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Chapter 12 Two steps Forward and One step Back
We continued with the reed cutting during the winter but I now believe that we left it too late.
Let me try to explain.
We didn't start the reed cutting until most of the winter was over and as we cut the reeds off we discovered hundreds of baby (2012 fry) carp of around 1lb in weight. They were obviously hiding in the reeds to avoid the predators and it was noticeable that the cormorants would arrive every evening and patrol the edges of the reed areas that we had just cut in an attempt to feed upon the fry that we had disturbed.
We made an immediate decision that we would cut the reeds before Christmas 2013 rather than leave it until Feb/March as we had just done. The theory behind that is that the cormorants will have more time to mop up more of the fry. It was immediately obvious that we would need to keep removing these yearlings whenever they were caught in order to control the biomass every year.
As 2013 progressed these fears were confirmed by anglers catching numbers of baby carp (plus some slightly larger as a result of another unexpected hiccup which I shall cover later) and as I type this it is early December and we have removed around 1000 of them. Amazingly they have reached 3lb plus in their first year (obviously they must have spawned during 2012 because the lake was totally emptied in November 2011) Anyway, this means that we have reduced the biomass by at least 3000lb, and that is being very conservative in my estimation.
We also believe that we may have discovered another reason for so many young carp surviving last year. We thought that the most important predators would be the large perch and bass. However, we now believe that it is actually the baby bass and perch which are of most importance as it is these small fish which control the carp fry as soon as they hatch. Unfortunately each drain down allows thousands of them to escape through the grills of the fish traps below the gates.
Because of this, the following year (the first year after a drain down) our predator base is reduced and ineffective. The carp spawn, most of the eggs hatch and the carp fry don't start getting eaten until they have grown somewhat and are fee swimming. They then outgrow their predators very rapidly. With the baby predators in place (from early spring spawnings) the carp fry are decimated before they are more than a few days old.
This became more apparent as the year progressed and the carp spawned once again. 2013 saw the spawning later than normal and we decided to lift as much of the weed which was carrying eggs, as possible. The weed was allowed to dry and we noticed that there were literally thousands of baby bass pulling at the weeds but very few baby carp. The rest of the year proved that we had far too many small carp (3lb to 4lb) but these were from the 2012 spawning and we needed to remove these by different means.
I must add here that, as I type this we are about half way through cutting the reeds for the 2013/14 winter and we have found very few baby carp in the reeds this time.