Having observed crucians in clear water, I believe that this is due to the way they sometimes take the bait. In clear water I could see the crucians come up to the bait and take it without moving off. They appeared to stop to eat the bait on the spot. Obviously this would give very little indication on the float.
To combat this most unusual mode of feeding, the angler has to employ the most delicate floats to detect the bite and be alert to any odd movement of the float. Fortunately there are plenty of good sensitive pole floats commercially available that will do the job.
Crucian carp fishing is further complicated by the lack of true crucians about. Crucians hybridise the carp and now there have been more carp introduced into waters holding crucians, true crucians are much harder to find.
The situation is further complicated by the numbers of so called "wild goldfish" that are now appearing in so many fisheries. I have been told by an old fish dealer how he used to buy in small cheap immature goldfish that had not turned a gold colour from, I believe, Germany. Fish that turned gold were sold on in the pet trade whilst those that kept the more natural colouring were grown on in fish pens to be sold to angling clubs as "Crucian carp". Not one of their customers ever spotted that they were not true crucian carp. Some of these were very experienced anglers which shows that it is not that easy to distinguish true crucian from uncoloured goldfish. The dealer concerned has now retired but assures me that he sold well over 10,000 such fish.
My advice for those seeking true crucians is therefore to avoid waters with a good stock of ordinary carp and check out any injection of so called "crucians". A true crucian is completely barbless with a long convex long top fin, a dinner plate shape and a distinct lateral line. Hybrids normally have some sign of barbs and the top fin often looks more carp-like. However I am no fish biologist and am happy if the fish shows the major characteristics of a crucian.
To be perfectly honest, I have been caught out thinking that I had a true crucian, when the fish was some type of uncoloured goldfish, or a hybrid, containing some mixture of goldfish and crucian. I understand that even the experts have difficulty and they can only be sure by dissecting the fish. Sorry, I am not in that game and always return my fish. It is not that important to me to kill a good looking fish to determine its true identity. Readers will I hope excuse me if there is a little doubt about some of the fish shown in this feature - "No fish were killed in producing this article"!
Tackle for crucians does not need to be that powerful as true crucians seldom exceed more than four pounds in weight. I therefore normally use a soft action float rod with a reel loaded with about 3lb b.s. line. The float is a very sensitive pole float with a very small shot as a tell tale, placed fairly close to the hook to help register those very shy bites. No doubt a pole would be absolutely ideal for crucians and possibly give even better presentation. However, I do not own a pole and therefore have to rely on ordinary float rods. If the fish are that bit further out, I will use a longer rod up to 20ft. As regards the actual pattern of pole float that I will use, a lot depends on the conditions. One of my favourites is the Preston Innovations Carassi pattern. These are a body down pattern with a good sized fine antenna that give terrific sensitivity. If the fish are further out than I can comfortably fish with a twenty foot rod and pole float, then I am forced to use a waggler. This is very, very rare but it can happen the odd time. Naturally the same principles will apply as sensitivity is still critical. To this end I will use a reversed balsa, fine-tipped waggler which I believe in match circles is referred to as a squatt waggler.
Several years ago, I went for a weeks holiday to Indio Ponds in South Devon. This venue has two lakes, one is fairly recently dug and is stocked with a mixture of fish, mainly small, whilst the main fishing is a very mature fairly shallow lake that has been there for several hundred years. It is certainly the 'Jewel in the Crown' and in the spring with all the bushes out is a water of outstanding beauty.
The main lake is big and is the water for the serious angler. It has a good stock of good sized carp, the average we caught and saw caught were about 15lb. It also a had stock of tench which can run big but although we caught plenty of good sized tench to just over 61b, we never caught one of the real big tench that we saw roll. The venue was therefore a very natural lake with a good head of traditional lake species. There were even thought to be the odd crucian present.
The week had gone well for Virginia and I with a fair number of good carp to just over 201b and some good bags of tench averaging over 41b with the best just over 61b. We were very happy with the fishing and the area but in one corner I kept getting the odd hard-to-detect, very shy bite. I had thought "crucian" but had not hit one of those bites. I decided to live dangerously and got up early one morning to fish light in a swim where previously I'd had some of those bites.
I set up a 12ft float rod and my "Purist" centre pin loaded with 3lb b.s. line, which was as light as I was prepared to go. The terminal tackle was a light pole float, whilst the size 12 hook that was tied direct to the main line was baited with trout pellet paste. I fed the swim by an overhanging tree with trout pellet and sat back to wait for a bite. The swim was only just over 3ft deep with a muddy bottom. After twenty minutes I could see activity as bubbles started to rise. These were small tench-like bubbles so I was not surprised as my float flew away and my tackle was given a good testing before a 5lb 6oz tench was netted. I continued to fish on and the bubbling came more and more intense. Three more tench averaging well over 41b came to my net before the swim appeared to go dead. Then I had one of those shy bites. You know the type "did it or didn't just dip?". Well, I missed it but hit a similar bite the following cast that turned out to be a plump crucian of just under two pound. I had cracked it.
The next cast produced a similar bite which I again hit. I struck into good resistance. This I thought was too big to be a crucian as it tore off towards the middle like most of the better tench. No problem, I just took my time and eventually bought the fish back in towards the net. It then surfaced, it wasn't a tench, it was a great big crucian! I could not believe it and eased off on the pressure, taking the greatest care possible, then after what appeared to be an eternity it was in the net. "Yes" I yelled out.
Virginia came running around from where she was fishing about 150 yards away. I expect she was thinking that I had had a thirty pound carp as I was so excited.
"You're not seriously expecting me to photograph you with that tiddly chubby carp" she said. At that time, Virginia was in full-carp mode and had not seen a big crucian before. I spent a few minutes pointing out that it was not an ordinary carp, it had no barbs, the top fin was different to that of a carp and it had a distinct lateral fin with slightly fan tailed fins. Crucians like goldfish can have fan tails.
"It is certainly a lovely looking fish. I know you were deliberately trying to catch one as I can remember you telling me last night" said Virginia as she took the photographs.
I fished on to catch another three nice tench and a 141b common carp that took me ages to land on such fine gear. Virginia? well she had several mid double figure carp with some good tench to just over 61b but no crucians. She told me that she did not get any 'funny little bites'. As it was lunch time we packed up for a nice meal in the local pub.
Although we fished several more early morning and evening sessions on the lake, neither of us caught another crucian neither did any other angler on the venue. We caught plenty of other tench and carp but no sign of any crucian carp.
When I got the pictures back I was not disappointed. The fish looked it's full 3lb 6oz but looking closely at the picture I am not sure it is a true crucian. Certainly it is not a cross with a carp but do I detect a hint of goldfish? I don't know and I am not that concerned as it is still a good looking fish.
Another Devon venue that has crucian carp is Clawford Vineyard in North Devon. They have had to work very hard on this venue as they have a good head of both crucian and ordinary carp. These have cross-bred in some of the lakes and they have had to make certain lakes free of ordinary carp to stop the crucians cross-breeding. Last year they drained Wanda's lake to remove all ordinary carp and placed them in other waters in the complex. They also removed some very big crucian carp hybrids that were well over 71b and transferred them to the large match lake. The only carp Wanda's lake now contains should be crucian carp. It also contains some very big tench and has had a top-up of about 250 good roach averaging over a pound. I estimate that there are now approaching five hundred pound plus of roach in this lake with plenty of other good mixed silver fish.
When I first started to fish for crucians at Clawford I was surprised that so few other anglers were fishing for them. They were very much a neglected species, as were the roach. Everybody appeared to be preoccupied with the big carp on site and were legering with boilies. I could not believe how good the crucian fishing was - we had plenty of true crucians running to well over three pounds with the odd fast growing hybrid to nearly six pounds! The hybrids were good looking fish but careful examination of the mouths would show tell-tale signs of small barbs and their top fins were more carp-shaped.
Again similar tactics to those used at Indio Ponds worked. We also noticed that the hybrids were much bolder biters, giving real tear-away bites.
I think John and Wanda Ray, the owners of Clawford Vineyard, have made the right move with Wanda's lake and imagine that this will turn out a top notch carp fishery. It should, in time, produce crucians that will be of record breaking size.
Moving closer to my Ashford, Middlesex home there is Milton's Lake on the Bury Hill complex - that is a great crucian carp venue. The fish always appear in perfect condition and, again, to me, look to be true crucians. They have no sign of barbs and the fins are those of a true crucian with that classical dinner plate shape.
There are a fair head of good tench in this water so you dare not fish too light. I normally fish it with 2lb b.s. line straight through but you could with care fish slightly lighter. The tactics are much the same as described earlier, with no need to fish far out. I catch the majority of mine under the tip of a 12ft float rod. A whole range of baits work well on this lake with fresh caster as good as any. Most of the bites are typical shy crucian bites so you need to be alert and strike at any movement. If you do this and feed regularly you should be on the way to catching a good bag of crucians that could be as much as 100lb with, if you are lucky, individual fish going over three pounds.
R.M.C. Angling's complex at Yately holds some very big crucian with individual fish that would smash the current British Record. These fish have been confirmed as true crucians so there is no problem. Again, these fish have not been fully exploited as the majority of anglers on site are fishing for the monster carp on the complex that run to over fifty pounds.
Last year, two of my friends, P.A.A. instructor Martin Porter and the late Gordon Scott who sadly passed away later in the year fished this venue. They both caught some very big tench with Gordon catching a genuine crucian that was approaching four pound in weight. A truly magnificent specimen.
There is no doubt about it. Crucian carp offer a fantastic challenge and in my opinion are not a species to be neglected. There are some very big crucians to be caught on a whole variety of venues but don't forget to check them over and take the trouble to take clear photos, so that the fish experts can check them over. But please, don't kill them. No record is worth a dead fish.