Ever since Warrington AA bought Sandiway Lakes in the early 1990s, our intention has always been to establish the waters as the best in the northwest. The original plan for the larger, 53 acre lake, was the create a 200-peg match lake with mixed stocks. There was little competition from commercial fisheries back then, and when anglers talked about ‘bagging up’, they were usually referring to making the trip over to Ireland to fish for huge shoals of bream, roach and hybrids. Nowadays, things have changed, and carp have taken over as the nation’s favourite fish. With a huge demand for specimen carp fishing, and dwindling numbers of ‘traditional’ anglers, the club had to reconsider our plans for the complex.

We had been faced with challenges at the former sand quarry site for many years. As the abstraction in surrounding quarries subsided, the groundwater levels rose, and as fast as we were constructing fishing platforms, the rising waters would submerge them, at a rate of sometimes 2-3 feet a year. The clear, sand-filtered waters of the Big Lake made easy hunting grounds for cormorants, forced in land by over fishing along our coasts. Despite the huge numbers of fish we had stocked, the voracious birds munched their way through our small silver shoals, leaving only the larger specimens after a few winters attention.

In 2004, the committee reconsidered the future of the lakes. The large lake had been producing specimen bream, tench and odd carp for several years, so we knew it had potential to bring on big fish. However, only a handful of our members were fishing the water. Considering the outlay on the water (it costs the club £250,000 to purchase the site initially), the decision was made to commence a stocking and redevelopment program to at the site.

After careful consideration, the club decided to promote the smaller, 17-acre lake as a mixed stock ‘pleasure’ fishery, and set the Big lake aside for the specimen hunters. Plans were drawn up to increase the number of fishing pegs, making them all suitable for bivvies, improve the access with new paths and car parks. The final part of the picture was to develop the fish stocks to appeal to a wider section of our membership.

Since the original stockings 15 years ago, the bream and tench had already grown to specimen size. We now wanted to supplement that with carp, to meet the demand of the growing number of carper anglers in our membership. It was also hoped that a new specimen water would take pressure off some of our other fisheries that hold carp. Around the same time, some fish farms had started to specialise in producing fast-growing strains of carp, with the potential to make big weights by selected parentage.

The first batch of new fish was introduced in January 2005. Twenty “4-summer” fish were purchased from Heather Fisheries, the most renowned specialist fish supplier at the time, and one of the only dealers to offer health checked specimen carp. The fish, 17 mirrors and 3 commons, all weighed between 14.5 and 21lbs, with most being about 17lbs.

A year later, January 2006 saw a further 20 ‘Simmos’ introduced to the Big Lake, this time all mirrors between 14 and 19lbs.

After the two initial stockings of young, fast-growing fish, we decided to look only for special fish, from good parentage, to add diversity to the lake population. We managed to source two such fish, supplied by Quiet Sports of Surrey in 2007. A mirror carp of 29lbs 4ozs and a common of 25lbs, both English fish of Horseshoe/Orchid lake lineage.

In 2008, we had some very special fish on order, in the 30lbs bracket. Unfortunately, an otter liked the look of them too, and the fish were killed at the fish farm. However, Quiet Sports came to the rescue again with an interesting batch of home-grown fish. We picked the largest 3 for the Big Lake.

Two mirrors both weighing 22lbs, plus a stunning common of 25lbs were stocked into the Large Lake. Eleven, smaller double-figure fish were introduced into the smaller lake to boost the carp numbers and provide future sport.

For the future, we will be looking to further boost the stocks of carp in the small lake with fish in the 4-8lbs bracket. Hopefully these should encourage more anglers onto the small lake, get more bait going in, and provide some ‘runs’ for anglers who have not got the time to invest in pitting their wits against the Big Lake.

We will continue to monitor the growth rates of the Big Lake fish, which so far have been very encouraging.