carp ranching

Carp Ranching

Every four to five years, the Knepp Estate has repairs and maintenance to carry out to the penstocks of the Knepp Lake.  To facilitate these works, the lake is drained, and the fish harvested.

To maximise the commercial benefit of this operation, a company called Castle Carp was established in the 1990s.  Les Bamford brought his experience to the company whilst the estate provided the property.  

Castle Carp specialized in the breeding and growing on of the 'Leney' strain of carp, selling adult fish to fisheries, and traded successfully for several years until heavy floods in 2000 and 2001 washed away much of the commercial carp crop.  Because the company was not producing any income for a few years, it was disbanded and absorbed as a farm enterprise within the Home Farm.  In 2004 one of the smaller ponds was drained, but the catch was minor (approx 20 carp) and all the proceeds went to cover the costs in the labour etc.  

Meanwhile the plans to dredge the main lake took precedent over carp farming, and for several years the estate has anticipated that the lake would be drained to commence dredging, and therefore has not sought to restock.  Mr Bamford has tried to harvest the lake in the last couple of years, but the estate has felt that it was sensible to delay until the lake had to be drained.  

As to the suitability of the pond for carp, this can only be improved by dredging the lake.  At present there is both an active heronry and a cormorant roost in woods adjacent.  These birds thrive off the fish in the lake and in shallow water will damage bigger fish, which de-values them.  Deeper water will provide better shelter from airborne predation and hopefully more habitat.  

Leney Carp

They are referred to as 'Leney' after Donald Leney who started importing this type of carp into Great Britain in the 19301s from the national fish farm in Holland, the fish originating from the Galicia region in Poland. The fish that he imported were all hand picked by him and he bad a habit of picking all the 'fast growers' of a particular year class; any 'runts' were rejected. These prime fish were stocked from his fish farm in Surrey into what are now famous carp fisheries around mainly the South of England. 

The most famous of these waters, Redmire Pool in Hertfordshire, was stocked by Don Leney in March 1934 and in 1952 produced Richard Walker's record 44lb Common Carp. Redmire Pool still holds the record to this day with a 51lb 2oz fish caught in 1980 by Chris Yates. Redmire Pool is unique in that it has never received any further stockings of carp since 1934 whereas the other waters he stocked have all had other strains of carp introduced, therefore the carp in Redmire are all still 100% pure Leneys. 

In 1992 Les Bamford. the lessee of Redmire Pool, negotiated on behalf of Castle Carp an agreement with the owners of Redmire Pool that allowed Castle Carp Ltd to remove adult carp from Redmire for the purpose of breeding. Because of this agreement Castle Carp were the suppliers of 'pure' Leney strain carp.