Anglers under 14 must be accompanied
Despite being one of the most attractive of the Woodlands Fishery waters, the fact that it is the furthest pleasure water from the car park means that the 12-peg Willow Lake is the least fished of the three original waters at the venue.
Walking up past Oak and Elm lakes, the track leads through woodland to a small bridge where anglers can either go straight on to fish the left bank or over the stream to fish the dam end or right bank. Whichever you choose there is plenty of bankside cover and tailor-made pegs.
Although only small at about three-quarters of an acre in size, Willow is stocked with carp to double figures although the predominant species are some lovely crucian carp, tench and bream. There are also some quality roach and rudd.
Although not a big fish water - after the double figure carp the largest are bream which run to 6lbs - Willow is a delightful pleasure water to fish, being the most secluded water on the complex and completely surrounded by trees. The reed lined banks, bankside bushes and weeping willows which trail into the water give plenty of cover and give it a traditional feel where you can leave the world behind.
The beautiful Old English crucian carp which go to just over 1lb, plus the tench to 4lbs, roach and rudd to about 1lb and the bream, common and mirror carp combine with the venue to provide an enchanting day's fishing.
And with the majority of the lake being only four feet deep with a maximum of seven feet at the dam end, it is easy to fish on pole or waggler with no need for ledger or swimfeeder tackle.
Generally speaking, the best pegs to head for are the front bank pegs 6 to 12 which tend to consistently be the most productive. There is a nice large reed bed half way down the lake which runs by Pegs 9 to 12 with lily pads at each end.
Because the banks gradually shelve down to the original stream bed along the centre of the lake it is worth making sure you get your depth just right, particularly if fishing for the crucian which are traditionally light takers of the bait. Fish too much over depth and you probably won't see the bites.
Best baits tend to be pellets, sweetcorn and worm whilst casters are good on their day for the crucians, roach and skimmer bream. However, if you are fishing maggots you need to feed quite heavily to get through the smaller fish and attract the bigger specimens into your swim.
At about an acre in size, Elm lake is Woodlands main carp water and holds 16 purpose-made pegs including a special wheelchair-friendly peg for disabled anglers which can be booked in advance by telephoning the fishery.
Like Willow Lake, Elm has a gently sloping bottom which runs down to the old stream bed along the centre of the lake and is deeper at the dam end than at the inlet.
However, the stamp of fish are much bigger with mirror, common and ghost carp topping the 20lb mark and tench running to 6lbs, bream to a similar size and Old English crucian carp again to about 1lb with several thousand fish in the 6oz to 8oz range. As is to be expected, these can provide lively sport to anglers fishing for them on light tackle.
Although it is known that there are over 40 double figure fish in this water there are also a large number of quality fish between 6lbs and 10lbs.
Once again Elm is similar to Willow Lake in that it is completely surrounded by trees and bushes. The main features on the water include four large banks of lily pads which hold the fish plus reed beds and rushes around the sides.
Like the other Woodlands waters, Elm has been greatly improved with the construction of sturdy four-feet wide pathways around the lake and, down the left hand bank, timber and chipping steps which lead down to well-spaced tailor made fishing platforms which are spacious enough for even the most well equipped carp angler.
When fishing for the carp it pays to go for out-and-out carp attack tactics and although boilies are not permitted more traditional baits such as sweetcorn, luncheon meat and large pellets all do the trick nicely. It is recommended that anglers use between 10lbs and 15lbs line and a Size 10 hook, although they should be aware that braid cannot be used as a main line.
Because it is not a large water, anglers need only use light leads or feeders but when fishing for the carp with luncheon meat half-inch cubes are recommended because Elm holds some large gudgeon up to 3oz which are notorious for nibbling away smaller pieces and bolting off with the bait once they have whittled it down to mouth-sized chunks!
When fishing for the tench, bream and crucians on pole or waggler most anglers tend to go eight to 10 metres out but once again because of the gradually sloping bottom it pays to plumb your swim to get the depth right. This is particularly important when targeting the crucians because you need to be exactly on the bottom or two to three inches over depth at most.
The best baits for the silver fish tend to be soft hooker pellets and sweetcorn for the crucians, sweetcorn for the tench and pellets, maggots or worm for the bream.
Probably the most popular pleasure water at Woodlands Fishery because it is right next to the car park and tackle shop, the one-acre Oak Lake has 17 delightful pegs which provide a variety of fishing ranging from fishing shallow swims near lily pads to deeper open water around the sides and centre of the lake.
Before the opening of Woodlands' new Ash and Hawthorn match lakes (see below), Oak was the fishery's main match water. Although it is now predomionantly a pleasure water, Oak is still used for the the regular Thursday evening floodlight open matches when fishing is from 6.30pm until 10.00pm.
Like Willow and Elm, Oak Lake is again set in the bottom of the wooded valley and is the deepest of the three pleasure waters, ranging from five to six feet deep at the inlet end down to a maximum of 10 feet in the centre before rising gradually to about seven feet just off the dam wall.
With lily pads and lush beds of reeds providing features to fish to, Oak has perhaps the largest quantity of crucian carp in any of the Woodlands lakes with most of the fish averaging 8oz to 12oz but again running to about 1lb. The record weight for crucians in a six-hour sitting on Oak is 104lbs - a lot of fish.
In addition, there are loads of mirrors and commons between 2lbs and 8lbs plus several doubles which are rarely fished for.
Throw in tench up to 6lbs but averaging 3lbs to 4lbs, bream largely between 1lb and 2lbs but running to a lake record of 6lbs 1oz, a mass of roach and rudd to half a pound, a few eels to 6lbs which have made their way upstream from the nearby Steeping River and some quality perch between 2lbs and 3lbs which are generally caught in winter on worm or maggot, and you have a good all round pleasure-cum-match water.
When it comes to best baits, Oak is again similar to Willow and Elm in that soft hooker pellets, casters, maggots and sweetcorn all work well for the crucian carp whilst the bigger mirrors tend to fall to sweetcorn, luncheon meat and pellets. A mix of corn, pellets, maggots and worm all attract the tench and bream.
Whilst it is always worth fishing on or just off the bottom with light tackle in open water for all species of fish, in summer it can pay to fish the margins and by the lilies, feeding little and often to keep the fish going.
Floating baits can also be particularly effective in warm weather and on summer evenings, whilst the two corner pegs which give access to the dam wall are worth having. The overhanging trees and bushes nearly always hold decent fish and a floating or sunken bait fished as close to them as you can get usually does the trick.
As with any fishery these days it pays to experiment, but with a large head fish in Oak you should be in for a good day whatever your technique, the weather or time of year.
Dug in Autumn 2003, Ash and Hawthorn lakes have been created to provide two good match venues for club anglers without resorting to the stereo-typical 'canal and centre island' format so often followed these days in the quest to give all pole anglers carbon-copies of the swims either side of them.
Classed by owner John Middleton as 'any method' waters, Ash is the smaller of the two at one-and-a-quarter acres in size and is an open water fringed with reeds and planted with lily pads at the inlet and outlet.
With bowl shaped sides which slope down to about six feet in the centre of the lake, Ash is stocked predominantly with mirrors and commons typically between 2lbs and 4lbs. These are young fish which have only been in the water for two years but already the biggest to have come out and been weighed in a match tipped the scales at dead on 7lbs - an impressive growth rate.
Add to these a good head of skimmers in the 12oz to 1lb category, some crucians of a similar size and a smattering of roach and you have a water offering 17 pegs sited 10 yards apart which is ideal for a small club match.
By contrast to its smaller sibling, Hawthorn Lake is the largest of all the Woodlands Fishery waters at two-and-a-half acres in size and offering 36 well spaced pegs again at least 10 yards apart.
With an average depth between five and six feet, Hawthorn goes down to a maximum of seven feet at the outlet off pegs 14 and 15. Unlike most modern match lakes, this lake offers variety with some pegs able to reach the island at 13 metres and others needing a feeder or waggler to get to its bays some 35 metres away. Basically nearly every peg on Hawthorn is different requiring anglers to use their all round skills to make the most of the draw.
As a result, anglers need to be prepared and take not only their pole but also a waggler rod and reel and even a feeder rod if they so feel like it.
But this variety doesn't stop anglers catching fish - and the current five hour match record of 96lbs, set in summer 2005, isn't likely to stand for long.
As for baits, Hawthorn so far has proved to be primarily a pellet and sweetcorn water for the carp and maggot and worm for the skimmers.
And with mirrors and commons between 2lbs and 4lbs, bream to 5lbs, skimmers between 12oz and 1lb, roach and rudd between 8oz and 12oz plus a few tench between 1lb and 2lbs, crucians around 12oz and some quality perch to 1lb there is plenty to go for.
How to get there...
Spilsby can be found just inland from Skegness. Drivers from the north should get onto the A1M, go past Doncaster and Retford before taking the A57 to Lincoln. From Lincoln, pick up the signs for the A158 Skegness and follow this through Horncastle until you meet the A16. Spilsby is signed at the next roundabout.
For drivers coming from the south and west, make your way to Newark and then take the A17 road to Sleaford. At Sleaford pick up the A153 for Skegness and travel through Anwick, North Kyme and Billinghay to Conningsby. From Conningsby take the A155 and drive accross country until you meet the A16. Turn left onto the A16 and Spilsby is signed.
Once in Spilsby you will find Ashby Road opposite the George Hotel. Turn left here into Ashby Road and the fishery is signed on the left as you leave the village.
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