An Irish Anglers World

Wild Waters Vs Commercial Venues?

Broadly speaking, there are two types of angling venues in Ireland – wild waters and the commercial venues. For the sake of this article, the term “commercial” refers to any venue, naturally formed or dug artificially; that has had stocks of fish introduced into its waters; that has an owner, manager or management team and charges a fee in the form of a day ticket. Generally speaking, these waters have a high concentration of fish in them and the grounds on which they lie are well maintained with good access in terms of parking spaces, gravel pathways and constructed pegs or platforms from which to fish. In most cases the fee to use these facilities is not high – maybe five to ten euros for a day’s fishing.

Wild water in Co. Monaghan.

Some anglers prefer to fish these types of venues whilst others favour the waters that have had little or no intervention by man, be they accessible or a little bit “out of the way”. Both types of waters require different approaches for success. As an angler, I much prefer the challenge offered by the wilder waters, in fact I would go so far as to say that I would avoid the commercials but that is just a personal choice and I would not begrudge anybody who prefers to spend their time at a commercial. The pleasure derived from angling is a very personal thing for each angler and what constitutes a good day for one fisherman may be poles apart from what constitutes a good day for the next. Life would be very boring if we all liked the same things.

I don’t like the idea of fishing in a stocked water but many lads do and I do realise that commercials have their place in Ireland. For starters, they are a very good source of income for the tackle trade. With the Irish market being very small in comparison to the UK market, or that of mainland Europe, tackle shops here can experience slow times of trading, mainly during the trout and salmon closed season and the winter months, when we are much more likely to see a drop in the numbers of visiting overseas anglers. The presence of commercials can keep the trade end of things “ticking over” during the colder months. Anglers who are doubtful of a good days sport at this time may be inclined to try their luck at a stocked venue, maybe fancying their chances of a catch here when conditions are not what they should be for their local river. This assists the sales of bait and terminal tackle like floats and hooks at a time when, traditionally, a lot of anglers stowed their gear in the shed to dream of the warmer spring months returning.

Fishing the Grand canal near Edenderry, Co. Offaly.

Many a trout angler can also be encouraged to throw a line out well after the brown trout season has ended by buying a ticket for a stocked rainbow trout lake. For a lot of people this can break up the long winter sitting at home, reading angling books and looking forward to the coming season. It gives them an excuse to get out and make sure their casting doesn’t suffer from lack of practice or learn a new technique that they had been thinking about. And besides, it’s far more exciting and interesting to be out fishing, even if it is ridiculously cold in January, than to be sitting at home and reading about it! This “breed” of all year round trout angler will also grace his local tackle shop at some stage, looking for lines, leaders and flies to assist them in their endeavours. Which of course shop owners are delighted with because it gets anglers through the doors on otherwise quiet days.

The commercial waters can also be an excellent place to bring a newcomer to the sport, especially during the warmer months. Something that can put off a new angler is the lack of action that can be experienced on a wild water, when the fish are not feeding or have moved from the swim altogether. By bringing a friend or family member to a commercial there will be a higher chance of them catching more regularly which, at the outset, will keep them far more interested than sitting staring at a motionless float on the likes of a large natural lake. I know a lot of the pleasure in angling is just getting out and enjoying the countryside but try and explain that to an impatient twelve year old who expects to catch every time he casts. These types of waters are an excellent place to build the confidence of a new angler. If they can catch regularly then they can be shown and practice all manner of useful techniques that we utilise in the sport of fishing. You can introduce them to proper fish handling and care, show them how to use disgorgers and how to return fish to the water safely and with ease.

Fighting a carp at a secret Co. Laois venue.

The match angling scene has benefitted greatly from the introduction of commercials, and great weights of fish are now commonplace in many of the matches that are run on these venues. Organisers of club matches can now be confident of a good competition with lots of fish to be seen at the end of the day for the weigh-in. The fact that many of the well-known commercials are booked on weekend days for weeks and sometimes months in advance stand testament to this. With large amounts of fish in some of these waters, all competing, very competitively at times, for loosefeed and hookbaits a good days sport can be anticipated.

The commercial venue an also be of great advantage to the occasional angler. In today’s age of busy lifestyles, work and/or family demands, it is a sorry fact that once enthusiastic anglers can sometimes only have the opportunity to wet a line twice or three times a year. Many an occasional angler prefers to hedge his bets on an “easier” venue. He doesn’t get out fishing all that often and whenever he does he would like to have a very high chance of success. He feels he can have a better days sport for the outlay of a few euros and that’s where he decides to spend his time. And why not? Nothing like getting a few bites after a five or six month absence from his sport. This could prove very difficult on a water that he is unfamiliar with, such as one of the large Shannon lakes.

A bag of super roach from a Monaghan lake.

I think possibly the greatest thing that commercial venues have done is open the doors of angling to the mobility impaired or the disabled angler. In many cases there are level paths from car park to pegs and in some cases the management will allow anglers to park their cars right beside the peg. This arrangement has made it so easy for anglers who cannot access many of the wild waters to still go out and have a fantastic day’s sport. There are also many wild venues that have wheelchair accessible stands but these can be severely limiting, maybe allowing only one small area of the water to be fished. A lot of the day tickets waters have many areas of the water accessible to all and if sport is poor in one area then the angler can relocate. This can give them far more options than they would normally have.

It has been suggested to me that the commercial venue has many other benefits. A litter bin by the lake is one. I fail to see this as an advantage. Proper anglers don’t need litter bins – they take their rubbish home with them. A lot of these waters have a shop on site that sells bait and tackle to patrons and in a way this could be convenient. Buy everything at the water’s edge and you are all set to go. Or a forgotten item of tackle can be brought there and then. On the other hand, it could be a method of extracting more money from the angler and I have heard stories of groups turning up with their own bait to be told that the venue rules state that only the management’s bait is permitted!

A fine tench from the Grand Canal, Edenderry, Co. Offaly.

Commercials have their place. I don’t ever use them myself but fishing and the pleasure you get from it is totally a personal thing and if you like waters with pegs and tidy gravel paths and unnatural surroundings and individually named fish then that’s fine. Each to their own. One thing I do not agree with though is specimen claims being submitted from commercial venues. Some of these venues have an unnatural amount of feed going into them and therefore the fish gain unnatural weight at an unnatural pace. I think it would be a sad day for Irish angling if the tench record, for example, was replaced by a fish from a stocked, overfed lake. Or any other record, for that matter. Part of fishing for me is doing the homework. Finding new areas, preparing new swims and catching wild fish. Catching a wild specimen requires a degree of skill, planning and perseverance. A fish like this is special but when you do all the work to catch it then it is even more rewarding. Not like pulling up in your car, piling in 5 kilos of pellets and fishing over that. Call me old fashioned but the skills learned fishing wild venues can never be learned on commercials.

I think a lot of people who fish commercials consistently just have never learned the skills or the watercraft to fish the wild venues. They turn up to the likes of Muckno or one of the canals once a year, throw in half a pint of maggots or a few grains of corn and scratch for bites all day. Then after catching very little they decide “The fishing here has gone to the dogs” and they go back and spend the rest of the season targeting commercials. Either they don’t know how to fish the wild venues or they are just not bothered putting the work in. As I said it’s a case of each to their own but I feel a little sad for people who only fish commercials because I think they are missing out on a lot of different aspects of fishing. Young anglers nowadays are learning to fish with poles on commercials right from the start and they never learn how to use a rod and reel. They never learn a lot of the skills and watercraft that only a wild venue can teach them. They can bag up every time on a commercial but sit them in front of a river and they are lost. I think this is very sad that a lot of skills are going to be lost if more and more anglers decide to fish the stocked day ticket waters exclusively.

Gary Robinson © 2011.