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Understanding the habitat that fish reside in is a key aspect of basic watercraft. When you first arrive at a lake, do you ever consider what aspects of the natural habitat could benefit your angling? Stillwater fish have adapted to their habitats over thousands of years. By understanding how fish interact with their habitat , anglers can use these adaptations to their own advantage.
The habitat and its management is a top priority at Picks Cottage. By doing so, we are able to provide ample prey, shelter and spawning grounds for our stock to happily reside in. Unlike flowing rivers where the natural flow can alleviate natural fluctuations, a still water fishery is vulnerable to environmental stresses. A broad variety of plant life and invertebrates helps mitigate these stresses and keep the fishery healthy. Now this is all very interesting, but how can we relate these issues to your fishing?
When you consider each lake as an individual ecosystem, you can adjust your angling to compliment the angling situation you are faced with. For the benefits of simplicity, I will demonstrate this point using the Doughnut lake as an example. I have a serious soft spot for the Doughnut and think the lake is often ignored due to the smaller stock. However, over the years I have got to know the lake and find it really fascinating as a natural habitat. My top tips for the Doughnut have always remained the same, don’t ignore the margins and fish the western bank (the side dotted with lots of lilly pads).
My preference for the western bank is two fold. Firstly, the eastern side features less lilies but is also sheltered by the match lake bank reducing sunlight. Referring to the points about water quality previously mentioned in my last post, temperature is a key influence. I firmly believe that the eastern bank is slower to experience day light than the western bank. It has always produced a reduced catch rate and this is the only explanation I can correlate.
So why fish the margins? Margins are often ignored by anglers but by doing so they’re missing out on a productive and valuable location (to both fish and anglers!). The deep Norfolk Reed beds which surround the margins at Picks are surprisingly thick and provide fantastic shelter. Fish are naturally drawn to shelter to escape predators (both the flying and fishing kind) so marginal plant life is ideal. Many plants struggle to establish in deeper water hence why the margins are so rich in life. This plant life not only provides shelter, but also a massive food supply in the form of insect larvae and snails etc. Personally, I would much rather benefit from the natural food larder provided by the habitat than spend extra money on bait in the tackle shop.
Both the Doughnut and S lake contain large beds of blanket weed. Some anglers struggle to deal with the weed, often using inappropriate rigs and methods providing poor presentation. As anyone who’s cleaned a clump of weed of their rig will know however, blanket weed is stuffed to the brim with natural food sources. Why look for baron clay when you can present your rig in the biggest bed of bait in the lake? Considering the lake as a habitat provides a whole new outlook to your fishing.
One story that comes to mind was back in 2011 when we drained the Match lake. Seen an overhanging tree inviting you to a marginal spot? Before we drained the Top Match Lake, the large willows were very appealing but a big surprise existed below the waters surface. Consider the fact that the trees had existed for 20+ years in that location, what effect would this have on the lake bed? Leaf debris had accumulated to the point that over 1 metre of sediment had established. The bottom was choked with decaying leaf matter which had over time formed enormous quantities of silt! Thankfully we’ve since drained the lake and it now features clean clay, but this was a valuable lesson never the less.
By thinking about the processes that occur beneath the surface, anglers can really utilize the natural environment to their own benefit.