Fishing Lines: A coarse guide to Christmas presents just add water

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The Independent Online

What do you buy for the fisher-man who has everything? Not my question, I hasten to add; this query comes from a reader in Warwick, who for some reason assumes I can supply an answer in time for Christmas.

Let's rule out a first edition of Izaak Walton's 'The Compleat Angler' (though the Salisbury bookshop John and Judith Head has a fourth and fifth edition for sale), salmon fishing on Quebec's spectacular Grand Cascapedia river (you're already too late for 2008) or a subscription to my magazine 'Classic Angling' (which any discerning fisher already takes anyway).

But there is an answer. Buy him his own fishery.

Back in the 1980s, everyone thought this was the answer to an angler's dream. Buy a lake (or even a piece of land, dig a hole and fill it with water), then stock it with trout. Anglers pay to fish there, you rake in the money and you've got free fishing.

For a lucky few, it worked that way. Then competition got fiercer. It seemed every puddle was stocked with trout. Enter, stage left, fish-eating cormorants, suddenly protected by EU law. They started eating all the trout.

Good waters survived; poorly-run ones went out of business. The other big problem was that every time a fisherman caught a trout, you lost a piece of your prime asset. Today's catch, sprinkled with almonds, is tomorrow's supper.

A much smarter way is to run a fishery containing "coarse" fish (generally seen as the less edible ones), especially carp. Coarse fishers, you see, put back everything they catch. They not only pay to fish, but even pay to feed your fish. As your fish grow, nourished by maggots, worms and high-protein food, they become worth more.

You can set up a specialist water with big carp, where anglers will typically pay 30 a day or more to fish, or sell larger specimens to another water. A 30lb carp these days is worth around 2,000; a 40-pounder more than double that. A50-pounder is probably the sort of thing to put on eBay with a 10,000 starting price.

Property agents Fenn Wright's website,, last week listed 14 waters suitable for angling entrepreneurs. They range from a gravel pit in Chigborough, Essex, for 150,000to a 47-acre site with a farmhouse and three lakes in Great Brickhill, near Aylesbury, at 1.45 million.

The latter can house nearly 90 anglers. With a day ticket costing around 8 a day, it means the fish are paying off your mortgage faster than a student house in the centre of Cambridge.

There's only one small problem. The influx of East Europeans may have done wonders in cutting the cost of plumbing repairs, but it's been bad news for fish. Unused to our fishery laws and conservation approach, Polish anglers in particular have been plundering many waters and taking out the fish (swans and ducks too, but that's another story).

Their love of fish is especially relevant at this time of year, because for much of Eastern Europe a typical Christmas meal is based around carp, not turkey.

So buying a fishery and stocking it heavily with carp might make anglers very happy, but will make vast shoals ofEast Europeans even happier. Merry Christmas.