A Tale from China - by Gareth Jackson

China is recovering well from the current pandemic, and more of society is starting to open slowly. A quick phone call confirmed a small commercial fishery in Zhongshan, China that I had never visited before was open. So I decided to give it a try.

When I arrived at the site, the lake itself was quite small with just 7 pegs on two of its four banks. Probably measuring about 15 meters across and 20 meters in length. So the fishing area was far from huge. At the commercial there were other facilities such as a popular BBQ area and a restaurant. However the restaurant was closed due to social distancing but many families used the covered BBQ area on one bank of the lake, although the tables were further apart than normal. The fishery owners were encouraging people to spread out when fishing, i.e. use every other peg, although this would be hard on a lake with just 7 pegs, luckily my family and friends were the only ones to fish on this lake today.

The cost of fishing here was 20rmb (about 2 pounds 20 pence). This was catch and release, although you could take fish home at 30rmb a kg to eat if you wanted too. The rules were quite simple here. It was fishing the whip only (no rod and reel approach allowed). The maximum length of the whip could be 5.4 meters. Every peg had a concrete platform. You got a bench to store your equipment, 2 chairs on the peg and the fishery provide a landing net too. This fishery didn’t give me a keepnet, but instead gave me a large polystyrene box which you fill with water and use it like a keepnet.
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My approach to fishing in China is very simple. I used a 2BB float, with all the shot around the float except one number 8 dropper. Mainline was 0.18 to 0.14 hooklength with a barbed 14 hook. I used a 4.6 meter whip on my peg as there were some trees above me so would have been difficult with a longer whip. After plumbing the depth, it was about 5ft deep with a gradual slope outwards. Bait I used was swimstim mixed into a very wet paste, and I loose fed 6mm pellets over the top. There was a large amount if small tilapia in the margins and some big swirls further out which was promising. The weather was normal for this time of the year here. Zhongshan has a sub-tropical climate. I went fishing at 9am and the temperature was already 29C’ with bright sunshine over head and no wind. Fishing in the afternoon would be harder with temperature up to 34C’ later on.

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I was getting bites straight away. I managed to get 6 small tilapia in the first 30 minutes. All of them about 1oz each, Then it went a bit quiet and I hooked into something a bit bigger. After playing this fish for about 5 minutes, I managed to land a larger tilapia of about 2lbs. These fish really fight hard, especially on a light whip. Catching fish this size really is a lot of fun on these Chinese whips. Then next cast I got snapped by a fish that I couldn’t do anything with. So I upped the hooklength to 0.16 then. Still fishing swimstim paste, I landed another 14 small tilipia and 5 large tilapia too. Each of the large tilapia was between one and a half to two and a half pounds. I weighed the fish in the end for 13 pounds. This was not at all bad for just over two hours fishing on this small lake in increasingly hot conditions. At 11.30am the temperature was now 32C’ and it was time to go home for lunch. As I was packing up I think I saw some grass carp cruising under the surface, I wonder if it was that I lost.
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So fishing these places in China it pays to take a very simple approach and the rewards are there. For each of the large tilapia I caught, I had over 20 people stood round my peg watching me. People even came onto my platform for a closer look. Don’t expect the same level of privacy you get in the UK, can’t complain about people standing too close, you just get on with it. But I can’t stress enough, with these light whips, playing these fish is a lot of fun. Maybe when the lockdown is fully over in the UK, you can give this very simple approach a go.