The 2015 Oaks Fish ‘O’ Mainia qualifier is on this Saturday, the 9th of May. As an Oaks regular with only a reserves chance of fishing it, I thought I'd write a guide to the six lakes that are being used, explaining the tactics that have been framing in the opens.
The New Lakes: Sycamore, Ash and Beech
These three lakes are strip ponds with a shallower bar down the middle and a peg profile that is common to all pegs. A quirky Oaks rule is that 'gardening' is only allowed to the right hand side up to half way to the next peg, consequently you'll find a 12-18" deep area tight to the bank.
A top kit plus one section to the right can be a very good place to fish when the hungry specimens are really having it, although so far this year they've rarely come close enough to catch here yet!
You'll find three to four feet of water both tight up to the reeds to your left, and a couple of feet out on your right. This has been a strong line in recent weeks. The pegs then slope down to four to six feet deep and are pretty much flat until sloping up again at 12m to the central bar at 13m and it's typically three to four feet deep from there to your half-way limit (I'd guess about 22m).
A 14m pole limit applies to the three New Lakes, so rods are needed to cover all the water in your peg. The lakes are well stocked with mostly mirrors and commons, with some F1s, ide and barbel.
Sycamore has the smallest average size of carp, with an average weight varying from just over 1lb to about 2lbs, depending on the peg & how you're fishing. There’s a bigger average in the margins.
There's a 70lb net limit and this frequently catches anglers out, bring plenty of nets, 3 should be enough, 4 is advisable, but 5 would be needed for the venue record.
There are a lot of 2-8oz ide in Sycamore that can be a pain when you need to keep catching carp, making fishing maggot long risky.
Beech has carp averaging about 2lbs and has more bonus mirrors and commons, meaning 3-5lb fish, and the ide are worth catching since they average about 1lb, but are far less numerous than in Sycamore.
Ash has a few more F1s than the other two lakes, but mirrors and commons are the target species with an average size of about 2lbs and ide averaging about 12oz. Doubled Middy Hi-Viz solid orange with a puller is a popular choice on these lakes, soft enough to avoid bumping fish off, but the rapidly progressive resistance gives you excellent control.
Across all three of the New Lakes pole fished pellet is the usual choice, either hard banded pellet (4mm or 6mm) or 4mm expander. Meat can also be a winner and the last few weeks have seen a few framing weights on meat. Maggot can be good too, but beware of the ide, they can slow your catch rate too much on a good day, especially if you're fishing long to the bar.
Method feeder is the most popular rod tactic, but take care when playing fish since lost fish can be a real headache.
If the weather is good the New Lakes could dominate the match, with 200lb weights possible from the downwind pegs. However in cool conditions with a lot of anglers on these lakes seem to switch off, making 70lbs a good weight.
Maple and Cedar
These two lakes are 14me wide canal profile snake lakes, with down the track depths of four to six feet. Both are very well stocked with both F1s and carp, there are also ide, skimmers, perch, barbel and roach but they are not the species to try and win with, the roach in particular can be a problem on soft pellet and so many regulars only fish a hard hair-rigged pellet.
At this time of year a popular line is to fish up to the sedges across at 13-14m, either pinging 4mm pellets or feeding via a pole pot. Maggot or worm & caster are rarely fished on the opens (spendthrift Yorkshire anglers?) but will definitely get you a lot of bites, although a lot of the bites might be from unwanted roach!
Another 'pest species' is crayfish, which spread into most of the Oaks Lakes from the original crayfish farming pond that pre-dated opening as a fishing venue, these can give you endless false bites before you finally hook one and realise why you couldn't connect!
There are two choices of 4mm and 6mm Oak’s pellet, and because of the abundant roach most regulars seem to prefer the darker, slightly larger, Coppen’s manufactured pellets to the faster breakdown Skrettings.
Cedar has the best stock of F1s of all the lakes, but winning weights often include a few of the bonus 3-10lb mirrors too. In warm conditions the 'mud line' hard across (12-18" deep) can be deadly on both Cedar and Maple, with bonus carp often falling for 4mm expander over micros. Shallow fishing with pellet or meat is effective, although with the pressure of a Fish ‘O’ Mania heat this is less likely to work than it is on the open matches. Method feeder fishing isn't a popular choice but is one of my favourite tactics, sometimes deadly but a day later it's useless!
Maple is a Fish ‘O’ Mania enigma. Despite huge amounts of room on midweek opens, winning weights on the opens on Maple usually average a fair bit lower than the New Lakes or Cedar, and yet it has actually produced more of the qualifying catches.
In the last four years Shane Atkin, Andy Geldart and James Dent all qualified on Maple! Alders is a rectangular lake varying from 14m to 22m across with track depths of four to five feet.
It's not used for Oaks open matches except in Winter. The target species on Alders are again F1s and carp to 10lb, but there are also a lot of ide to 3lb in there, which could make up a winning weight on a hard day - a gallon of maggots can bring them shallow.
Alders produced the top two weights last year when the carp decided to bunch up in the high 30s pegs, and two class anglers (Steve Cooke and Lee Kerry) drew on them. Pole fished pellet or meat and perhaps method feeder would be my choice on Alders, although maggot or worm & caster could do very well too.
So, where will the winner come from? I haven't a clue! With the exception of Andy Geldart’s 150lbs from Maple, the winning weights on recent Oaks Fish ‘O’ Mania heats have all be surprisingly low, below a ton, and just about every peg on all of the six lakes has produced a ton at some time!
(Note: These are in addition to Angling Trust Model Match Rules)
Dry your keepnets by laying them out on the bank until 10 minutes before the start.
70lb keepnet limit, any net over 70lb will be knocked back to 60lb.
Groundbait to be fed by pole pot/cup or feeder only, no balling in.
14m pole limit on the New Lakes (Ash Sycamore & Beech)
Oaks fishery feed pellets only.
No 'gardening' to the left of your peg on the New Lakes (Ash Sycamore & Beech), a knife may be used but no other tools.
No feeding with a pole while fishing with a rod.
No artificial baits.
Tackle & bait are available from Oaks Tackle, the on-site shop and there is a café.