One carp in particular has turned the heads of many and can only be described as a fully scaled linear, which in carp breeding terms is something of a rarity. Even Carp-Talk’s Kevin Clifford, who has bred thousands of carp in his life, couldn’t recall ever seeing a carp like it. Commenting on this fish, Rich said: “From thousands of fry I’ve hatched, I have never seen one like it. This particular fish is going to be in a warm aquarium for a couple of months to give it a boost as it was the smallest of the batch. I hope it does well, as it is sure to be a target fish for the future.”