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The rise of the Carpodrome in France

The rise of the Carpodrome in France

Ron Cousins explores the world of the Carpodrome in France.

In 1984 the then European Economic Community introduced the Dairy Products Quota Regulations to bring rising milk production under control and, as a result, completely changed the world of coarse fishing in Britain.


Farmers were urged to diversify and the most popular way to turn empty fields into revenue soon became digging out lakes to stock with carp - a hardy fish that feeds under most conditions and grows quickly - and charging people to come along and fish for them. As the market became more competitive, fishery owners introduced more and bigger fish to attract the anglers and their day ticket money. Next came on-site restaurants and tackle shops, resident angling coaches and lakeside accommodation which led to a whole new tourism industry in some areas of the UK.

Before the diggers arrived, angling clubs controlled the fishing on rivers, lakes and canals for members who paid an annual subscription. But, as the commercial waters multiplied, many clubs had to give up fishing rights when their membership slumped as members were lured away. Now, thirty years later, there are thousands of pay-for-the-day fisheries and an angling cultural divide between the majority who ‘go commercial’ to measure catches in hundreds of pounds, and those who prefer the challenge of wild fish on natural waters.

Things have been different in France where almost all coarse fishing takes place on public domain rivers and lakes accessible to everyone who buys a carte de pêche. The fact that the UK angler always returns his catch to the water, while most on this side of La Manche regard the content of their keepnets, particularly carp, as a potential meal. This deterred would-be commercial fishery operators.

However, in recent years France’s committed competition anglers had become so impressed by the huge match weights being taken by their UK counterparts that they convinced the Federation National de la Pêche en France to introduce No Kill rules to some of the lakes under their control. Thus large stocks of carp could be introduced and carpodromes, as these fisheries are called, were born.

The lake at Parc de Loisirs de Fregeneuil in Angoulême was one of the first and is now providing excellent fishing. Carp over 10kg are now being caught and anglers travel long distances to take part in their competitions. Constant stocking with smaller carp has ensured that there is a wide age-range of fish in the lake so things should be good for years to come.

In Vienne, Etang de Brandes at Saint Sauveur was topped up with carp between 1-4kg to start the season and l’Etang des Brousses at Rioux in Charente-Maritime, where sturgeon can surprise the carp fishermen, also had an annual stocking. Another water where the carp count is high is the plan d’eau at Saligny in Vendée.

As the practice of returning fish to the water spread, UK-style commercial day-ticket fisheries charging between 10-20€ a day have also been established throughout France. Among the most popular in our area are Lac des Saules at Luxé in Charente, and the Dordogne waters Sandones Carpodrome at Paussac-et-Saint-Vivien and the Carpodrome at Les Eaux de Queyssac near Bergerac. Also worth travelling to for a day’s carp catching are the Carpodrome de Ripeau near Libourne and the Carpodrome de Vinevialle at Saint-Pantaléon-de-Larch, just in the Corrèze, which the owners have stocked with 10 tonnes of fish.

The carp-catching competition scene is booming as well. Sensas, the tackle and bait manufacturing giant, runs the Crazy Bait Challenge that has qualifying matches at various carpodromes throughout France where competition is fierce to secure a place in the big-money final. The French Federation has also recognised the growing enthusiasm for carp matches by creating a separate national league. This runs alongside the existing leagues for float fishing and pole fishing with the winner claiming the Champion of France title as in the two other long running events.

If you haven’t visited a carpodrome yet, here are a few things you need to know...

This isn’t a sit back and relax day. Rods and poles must be held all the time because feeding frenzy carp can easily drag unattended tackle out into the lake.

It can be hard work; continually hooking and playing muscle bound carp running into double figures is on a par with digging the garden when it comes to aching muscles.

The tackle used must be up to the task. Only a pole built for this kind of fishing should be used as lighter poles suitable for catching other species can easily be snapped by an angry hooked carp making a high speed bid for freedom. The rod used needs to have some back bone and a through action to absorb the power exerted by a fast swimming fish, and a good quality reel is essential as the gears on cheaper models will quickly give up under the strain.

A line of at least 3kg breaking strain is needed and only forged hooks are up to the job. Conventional round wire patterns can straighten out under the pressure exerted when trying to control a big fish.

An extra piece of equipment needed is the unhooking mat. This looks like a flat pillow and after the fish has been landed, it is laid on this to safely remove the hook.

Successful carpodrome fishing also requires a re-think on baits. The stock fish know little about natural food as they have been raised in fish farms on high protein feed and the most successful baits to tempt them are fishmeal-based pellets in various flavours and sizes or a paste with similar ingredients. There is a wide choice of these available in convenient, easily stored tubs from tackle shops and the angling section in supermarkets.

Carp are at their fighting best at this time of year so if you want an adrenalin charged day at the waterside, welcome to the carpodrome.


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