MISSION: A BIG FISH FROM A SMALL LAKE

by | Aug 23, 2021 | Adventure, South Africa

Neville Foord recently spent 48 hours on a small but beautiful and secluded lake.

It’s a common misconception that only big lakes hold big fish. Certainly some big lakes do contain some real monsters, but it is also true that there are numerous small lakes up and down the country holding fish of mammoth proportions.

One such intimate small pond called “Lapa Specimen Camp” in the east of Pretoria recently became known as a big fish venue when the new lake record was caught by well-known carper, @infinitecarper Adriaan van der Merwe at more than 45lbs, and now known as “The Tank”. 

The Fish known as “the Tank” caught at 20.7kg

After visiting “Lapa” for the first time to do some bass fishing I was impressed with what the venue had to offer for the modern day carper. Apart from having a good stock of black bass there are also a couple of big fat carp residing in this little lake, and on my first trip to it I was fortunate enough to see some of them close to the bank while flicking a weightless fluke at the bony-mouthed critters. Apart from its proven fish population the venue is beautiful in many ways – from neatly built swims, a convenient lapa for get togethers and braais, clean toilet facilities, a strictly-controlled entrance for security as well as a proper booking system to ensure exclusive access. 

The lake is small, comprising an area roughly the size of two rugby fields, but despite its small area nevertheless offers huge potential to serious carpers. The reason is that in some respects it closely resembles a typical small carp lake in the U.K., the “home” of big carp fishing. Looking down at it from a vantage point after arriving you cannot help but think that you are somewhere in the U.K. fishing an intimate pond for big carp. You note its crystal clear water and loads of thick weed beds, shallow bars, deep gullies, reed beds, islands, marginal spots as well as man-made structure – the  Lapa Lake has it all! 

The bonus on top of this is that the carp in it have grown to massive proportions over the years – this venue is arguably one of the best kept secrets of the decade! No one knows for certain, but the estimate is that there are some 20 to 25 carp in the lake ranging from the low 20’s all the way up to mid 40’s.

 Because of its size, its structures, contours and features, it is by no means an easy venue. Regular carpers regard it as one of the most difficult places to get a bite from, let alone land a fish. The lake makes you work really hard and you have to think outside the box as these fish have quickly wised up to common tactics and they don’t easily fall for a trap. It demands some serious skill to first of all prompt a bite and then to land it. But this is exactly what we need more of in this country, as the reward of landing a fish from such a venue cannot be compared to anything else. 

Swim 2 has neatly built levels and very much resembles European swims

For my 48-hour session I planned to fish from swim 1 but as it turned out I had the whole lake to myself giving me plenty of options. I have never been as confused when deciding where to cast my rigs than on this small venue – it’s not so small at all, I tell you! With so many likely looking spots and with the fish keeping a low profile by not showing themselves it is a real conundrum to make decisions that will make you feel content while waiting hours for a bite.

I made sure to arrive at the venue before first light so I could hopefully spot some showing fish but never did. I also did a bit of homework to find out where the known spots are from previous captures and according to the information I received the lake produced on average only one take every two weeks. That is very little to go on and I felt hopeless as I was setting up. 

Stunning long common caught in overcast weather

Luckily for me the weather changed drastically the day before my session and changed from pleasantly warm and sunny with high pressure to rainy overcast conditions with low pressure – proper carpy! The day before my session as the front was busy moving in Chris Diana-Oliaro was fishing the right spot at the right time and was rewarded for his efforts with a fish of just over 38lbs, his new PB, being captured for the second time in 2 months.

Chris Diana-Oliaro caught this stunning Ghosty known the Casper. It weighed over 17kg

 Although I would have loved to catch that fish I knew I was a day late, but what gave me hope was that it was the same fish that was recaptured, which meant that there were at least another 20 fish still available to catch, and hopefully one of them had my name on it and was willing to eat in these perfect carp fishing conditions.

I carefully went about my preparations and made sure to be super stealthy and to place my rigs on nice clear spots near the structures. I was fishing with strong tackle so I knew it would be up to the job if I got a take. I made a mix of home prepared hempseed, wheat and a few grains of sweetcorn as I did not want to feed the fish but rather entice them. Their natural environment is full of natural food sources so for them to eat the bait I had put out it had to be a real treat. Boilies were also a big “NO” at the time as the crabs were savage and would destroy anything containing a fishy flavour.

 I cooked a mix of hempseed and wheat, added some sweetcorn and rock salt to use as an attractor groundbait.

I decided to fish naked chods on the line on two of my rods with the old faithful spinner rig and a balanced plastic corn hookbait on the other. These tactics are what I have loads of confidence in and I know not many anglers fish this way so I thought it could give a bit of an edge on this venue. 

After placing my rigs and sinking the line I settled in for the first night being confident as ever with great anticipation for what the early morning might bring. That night I couldn’t sleep and got out of bed at 04:30 to watch the water as the rods were lying motionless after a wet and rainy night. Everything looked so right for a bite and I was certain that at some stage one of the rods was going to rip off! It never happened and to make a long story short I eventually managed to get a bite the following morning resulting in a small carp being hooked. As I reeled in the fish I couldn’t help thinking that here I’m fishing a super tricky lake full of specimen-size carp and I manage to get the smallest fish on the line – ouch! To make matters worse when I dragged the small carp through a nearby grass bed it fell off! 

View from my bivvy. The two rods at the front of the swim were positioned on spots where fish had come from before.

The weather soon changed and the bright sunlight eventually signaled the end of my session. Yeah I may have blanked, but I learned a lot and I will take this knowledge and use it to my advantage the next time I go there. This is exactly what the venue does to you: I have now tasted the sweetness on the edge of a cake and I cannot help but to carry on fishing to hopefully one day get my slice!

Until then, keep an eye out on this venue and its beautiful resident carp as big things are coming, I’m sure of that!

FOOTNOTE: Fortunately the management of the venue is in great hands, being undertaken by the carpers of Mega Carp Waters. Their website provides details of the booking system and rules of the venue. The venue will soon be moved from an open venue to a carp syndicate, so make sure to get in contact with them if you are serious about joining. Rules are strict and for good reason. The owners of the land around the dam consider the venue as a peaceful, natural environment, so anglers must keep noise down, maintain a low profile and definitely leave nothing but footprints.

Eugene Kruger

Eugene Kruger

Author

Passionate and dedicated, Eugene is an avid specimen angler with an insatiable love for the pursuit of carp in the waters. Eugene doesn't just write about specimen angling; he lives and breathes it. His experiences on the water, coupled with an insatiable curiosity, make his insights invaluable to both seasoned anglers and those just dipping their toes into the world of carp fishing.

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