Should I contain a carp in a carp sack or retaining sling for photographs? Paul Cooper discusses yet another controversial subject in carp welfare.
Carp sacks have been around for years now and nearly every carp angler had a couple of sacks with him so that a carp could be retained until a decent trophy shot could be taken. Carp were left in sacks for hours on end if caught during the night until first light with the age old excuse of “I am resting the carp before I release it”. It was all about that trophy shot to show off to fellow anglers, nothing to do with the carps welfare.
There was an incident on a 35 acre gravel pit that I used to fish were an angler had sacked a fish overnight and in the morning it had gone. Weeks later when the sack was eventually recovered with one emaciated dead carp, it could be seen that the old frayed cord had in fact broken.
Since those early days of carp fishing, photography and the awareness of carp welfare have come on leaps and bounds. I rarely see carp sacks being used on any of the waters that I fish, and in any case most waters have enforced bans on them. But what about retaining weigh slings? Are these the modern day carp sacks? I hope not.
Retaining slings now come with floatation buoys along with zips, velcro, a cord supplied and snap in clips to ensure that the carp cannot escape if placed inside one and placed into the water. Very useful if used properly, but they can be abused.
Uses – So what uses have the modern day retaining weigh slings got with regards to fish welfare?
Once a fish has been netted and placed onto a wetted, well padded unhooking mat or cradle, the retaining weigh sling is the next and only item that the fish will be in contact with before it is returned to the water. This should also be well wetted and your scales zeroed to the wetted sling before the carp is gently placed into it.
Weighing and returning the fish back to the water is all done with the fish still in the sling so this sling needs to be well maintained. I have seen anglers using slings that are old with the material cracking, causing an uneven and dangerous surface for the carp to lie on. This material is the main contact the carp will have whilst in our care on the bank, so look after it and if necessary throw it away and replace it.
Now we have the question of that trophy shot. I am generally well organised, and always have my tripod, air release system and camera set up in my swim. This means that as soon as I have got over the business of unhooking and weighing the fish, I can get it photographed, treat any wounds and released back to the lake as soon as possible.
Very occasionally a carp can be completely exhausted and rather than sit holding the fish in the margins I will use the retaining sling until I feel that it is fully revived. This usually takes between 1-10 minutes and this is the only time that I will retain a carp, whether it be day or night. Carp get stressed very easily especially when the water temperature rises or they are close to spawning, so returning them quickly is always in the back of my mind.
Misuses – Well this one is an easy one to describe!
Not maintaining the retaining carp sling. In other words, once the material loses that soft even feel and becomes crumbly and hard, it needs replacing.
Retaining a carp for longer than necessary is totally unacceptable as you will put it through unnecessary stress. Before even casting a line your work station (that is your swim) should be ready to accept the capture of any fish species and if you intend to take a trophy shot then your camera needs to be set up and ready to go, not hidden away in the bottom of a tackle bag.
When on a session, these days I even carry 2 nets with me so that if I do get 2 runs at the same time, I can retain one carp in the net.
If you do not have the facilities to take self portrait trophy shots, then the fish needs to be retained for the shortest amount of time while you fetch a fellow angler to assist. In my opinion carp should not be sacked or retained for any length of time, just for a photograph because the light or weather is poor. Cameras these days are capable of taking night shots or low light pictures, so there really is no excuse to retain a carp.