It’s time to catch a Crucian
It’s time to head out and catch one of Britain’s much loved and enigmatic fish – the crucian carp. We explore tactics, tackle, bait and venues to get you catching Crucian this season.
Although not monsters that rip yards of line off your reel or stretch a pole elastic to the limit when hooked, these chubby little fish are as enigmatic and as challenging to catch as any common, mirror or barbel – and the heady days of summer from June through to the end of August when the water is warmest and lakes and pools are looking their best is the prime time to catch them.
So good they named it twice!
My love for the humble crucian, Latin name Carassius Carassius – so good they named it twice! – started in my early teens and has endured to this day. During those halcyon days of hot summers and long school holidays, I would strap rod, landing net and everything I needed to the crossbar of my trusty Raleigh and cycle 14 miles to a lodge at the rear of an old northern mill. There I would fish all day by a bed of lily pads for a dozen or so crucians and the occasional small perch, not leaving until dusk and often not arriving home ’til well after dark. Heaven forbid these days the parents who would allow their child to stay out so long on their own – but times were different then in an age where kids still climbed trees and played footy in the street.
These days one of the hardest aspects of catching crucians is finding lakes which hold them, but we’ll come to that later. The next big secret to catching these shy biting fish is that you must be as delicate in your presentation as they are in their feeding, for many crucian bites can be hard to hit as the float bobs, dips, lifts or simply moves slowly across the surface leaving the angler unsure of when or if to strike.
Although my personal best crucian, which tipped the scales at just over 4lbs, was taken on ledger tackle whilst fishing for tench on a lake in Sussex, float fishing is undoubtedly the most enchanting way of fishing for them on either rod and reel or pole.
Fish light and small
Whichever you choose you need to fish light and small. Leave the beefy carp tackle at home and go for a lighter 11 feet or 12 feet pellet waggler or match rod and 3lb or 4lb line or hooklength. If you’re on the pole or whip again opt for something fairly light such as an eight or 10 medium rated hollow elastic.
When it comes to floats, fishing rod and line in calm conditions a delicate 2BB crystal waggler is ample. If the wind makes a 2BB difficult to manage go for a slightly bigger 3BB waggler with a shot halfway down the line. Placing that shot halfway between float and hook reduces the effect of the wind on your float and helps to prevent surface drag. Whichever you choose, generally speaking you won’t need to be casting far as crucians love to hang out at the bottom of bankside shelves or near lily pads which generally grow in shallower water.
Plumbing the depth pays off
Another important factor is to set your float accurately to a depth where the bait sits just on the bottom. Time spent accurately plumbing the depth of your swim will pay dividends for the rest of your session. Having found your depth, fix an anchor shot about three inches from a Size 16 or 18 wide gape hook and slide your float up three inches to compensate for the line between anchor shot and hook. The anchor shot should be just heavy enough to sink your float when a fish takes your bait and lifts the shot off the bottom. Try to have as little of the float tip showing as you can happily fish with because crucians will often drop a bait if they feel the slightest resistance.
When it comes to the choice of reel, whilst the purists often love to fish a good old fashioned centre pin reel, a more modern 1000 or 2000 with dark coloured line works perfectly being light enough to hold for long periods but stout enough to handle even the hardest fighting crucian. Any of the three mid-priced reels we featured will also do the job admirably.
Smaller hooks are recommended
Finally hooks. Because crucians have small mouths and can be quite delicate feeders, smaller hook sizes of 16 or 18 are recommended, preferably those with a wide gape which comfortably take a single grain of sweetcorn, one or two maggots or casters, a soft hooker pellet or a small worm bait. Bread punch or a small piece of bread flake are also excellent baits as are small cubes of luncheon meat about the size of a piece of sweetcorn.
Crucians can be finicky feeders so going light applies equally to feeding a swim as it does to selecting the tackle to use. Little and often is the key. I like to lightly bait up two swims before I set up my tackle as this gives the fish time to find your feed whilst you are otherwise engaged. If you are near a bed of lily pads, bait one swim near the pads and another in the margins. If the fish aren’t feeding in one you can switch to the other to try your luck.
If groundbait is allowed, a small amount mixed with a scattering of hempseed and free offerings such as sweetcorn, dead maggots or casters should suit most occasions. However, once fishing don’t be tempted to over feed, adding a few samples of hookbait after every bite or a golf ball sized ball of groundbait every half hour if the going is slow should suffice.
Make sure you hit the spot
Another important thing is to make sure all your feed goes into the same spot every time. Create an imaginary dinner table about six feet by six feet and make sure everything goes in there. You want to get the fish into a bit of a feeding frenzy, competing for whatever comes their way. There is little point in scattering your free offerings over a wide area. At the same time it is equally important to make sure you cast into the same six square feet to ensure your bait ends up on the dinner table. If you miss, don’t just sit there hoping a fish will show up… retrieve your line and recast until you hit the spot.
These days waters holding true crucians seem harder to find, so all credit to the National Crucian Conservation Project which was launched in 2014 at the Angling Trust Coarse Fish Conference in Reading.
According to the Angling Trust, crucians are endangered across their natural international range and as such are designated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as a red listed species. The number of fisheries containing crucians across the UK is in the decline and the group says there is an urgent need to ensure better protection and management of these waters.
The primary objectives are to promote the conservation of the species and its habitat and encourage the development of well managed crucian fisheries.
Head for shallow and warmer water
By and large, crucian carp are more often found in shallower lakes and pools where the water warms up quickly in late spring and summer. Here they tend to feed throughout the day, although early morning and late afternoon sessions on waters where you can fish until dusk are traditionally regarded as the best times. Although the 4lb specimen I caught in Sussex was taken at 2.00am in the dark, the fish came in like a wet slipper so was probably half asleep when it took the bait!
Early in the year, say from the beginning of May, head for shallow water which warms first. It is here you will stand the best chance of locating a shoal. Unfortunately late autumn and winter doesn’t seem as productive as other times of the year as the fish probably go into some form of semi-hibernation.
How to identify a true Crucian
Because crucians can interbreed with other species of carp including commons and goldfish, one of the questions asked by anglers who catch a decent fish is: “Is this a true crucian or is it a hybrid?” The website Crucians.com has a detailed analysis of how you can tell whether your new personal best is a true crucian or a hybrid.
Here’s a list of 13 day ticket fisheries where you can catch crucians.
- Bake Lakes, Trerulefoot, Saltash, Cornwall PL12 5BW (Tel: 07798 585836). The Dunes and The Emperors both hold crucians with The Dunes being suitable for disabled anglers.
- Four Ponds Fishery, Bowdens Lane, Shillingford, Devon EX16 9BU. (Tel: 07483 110811). Four Ponds’ Tench Lake is stocked with a good head of crucians to 3lbs as well as nice tench and other silver fish.
- Hampton Springs Fishery, Shay Lane, Hampton, Malpas SY14 9AD. (Tel: 01948 820789). Head for the two-and-a-half acre Rock Pool or the smaller Poplars Pool which is near the entrance.
- Ian Heaps Fishing Resort, Holgan Farm, Llawhaden, Narberth SA67 8DJ. (Tel: 07780 441659).
Home of former World Angling Champion Ian Heaps, his Crucian Lake holds specimens said to run to 4lbs 8oz.
- Lakeside Camping & Fisheries, Main Road, Saltfleetby, Louth, Lincolnshire LN11 7SS. (Tel 01507 338272). All three lakes, Main Lake, Island Lake and Kingfisher Lake hold decent heads of crucians.
- Llyn y Gors Fishery, Llandegfan, Menai Bridge, Wales LL59 5PN. Head for the aptly named Lily Pad Pond, Pine Lake or Pleasure Lake which holds the Welsh Crucian record of 2lb 12oz.
- Marsh Farm Fishery, Station Lane, Milford, Surrey GU8 5AE. (Tel: 01483-428885). Run by the Godalming Angling Society who issue day tickets, all three lakes hold good crucians some of which run to 4lbs.
- Mill Farm Fishery, Bury Mill Farm, Bury, Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 1NL. (Tel: 01798 874853). Home to several British Rod Caught Record silver bream, Mill Farm’s Mill Pond is easy to fish and holds plenty of crucians.
- Orchard Lakes, New Lane, Bashley BH25 5TD. (Tel: 07790 915434). Whilst there are a good head of crucians in the Match Lake, head for Main Lake for bigger fish which run to over 2lbs 8oz and average about 1lb.
- Pipehill Fisheries, Pipehill Farm, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS13 8JT. (Tel:07976 528979).Hollybush Pool is not only attractive but holds a good number of crucians.
- Riddings Fishery, Watling Street, Grendon, near Atherstone, Warwickshire CV9 2PE. (Tel: 07398 795456). Its one-acre Crucian Pool is dedicated to crucians water although other silvers and smaller commons and mirrors.
- Rocklands Mere Fishery, Chapel Street, Rockland St Peter, Attleborough, Norfolk NR17 1UJ. (Tel: 07900 004953). Available through pre-booked day tickets, this is a shallow crucian carp and tench fishery with a nationally renowned reputation.
- Shearsby Valley Lakes, Saddington Rd, Shearsby, Leicester LE176PX. (Tel: 0116 2478 164). The 13-peg Sunset Lake holds a mix of silvers including crucian carp.
- Spring Rock Fishery, Ffalddau Lane, Llandegley, Powys LD1 5UE. (Tel: 07970 092160). Set in a stunning location over the border in Wales, Spring Rock’s day-ticket Pleasure Lake holds a mass of crucians to 2lbs 8oz and averaging about 1lb. Bag up with maggots.
For more visit The Crucian Website’s list of venues