Five lake coarse, specimen and match fishery with Kids Lake specially designed for younger anglers
Key facts about Stones Fishery
Think of the Isle of Sheppey and probably the last thing you think of is coarse angling. Situated at the mouth of the River Thames some 50 miles east of London, it is better known for its thriving Sheerness Docks, its marshes, mud flats, bird watching and as a tourist resort.
But thanks to the enterprising work of Matthew Waghorn, the island now has its own three-lake venue which provides a variety of sport from a small 30-peg purpose-built childrens lake with wooden walkway and guard rail through to specimen fishing for big carp and bream. The fishery covers a total of about eight acres and is open between 7.00am and 7.00pn although the closing time is invariably much later during the better summer months.
Although it was only created at the end of 1999 it has matured nicely with the Match Lake in particular being full of interesting features including two ornate wooden bridges which cross the two islands, as well as beds of lily pads and water reeds, all of which make interesting features to fish to. The fishery also has ambitious plans to expand during 2005 by providing a new 100-peg match and pleasure lake next to the current Specimen Lake plus a modern new clubhouse which is expected to be open in Spring 2006.
When completed, the new clubhouse (left) will provide a fully-stocked tackle shop as well as cafe, bar, restaurant, golf shop and function room for private parties and corporate events. It will make an ideal meeting place for clubs holding matches at Stones.
Whilst the fishery currently has a tackle shop, this is housed in a temporary Portacabin which is right next to the Children Pool. The shop carries a wide variety of baits including flavoured meats, sweetcorn and pellets as well as maggots and worms. In addition, the shop usually offers a selection of terminal tackle plus reels, rods, landing nets, landing net handles and bank sticks. It even has special offers of complete rod/reel sets by well-known names such as John Wilson from as little as £30 all-in including a day’s permit at Stones Fishery.
The three pools each have their own character and are suitable for disabled anglers. Indeed, the fishery even goes so far as to give disabled anglers and their tackle a lift to their pegs in electric golf carts. Disabled anglers requiring this free service should ask when paying for their day ticket at the tackle shop. The golf cart is also used to deliver orders for food and drinks to anglers at their pegs. Orders for hot and cold snacks and drinks are prepared at the cafe in the garden centre next door.
All told, Stones Fishery makes an interesting venue in an area which undoubtedly is short of coarse fisheries. Being a popular tourist resort, it is also great for anglers and members of their families who don’t fish with plenty of local attractions to non-angling members of the family occupied. Although the Isle of Sheppey is just nine miles long by five miles wide, it offers traditional seaside towns such as Leysdown and Sheerness as well as a rich cultural heritage. The island gets its name from early times when sheep farming was extensive on the island.
Today the western end of the island – home to a former naval dockyard – is now the successful commercial port of Sheerness whilst at the other end of the island are miles of beaches for holiday makers. Because of its marshes and coastline the island is also a noted haven for bird watchers and even sports a naturist beach!
Situated immediately next to the tackle shop at Stones Fishery is the kidney-shaped quarter acre Childrens Pool which can accommodate about 30 youngsters and their parents. Constructed with decking around about three-quarters of the water, the pool has a bowl shaped bottom and goes to about eight feet at its deepest in the centre although it has been kept to just two feet round the edges for safety reasons.
Childrens Pool is stocked with a variety of fish of sizes which are easy for novices and children to handle, the biggest being mirror, common and koi carp to between 4lbs and 5lbs, brown carp and ghosties to 2lbs, crucians to about 1lb and small tench, roach and rudd to 8oz. Because of its size, Childrens Pool is ideal for learning to fish the waggler or pole, with maggots and expander pellets being the most favoured bait.
Fishing on the bottom or up in the water whilst loose feeding with small amounts of hook bait are both successful although the large number of fish in the water really make it unnecessary to plumb the depths before fishing. In summer it also pays to fish floating bread on days or evenings when the pool is quieter.
As is to be expected, the ease of fishing Childrens Pool make this an ideal venue for youngsters coming into the sport or a place to try out new techniques or bait mixes whilst the wide decking around much of the water provides a clean, even and safe area for younger anglers to sit.
Although Stones’ Match Lake is pegged for up to 50 anglers, competition numbers are restricted to 36 at any one event to reduce the pressure on the fish and to give anglers more chance of taking bigger weights. It also leaves plenty of room on this popular water for pleasure anglers.
At about two acres in size, Match Lake is unlike most match waters in that it is not a ‘canal’ style venue with an even bottom and fairly few features. In contrast, it has bridges, lily pads, beds of reeds and plenty of bankside vegetation alongside the wooden platform pegs to provide a very pleasant if not somewhat unusual water.
Although the majority of the fish run between 2lbs and 4lbs, there are plenty of mirror and common carp to 15lbs as well as bream to 6lbs. As well as ghosties and F1 hybrid carp, both of which run to 4lbs, there are chub to 4lbs; perch and tench to 3lbs; crucians, brown goldfish, roach and rudd to 2lbs; and golden rudd to 1lb. In addition there are a good head of goldfish and fan-tailed shubunkins which are regularly caught to 2lbs in weight.
Whilst the average depth is only about four-and-a-half feet there are two holes of significance – one 14 feet deep at the far end of the lake and another about 10 feet deep near the entrance. At the back of the islands the water is generally about six feet and the lake shallows towards the margins.
The presence of the holes make it worthwhile spending a few minutes plumbing the depths before starting to fish, particularly in winter when the cold weather can send the fish down into deeper water. Although Match Lake is used for competitions, it is also a popular pleasure water and because of this has been designed so that there are features to fish to from every peg, although there are no particular ‘hot spots’ where the bigger weights regularly come from.
Again, Match Lake is heavily stocked and pleasure anglers can expect to catch between 40lbs to 50lbs although several anglers have reported bags of more than 200lbs of fish at one sitting. For competitions, the match record currently stands at just under 100lbs. During matches the backup weights can also be virtually guaranteed to be good with most anglers turning in worthwhile weights.
As one would expect with a good general mixed fishery, Match Lake is popular with both pole and waggler anglers and the fishing is usually good whether you head for open water or snuggle up to one of the many features. In addition to fishing the features it also pays to try in the margins where the sport can be extremely good, particularly when the water is not busy and there are few anglers around.
When it comes to baits, anything goes with pellets, flavoured meats, sweetcorn, maggots, worm and bread all being effective on their day. In warmer weather Match Lake is also a good water for fishing floating baits.
Proving that appearances can be deceptive, Specimen Lake looks more like a match lake than a big fish water, but with common and mirror carp to just under 30lbs and a good head of bream running into double figures, this is the place to go for if you are looking for big fish.
About an acre in size, Specimen Lake holds 26 well-spaced begs on both banks and has a gradually shelving bed running down to about our-and-a-half feet with a six foot deep channel down the very centre of the lake. In addition, at either end there are eight foot holes which can form holding areas for the fish, particularly in colder weather.
In addition to the commons and mirrors, Specimen Lake holds koi carp to double figures, ghosties to about 7lbs, green and golden tench to just over 3lbs, and barbel to about 3lbs but averaging between 1lb and 2lbs. The barbel are putting on weight quickly because there is always an undertow in Specimen Lake which keeps the water moving.
If you like bream fishing, this is the water to go to. The lake record, taken in September 2004, now stands at 10lbs 10oz and a lot of fish are regularly caught between 6lbs and 7lbs. Although popular as a waggler and ledger water, Specimen Lake also attracts a lot of pole anglers who are recommended to fish the margins with a 20 elastic to a 12 or 14s hook, although those after the bigger fish are probably better sticking to more traditional rod and line techniques with a minimum line strength of 8lbs and a size 10 or 12 hook.
Whatever your preference, it pays to fish slightly on the light side and not to bait up too heavily as this can throw the fish off. Unless you are fishing a feeder, fish you bait over a light bed of pellets, maggots and sweetcorn little and feed hook samples little and often.
Because Stones is a fairly open fishery, the angling on Specimen Lake can vary according to the time of year. In summer it pays to fish the margins or on the surface with floating crust, dog biscuit or floating pellet whilst in the winter the fish tend to stay near the bottom, particularly the deeper water when it gets colder.
This is when fishing the feeder or a free-running method feeder comes into their own, although all year the best baits tend to be worm, bunches of red and white maggots, halibut flavoured pellets and meat baits. In summer, paste baits are also well worth a try. Like the other Stones Fishery waters, the pegs on Specimen Lake are well built timber platforms or gravel filled double to treble pegs offering plenty of room.
Whilst anglers can take up to 150lbs of fish at one sitting in the right conditions – the individual lake record is again 200lbs – it is worth remembering that the best results are usually taken by anglers fishing into the wind or in pegs at the furthest end of the lake from where the wind is blowing.