Carp bait debate – are pellets dangerous to carp?

By Shaun Harrison;

Pellets are banned! Don’t use pellets in the winter! Pellets kill carp!
Pellets seal the water’s surface and deprive the lake of oxygen!

Mmm, where do I go from here?

All four statements in the above can be classed as true. The biggest problem we have is the word “pellet“. It is so vague that the mere word has created a problem on so many waters. Pellet is simply a word describing a small parcel of food; food turned into pellet form; food which has generally been compressed under huge pressure then dried. Yes, there are pellets which can cause problems, but there are an awful lot of pellets which can benefit a water and its inhabitants by their inclusion.

Let’s run through a few different types of pellet which are commonly used and look at them in turn.

1) Animal Feed Pellets

Pellets are such a convenient way of storing food and are so easy to feed that most people in the animal, bird or fish farming industry rely on the simple convenience of pellets (sometimes referred to as nuts, but not to be confused with what we term as nuts in layman terms). Many of the pellets fed to animals and poultry can also be useful fish-catching aids. A lot of these pellets tend to be quite low in oil content, so can be useful additions to your winter pack. Pellets suchas hemp, CSL, molasses and cereal based varieties can all be used as useful carpet feed (ground bait in old money). None of these are going to harm a fishery or the fish as long as they are used in sensible quantities.

2) Carp/Coarse Fish Pellets

There are lots of different varieties available. Once you look into the koi carp trade then the lists are amazing. Koi carp, although prettily coloured, are simply cyprinus carpio – just the same as the specimens for which we fish. The top koi keepers have the feeding off to a fine art and an awful lot can be learned from them. Remember, most koi carp only ever get to eat what they are actually given. They can’t supplement their diet with a few snails or bloodworm, etc. They live in a very sterile environment and no one wants to spend thousands on stock, only to see them looking unhealthy in their clinically clear water.

3) High-oil Content Trout and Halibut/Marine Pellets

Generally speaking it is the high-oil content pellets which cause the problems on many waters. Halibut pellets and high-oil trout pellets are probably the two most commonly used pellets, which can create a problem if lots of anglers are using them or if a particular individual is using them in huge quantities. The problem we have with this type of pellet is that the fish love the things during the summer months. The bobbins fly so they remain popular. High-oil/fat diets don’t do any creature any good. It is difficult, but surely we owe it to our beloved carp to help them along a little with a semi healthy diet rather than just simply trying to catch as many as possible. It amazes me each time I see someone put out a bed of pellets or, indeed, hemp seed, and then comment, “Look at the slick coming off those – they’re oozing attraction.” Well, actually they aren’t – well, not in the way you perhaps think they are. These lovely oil slicks that people seem to like to see coming off their bait are generally rising to the surface and drifting off, rather than spreading a scent around the bait. It is possible, if a lot of high-oil content pellets are used, to seal the water surface with a thin oil slick. This can soon prove fatal to the fish. Clear water surface/maximum surface area is essential for the fish’s well-being. Fish require the oxygen the surface water gives them. This is why you will struggle to keep fish for long in a deep narrow tank rather than a shallow wide one. It is the surface area not the volume of water which fish need, seal that surface and the fish are in trouble. A little thought also needs to be applied as to the time of the year for certain pellets to work to their maximum, as is the case with boilie and paste fishing, which I covered in the previous couple of issues. High-oil/fat content pellets should be avoided at all costs during the cold winter; months.

4) Pellets Produced Specifically With the Angler in Mind

Now this is going to be a bit of a difficult one to cover as each company is going to have its own little secret regarding what they put into their own pellets. The only ones I can vouch for, and be 100% accurate about, are the ones I have produced for Quest Baits. I supply our pellet manufacturer with the ingredients premixed and the liquids premixed, so obviously I know everything that goes into ours.

After spending 25 years behind a fishing tackle shop counter selling all types of different bait, you tend to get a feel for what most companies are supplying and how they came up with certain products. It certainly seems to be the case that a big percentage of the pellets offered are simple pre-formed pellets which have been over-sprayed with colour and flavour. I wanted to go along a different route to this. I wanted a pellet which was a proper match to my boilies – and a pellet which would break down rapidly and could be used at any time of the year, a pellet which would quickly turn to soup, rather than lie around for ages. Give them a smell, not only from the attractors used but also by allowing the individual ingredients to break away, leaving a subtle soupy aroma but not a feast. I wanted pellets which would encourage feeding on boilies rather than being a substitute. I didn’t want to buy a cheap wheat germ-based pellet and simply squirt a flavour over it to try to convince everyone, and the fish, that it was part of a nutritious meal.

The Maximum Action Pellets, as I christened them, are made out of exactly the same ingredients and flavours (although at a slightly higher rate due to the rapid breakdown and dilution into the surrounding water) as the matching boilies. The only thing not in there are the eggs.

I could have the pellets produced so much cheaper but decided to stick to my guns and go in with my full bait beliefs. Perhaps some of the expensive ingredients used are going to waste, but at the end of the day I have maximum confidence in the ingredients within. I’m sure there are other bait companies out there offering similar. The price will usually reflect what ingredients have been included. The high value, money-saving pellets are cheap for a reason.

Pellet Bans!

So, having briefly skipped through four vague pellet categories it should now be apparent that the word pellet is not a very accurate description at all. Some clubs ban pellets – every type of pellet – simply because they are called pellet, and this is indeed a little short-sighted. The fish and the fishery can benefit enormously by being fed with pellets. After all, it isn’t merely coincidence – or a way to save money – that all fish farmers feed pellets. Fish trade pellets are designed for healthy fish growth. No farmer in the world wants unhealthy stock. All clubs with pellet bans in place, think again. Your precious fish could actually benefit by certain pellets being allowed. Generally speaking, it is pellets with a high-oil content which could cause harm in the long term. It isn’t rocket science to check if an individual angler’s pellets are oily or not. In fact it is one of the hardest things in angling to disguise. As soon as you throw oily pellets in, an oil slick/flat spot appears if there is even just the slightest breath of wind. Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-halibuts and high-oil trout pellets as long as they are used sensibly, and I am totally opposed to needless out-and-out bans.

All non-predatory fish in the UK enjoy feasting on pellets. Pellets can return absolutely devastating results if the fish haven’t been hammered on them.

Shaun Harrison

[email protected]


One thought on “Carp bait debate – are pellets dangerous to carp?

  1. mike gibson says:

    The more you read the more you learn or at least you have more information to base your decisions (bait choice, fish welfare) on.
    Being a solitary angler WEBSITES are a valuable source of information but it does need sifting through to sort good info from opinions.
    All of Shaun Harrision’s articles mags or e based give straight logical info. Many thanks.

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