Angling Enterprises is owned and run by England International Sea Angler Mick Toomer.

Born into a fishing and shooting family Mick has been involved in all aspects of angling. He won his first major senior open match at the age of 13, and went on to represent England in the boat, beach, and big game fishing teams. These days Mick still represents England in the E.F.S.A Big Game team. His latest International appearance was in the 2008 E.F.S.A European Game Fishing Championships held in Mexico.

During his International angling career Mick has won two team World Champions Medals, and the individual World Champions medal in the Ski Boat Big Game Fishing World Championships.

With fishing in his blood Mick turned his hobby into a business. Angling journalism and photography were a start, followed by angling videos, lectures, TV appearances, consultancy, casting tuition, and tackle shops. From there Mick moved into Fishery Management. Lakeside was the first venue, and between 1993 and March 2009 he ran Gloucester Park , Northlands Park and Lake Meadows.

THE END OF AN ERA

FISH REMOVED FROM THE PARK LAKES

• LEASE ENDS
• GLOUCESTER PARK, LAKE MEADOWS AND NORTHLANDS PARK NETTED

Early in 2009 Basildon District Council decided not to renew the lease I had held on Gloucester Park, Lake Meadows and Northlands Park for sixteen years. My offer to sell the fish to the Council was rejected and as a result I removed my fish from all three lakes before my lease ended on March 31st 2009.

As you can imagine this was a pretty big exercise. Quiet Sports Fishery Management who bought many tons of my fish did much of the early work. Later on I got my own netting gear out and we netted every day.

We had some tremendous hauls of fish. At Northlands Park the first sweep of the Quiet Sports net covered less than half an acre but it produced over half a ton of tremendous bream weighing up to 5lbs each. Subsequent sweeps of the net produced a mountain of roach and bream, much to the delight of the Quiet Sports Team who had orders for them all. After eight days netting we had got most of the better fish, just leaving us with a days work to mop up any small fry we had missed. Good news for the clubs and fisheries receiving the fish, but sad for those who used to fish for them at Northlands Park.

 The bream were smaller at Lake Meadows, but they made up for it in numbers. There were also plenty of roach. Four days netting saw the vast majority of them removed, with a final day to get the few smaller fish that had evaded us.

As regular visitors will know Gloucester Park held the majority of my fish. In February we spent a day there to remove over a thousand pounds of carp, as well as a fair haul of roach and bream.

We didn’t go back to Gloucester Park until early March when a few small exploratory sweeps of the net produced more than six hundred pounds of mainly roach, bream and tench. From then on Quiet Sports netted at Gloucester Park nearly every day, taking over 500lbs of quality fish every time. Quiet Sports made their last visit on March 16th, taking a further 676lb of roach, bream and tench on the day.

By that time they had taken over 90,000 worth of my fish at retail prices, and needed to get on with the other work they had been neglecting all winter to net my fish.

After that I got my own netting gear out and set about filling the orders I had from local fisheries. We netted Gloucester Park every day using my 150 yard net. It’s got a 20 foot drop so it doesn’t miss a lot.

Tony Runnalls, Manager of the nearby Churchgate Lakes Fishery at Battlesbridge, had an enormous amount of fish ordered. Fortunately he had his own transportation tank which allowed us to load the fish straight from the net onto his truck. It was a conveyor belt type operation. Whilst Tony drove the fish to Churchgate we got the net out again, and by the time he got back we had another netfull ready for him!

Our first days netting for Tony produced 662lb of bream and roach, and the next day he took 859lb.

After a few days of this we had almost depleted the bream, but started getting even bigger hauls of roach. One day we had three pulls of the net for 480lb of fabulous roach and 47lb of bream and tench. This couldn’t carry on for ever, and as expected the catch rate gradually dropped to a few hundred pounds per day.

We were still netting Gloucester Park every day, and as Churchgate had already taken tons of quality fish I set about filling some of the other orders before I ran out of fish.

I had a small order from Kent. Unfortunately we only had the paperwork for them for one day, and on that day we had a nightmare. Three pulls of the net produced next to nothing. I was all for trying to get new paperwork and fill the order a couple of days later, but logistically this would have given the customer problems. Sorry Paul.

The Coarse 86 club at Shotgate were next on the list, and with paperwork in place they were more than happy to take their fish earlier than they had anticipated. It was lucky for them that they did. We netted a total of 826lb of Gloucester Park roach and 113lb of bream and tench over the next three days. Then, overnight, it got harder to find a few fish. I was running out of fish, but by keeping at it day after day I eventually managed to fill their initial order.

Rochford Angling Club were next on the list. Two of their members came to the lake to see the net come in, but with less than a bucketful of roach in two hauls of the net they went back fishless. Fortunately I managed to net 180lb of roach a few days later and delivered them to their fishery at Hullbridge.

From then on it got even harder to find a few fish, but given the amount we had taken out it wasn’t surprising. We carried on netting every day and I split the meagre catches between Churchgate Lakes and the Coarse 86 club, both of whom had increased their orders when they saw the quality of the fish. With the roach running to well over a pound they were on to a winner and they knew it.

Churchgate Lakes Fishery Manager Tony Runnalls summed it up halfway through the netting process when he was quoted in the angling press as saying:

 “I’ve been wanting to improve our silverfish match potential for some while, and this has given me the opportunity to do so. The quality of Mick Toomer’s Gloucester Park roach is legendary.  When I heard they were available I spoke to my boss Mr Govey and he agreed the investment.   I’ve already spent five days helping Mick to net the fish at Gloucester Park.  As soon as the fish are netted they are into the tank and on their way to Churchgate.  Stress is kept to a minimum, and less than half an hour after coming out of Gloucester Park they are in their new home.  This is a unique opportunity to get a huge volume of superb quality fish, and it’s an opportunity we at Churchgate are taking full advantage of.”

FOLLOW THE FISH

My fish may no longer be in Gloucester Park, Northlands Park or Lake Meadows, but anglers still have the opportunity to target them. Both Churchgate Lakes at Battlesbridge and the Coarse 86 waters at Shotgate took huge amounts of fish, and are no distance away from my old venues. I know these fisheries well and can recommend them both.

Churchgate Lakes is a four lake complex with superb views across the countryside. The middle lake is predominantly big carp and catfish. There are numerous twenty and thirty pound plus carp to 36lb, and the catfish run to 60lb.

The other three lakes offer a mix of species including tench, crucians, ide, brown goldfish, grass carp, and rudd, as well as a mountain of the Gloucester Park roach and bream. In addition to the pleasure fishing they have a match series. Day tickets, night fishing, club bookings and memberships are all available. For more details ring Tony Runnalls on 07798 902315 or visit their website www.churchgatelakes.co.uk.

Coarse 86 is based at Shotgate, near Wickford, Essex, where the club has leased two waters for more than twenty years. Their main fishery is a lake of almost three acres holding forty one swims. They also have a three hundred metre long canal with a further seventeen swims. Both waters hold carp, bream, roach rudd, perch, tench, chub, crucians and a few big eels.

The Coarse 86 waters are secure and secluded, located well inside a gated farm. The lake itself is also security fenced. Membership is limited to 125. There is a 10 joining fee, and as at April 2009 membership costs just 55 per year. For more information or an application form ring membership secretary Frank Allen on 01702 546644, or Chairman Malcolm Payne on 07792 481001.

ANY REGRETS

So how do I feel about leaving fisheries that have been a big part of my life for nearly sixteen years, and do I miss them?

On one hand I enjoyed the challenge of turning park lakes with dubious reputations into first class fisheries full of quality fish, and having spent sixteen years building up a fishery it was sad to see the fish going and the heart torn out of it. It’s even worse when it’s three fisheries. In addition many of my regular customers were smashing people, but hopefully I will still bump into most of them from time to time.

But do I miss the fisheries? Strange as it might seem to somebody that has never run a fishery, but no. In fact I am enjoying getting my life back after being totally committed to the lakes for more than fifteen years. It is a novelty being able to book a holiday in the summer months, and for the first time since 1992 I will not be working on Christmas day. Oh yes, even on Christmas day somebody has to keep an eye on things, and being the boss the buck always stopped here.

The truth is, even at the best of times, running a Public Authority day ticket fishery is a twenty four hour a day responsibility fraught with problems.

As anyone who keeps a koi pond will tell you, you don’t keep fish, you keep water. If the water quality is good the fish pretty well look after themselves. It’s the same with lakes, and water quality is the biggest problem that a Fishery Manager has.

During the time I spent at Gloucester Park, Lake Meadows and Northlands Park keeping the fish alive became increasingly difficult, mainly because all three lakes are silting up badly. The problem is especially severe at Northlands Park which takes the balancing water from the adjacent storm drain, and at Gloucester Parkwhich is fed by a storm drain making it one of the biggest silt traps you will ever comeacross.

Every year the silt level increased, and correspondingly the volume of water decreased. The resulting algal blooms and low oxygen levels were a nightmare which got worse every year. Regular night anglers at Gloucester Park became familiar with my compressors and aeration gear which I had to keep in place from early June to late October. With the parks open to the public this equipment needed guarding, and the oxygen levels needed to be monitored through the night. Believe me it gets wearing trying to snatch an hours sleep in a Landrover before the alarm wakes you up to do another round of oxygen checks. When you’ve got simultaneous problems at two or more fisheries it gets really interesting as you spend all night towing a compressor back and forth doing the oxygen checks at all of the lakes.

It’s always tempting to ignore it for a night and get proper nights sleep in your own bed. Do that and there’s the chance that the oxygen level will crash and you will be woken up by phone calls telling you the lake is coved in dead fish. Try sleeping with that on your mind, its easier to get up, drive to the lake and do the checks.

Why not just remove the silt you may ask? Well that’s the answer in an ideal world, but it’s also horrendously expensive. Every year for fifteen years I discussed this with the council, but with no action taken the situation got steadily worse.

Some time around 2004 I got quotes from a professional de-silting company, and in 2008 the Council paid for a consultants report. Everybody agreed there were serious problems, but understandably the Council had higher priorities for its finances. A staged programme started in 1993 when I first made the Council aware of the implications of doing nothing would have avoided the situation.

In comparison with these water quality and dissolved oxygen problems all the other irritations associated with running a fishery fade into insignificance, but they still take up a lot of time.

When you’ve spent all evening keeping watch over suspected fish thieves and dealing with troublemakers, all night monitoring oxygen levels, and then the dawn period on cormorant patrol, the last thing you need is to start clearing up the rubbish left by irresponsible night anglers. However that’s the real world of municipal water day ticket fishery management. If that’s not enough there’s tickets to sell, bins to empty, swims to build, reeds to clear, trees to prune, banks to maintain, paperwork to deal with, etc, etc, etc.

Amazingly there are still anglers that think a Fishery Manager has an easy life, spending all day wandering along, rod over one shoulder, shotgun over the other, trusty canine enforcer at heel, and collecting a fortune in day ticket money for little or no effort. If only!

Having said that I still enjoyed it and I would have carried on given the opportunity to do so, but only on my terms. My proposal to the Council was dependant upon the Council installing aeration equipment at all three lakes, and commencing a comprehensive de-silting exercise. This would have been very costly, and given the current financial situation I was not surprised by the outcome.

But do I miss it?  – No way!

THE FUTURE

There are lots of rumours that I have another fishery hidden away somewhere, that I’m going to open another tackle shop, or that I’ve been headhunted to run one of the big commercial enterprises.

Well, no I haven’t got a secret fishery, and at the moment I’m not sure if I want the commitment of another fishery. Nor have I agreed to take over one of the big operations. It’s true that I have been approached by owners of a couple of major fisheries who desperately need to book a family holiday away from their water, but given the potential for problems have never dared to do so. I know all about that, and it looks like I will be spending a bit of time running a couple of well known fisheries while the owners spend a well deserved few weeks in the sun with their families. Even then I bet they will be on the phone every day just to check everything is ”OK”. I know I would have done!

For a number of reasons it might amuse me to open another tackle shop, which is less of a commitment. For one thing, barring unforeseen emergencies you still get a decent nights sleep.

Apart from that I have nothing planned, but I am looking forward to taking it easy for a while, and being able to do everyday things that people in normal professions take for granted.

Things like the C.L.A Game Fair. I really enjoy this huge three day fishing, shooting and countryside event. Apart from anything else it’s a chance to meet up with friends from all over the country. You bump into people you haven’t seen for years.

The problem is that it’s held in the summer, and because of the oxygen problems I haven’t been able to go for at least five years.

This year I can go to the Game Fair, meet old friends, watch the displays, pick up a bargain, have a beer in the beer tent, all with no worries about what’s happening back at the lakes – bliss!

That was the first thing I said to Ricky Cook, owner of Wickford Angling, when he phoned me after hearing my lakes lease hadn’t been renewed. His reply was “Great, I’ve got a big stand booked up there, you can come and work on it”. So much for my relaxing few days at the Game Fair!

Perhaps I’ll see you there.