ITS NOT BEEN EASY, BUT THEN IT NEVER IS!
On the 5th of October 1999 the Northern Ireland Carp Anglers Society was formed, it was by local advertisement that came about the first society meeting. Approximately forty likeminded anglers agreed to pay the sum of fifty pounds, to aid their dream of creating the first carp fishery in Northern Ireland. At that point N.I.C.A.S had no carp, or for that matter a lake to put them in! The first hurdle to overcome would be locating a suitable lake, soon enough a lake was found in Banbridge, called Ballyroney Lake. A partnership between N.I.C.A.S and Ballyroney Community Association would start the development of a carp fishery.
The second hurdle might have proved somewhat more difficult, Carp at this time were not deemed indigenous to Northern Ireland! To cut a long story short, carp were netted by the Ministry in Willis’s Lake Belfast, proving their existence in Northern Ireland. The society would require Governmental authority to stock carp into Ballyroney Lake. This was done in person by society members at Stormont House. On the 18th of September 2000 the Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, Michael McGimpsey MLA, announced that the way was clear for Ballyroney Community Association to develop Ballyroney Lake near Banbridge in Co Down as a Carp Fishery. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances Ballyroney Lake for never did get developed into a fishery.
Again the society members searched for a lake, it was in early 2000 the society leased a Trout Fishery in Dromore, County Down. Hidden beneath the weed and marsh, three small Mill Ponds covering an area of approximately two and a half acres lay derelict. Before any carp could grace the water, major preparation work would need to be undertaken, after months of gruelling labour the ground work was complete and Mill Lodge was ready. On the 12th of October 2000 twenty-five fingerlings from Gurteen Estate were introduced. Then on the 20th of November 2000 100 carp between 5-7lb were delivered by Mark Simmons. Two further stockings of Mark Simmons fish (John Patton’s Fisher Pond Strain) were to take place. On the 22nd April 2001, 200 carp weighing 5-7lb were introduced, and finally on the 15th of November 2001, 15 carp weighing between 15-22lb were added.
A change in legislation would prevent any further importations of carp from England. We had to wait nearly six years but thankfully the stocking programme did continue. Between 2006 and 2007 a further four stockings took place, these Carp were mainly 5lb in weight and came from Roscrea Fisheries. In early 2011 over 400 carp ranging from 6” to 5lb were stocked to boost the already excellent stocking level.
Throughout the year’s various work parties have taken place at Mill Lodge, from installing a toilet block, to conjoining the lakes, the list goes on and on, perhaps too long to list. All the members that have contributed to the development of Mill Lodge have surely created one of the very best carp fisheries anywhere in Ireland!
What a year 2007 was for the society, after years of searching we finally secured another lake. It is however very different to Mill Lodge, at around 10 acres Swan Hole is a man-made estate lake. So how does a man-made freshwater lake on the shore of Strangford Lough exist? Many years ago the owner of the house decided that the horse and carts travelling on the highway were very loud and to close to his beautiful Georgian House. So in his wisdom he built a causeway between the two headlands on the shore of Strangford Lough, just outside Greyabbey Village. The new causeway not only created a new highway but the lake we today call Swan Hole.
The path you walk on around the lake is the original highway used by the horse and carts all those years ago. The first stocking took place in October 2007, 22 fish weighing 3-6lb were purchased from Keith Wesley and strangely enough they were all commons. In September 2008 a total of 54 common and mirror carp weighing between 5-7lb were added, these fish originated from Roscrea Fish Farm. Another two stockings took place in December 2009 and early 2011, in total 57 Carp were added, mirrors and commons, these fish came from Hardy’s in England.
It is only a matter of time before this lake starts to produce some very big fish, growth rates of 3lb a year are average. Swan Hole has been transformed into a very appealing fishery, it took over 200 tonne of stone to complete the swims, car park and the laneways. The stocking and work parties will continue at Swan Hole, who knows perhaps I may see you there!
Apart from Carp!
For the ever enthusiastic specimen hunters amongst us Swan Hole has a good variety of coarse fish, Rudd, Eels, Pike, Tench and Perch all inhabit the lake. Mill Lodge also has a good head of Roach, Gudgeon, Tench, Trout and Perch, although not manly anglers pursue these species those that do enjoy good catches to specimen weights.
By Alex Chew (Chairman)