For many years now, it has been Linear Fisheries’ policy that carp sacks are not allowed to be used at the site, to retain fish. In fact back in the 1990s we had reports of two separate fish dying in sacks, leading to this policy being implemented. Now I’m fully aware that everyone wants that special photo from time to time, be it a new PB or that target fish that has taken years to catch, or just a really pretty fish, but regardless the fish’s safety must always come first.
In recent years the floating, retention style sling has become very popular and has even led to a kind of sub-culture where anglers regularly post early morning shots on social media, showing a retention sling in use, normally accompanied with a witty quote like, “one in the bag” or “nice early morning call today”!
We’ve had some quite emotional debates at the fishery as to whether this practice is safe and we all agreed that it should be, but is quite often abused!
We do allow this style of sling at the fishery as we feel they can actually be very useful in aiding in the safe release of fish and can even give them a small rest before being lifted out for a photo. Please note, however, that they should never be used as a glorified carp sack or used to retain multiple fish. All too often we see two or three slings floating in the margins; the only time this is allowed is during an officially sanctioned match where marshals are on call to weigh and return fish or on the rare occasions where you have double or triple takes.
The following is how the team at Linear feel they should be used and how they must be used if you plan on fishing the complex.
• You are allowed to put a single fish into one retention sling, for up to 30 minutes. Never put more than one fish in one sling. Retaining fish should only be done to aid you in getting ready for weighing and/or taking a photo of the fish. You shouldn’t really require 30 minutes but we understand, particularly with bigger fish, that sometimes you may need to take that bit longer in getting ready for the photo.
• Once you have one fish retained your rod can be cast back on to the spot but if you have another run, before the first fish is dealt with, you MUST NOT recast that rod until both fish are safely returned. In the event that a third rod rattles off, then please deal with all the fish as quickly and safely as possible. If fishing three rods, your remaining rod must now be reeled in until all fish are safely returned.
• Ensure you have your camera and fish-care equipment ready before taking any fish out of the water in the sling. By fish-care equipment we mean your suitably sized unhooking mat, bucket of water to wet the fish, scales and carp care treatment.
• Never retain a fish for longer than 30 minutes, especially on very hot days or in the early hours of the morning, near weedy areas; oxygen levels will be low in these conditions and could lead to further stress on the fish or worse.
• Please ensure that the flotation sling is very securely attached to a retaining stick so it cannot float away.
• When carrying the fish in the sling to the unhooking mat, please make sure you have hold of the retaining cord to avoid tripping on it and dropping the fish.
• Always remember that if the fish has had a rest in the sling, even for just a few minutes, it will have regained some of its strength and could be very lively on the mat – please be prepared for this.
• When retuning the fish, ensure you do so in water deep enough for it to swim away without dragging itself along the lake bed. But please also ensure you put your own safety first in the marginal water.
• If you are found using these slings in a manner that goes against the points above, you could be asked to leave the fishery.
I hope this has given you an insight as to how we expect anglers to use this style of sling; they can and should be very useful, safe bits of kit to use, so please respect the fish, the fishery rules and use them in a safe manner.
I am a big fan of the modern style of retaining sling and would never choose to use a traditional sack over them unless rules etc dictated I had to. The letters STR in the Fox version stand for Short Term Retainer and that is exactly how they should be used. I’m not a fan of anglers retaining fish for hours on end as in this day and age with modern cameras and flashes it just isn’t necessary.
Preferably I use the retainer to rest the fish while I arrange all of the weighing and photographing equipment and then get the fish back to its watery home as quickly as possible. A great advantage of the retainer sling is that not only can it be used to retain the carp, but also for weighing the fish and then returning to the lake (always check that the fins are flush to their body when doing so) this makes like so much easier and ensures that your catch is put under as little stress as possible and will return to its home none the worse for its experience.
If you are using a sack then I recommend using one that comes supplied with a float on a cord so should the unthinkable happen and the sack becomes free of the bankstick you can still find it and retrieve the fish safely. One tip I would give when it comes to using retainers is to make sure you invest in one with a zip that locks in place. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen anglers have a fish escape from the retainer before they have had a chance to weigh or photograph them, and that can happen to the best of us – just watch Monster Carp on ITV 4 and you’ll see seasoned ‘professionals’ making schoolboy errors and not using zipped retainers, resulting in fish escaping before they get to become TV stars!
Since taking over as editor I have had a blanket ban on the use of sacks in TC features. I won’t even review them in the gear pages as, in my opinion, they are dangerous in the wrong hands. Any slight risk is a risk too many as far as I am concerned.
However, more recently, the flotation slings that the other chaps use have changed things. Carp can now be retained while you sort out your camera and get ready for the obligatory catch pics. I have no issue with that, provided this is only done for a short period of time, in deep margins and preferably not in the height of summer unless literally for only a few minutes.
At this point, I have to admit to having broken this mantra on one occasion, and it’s largely where my opinion has been borne from.
I remember catching a 36lb mirror at around 2am and, reluctantly, placing it in a retainer until first light, which was around 5.30am. I didn’t sleep a wink in that period and was probably up a dozen times or more to make sure that the carp was not drifting into the shallower water. That was the last time I ever did that. It was purely in the hope of getting some nicer catch pics, which ironically weren’t actually that great anyway. Karma, I think they call it.
Afterwards, I felt more than a bit guilty and swore I wouldn’t do it again, even though the carp was perfectly okay and none the worse for the experience. How many anglers would have stayed up for the rest of that time and kept an eye on the carp? Not many, I would say, so I would not condone retaining them for any longer than absolutely necessary.
I think Chris’ guide pretty much sums it up. Used sensibly, for the minimum amount of time, it can even give the carp a little time to recover from capture, so they are perfectly okay. Like anything else, though, when used incorrectly, they’re potentially anything but.
Sacking and retaining carp has always been a touchy subject and has been as far back as I can remember. However, in 30 years of carp fishing I can only think of a few casualties and one of these was down to sheer stupidity when the lad lost his sack cord and tied the sacked fish to the bankstick using 18lb braid! Of course, it broke free, the 30lb-plus carp inside the sack died and the angler was left devastated by his actions.
Do I use carp sacks and retainers? Yes, all the time but I use common sense. If for example it’s the height of summer when oxygen in the water will be much lower than normal due to the heat or you have lots of weed, which can really affect the oxygen levels, at this time of the year I’ll feel a lot happier leaving the carp in the net while waiting for another angler to come and help with photos, in fact I will normally rest the carp after a fight for at least five minutes.
I use the Trakker retainer as its full mesh construction ensures the carp is surrounded with fresh water. I’ve not looked at all the retainers on the market but if you have a retainer and it’s not the full mesh please don’t use it for keeping the carp in, they are primarily weigh slings.
If I’m keeping a carp in a sack then I’ll make sure of the following things: firstly that it’s big enough for the carp and where you’re putting the sack has a good depth of water; you must check that the knots are strong and tied on to hard-wearing durable cord, and even add a bright poly ball attached to a length of cord to it, so in the unlikely event that the carp does break away it can be located. Also, have cut-off times. For example, if you have a carp before 2am get the photos done rather than sack it for first light so they are never in there for extreme lengths of time.
I do a lot of self-take photos these days so keeping a carp longer than necessary is rare. I would always edge on the side of caution and put the carp welfare first every time, and so should you.
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