Following is an abridged version of an article that was featured in the magazine Carpworld published in September 1998 and written by the Snowberry Lakes Limited Chairman, Mr Derek Barton.
All those who have seen Snowberry Lake will know the magic of the place. Anyone who has read Carp amid the storm will be able to picture this lovely and secluded lake and also know of the strange captivating presence of the place. The old estate lake was dug in the early 19th century by Napoleonic prisoners of war and was subsequently stocked and fished by Dick Walker and his friends in the 1950s.
In 1992 the lease became available for purchase and a number of those that fished the water on annual tickets got together to form a company, buy the lease and run Snowberry as an exclusive, non-profit making private fishery. Our small group shared a common passion and an essential mix of skills and commitment. We were also able to bring in several of those who had been associated with Snowberry for many years, including the former bailiff, a treasurer and a company secretary.
Our plan was to change Snowberry as little as possible, whilst at the same time improving growth rates and fish stocks. The lake had a good stock of carp with a good number of high doubles and several 20s along with large and small catfish, tench, zander, roach and rudd. We set out our objectives, which were:
To preserve the tradition and history of Snowberry lake, and to protect the wildlife, flora and fauna.
To develop a quality fishery, with the emphasis on specimen carp and catfish but also to offer a variety of coarse fishing.
We began immediately to implement our plan. A number of the slower growing fish were netted and moved to another lake. A batch of quality-certified fingerlings was purchased. There were in turn over-wintered and grown on in stock ponds, prior to being transferred and put into Snowberry Lake. We were happy to find the majority had grown on to six and seven pounds in the four years, with one topping over eleven.
The opening day of the 1997 season produced some phenomenal catches. The early summer produced several of the original carp and catfish over twenty pounds and we were all set to build on this good start towards the premier fishery which we planned.
However, at the end of August 1997 we suffered a major setback. In common with many other fisheries in the area, Snowberry was seriously affected by a massive algae growth sparked off by a three-day freak high temperature period. As soon as we found fatalities which were initially some of the zander and roach we put pumps in to action for twenty-four hours to re-oxygenate the water. Despite this, we lost many quality fish including the original stock carp to twenty-five pounds AND our newly stocked fast-growing mirrors.
In spite of the disaster, we were determined not to be defeated. Working with support from our landlord, we were able to formulate and put in to practice a joint recovery plan for the lake.
We first drained and netted the lake; we found that some of the original carp stock HAD survived as well as Wels catfish to twenty pounds. With the water level down, we also saw the further opportunity to convert disaster to opportunity. This was to dig out some of the accumulation of sand which had been washed down over the years by the feeder stream. Incredibly, there was a mainly dry period of two weeks in October and we were able to remove many tons of sand and silt and create deeper water over quite a wide area. We revised our stocking policy and as a result introduced certified carp to mid-doubles and smaller carp from our stock lake. We believed that the set back we suffered would result in only a short-term reduction in fishing quality. We were also optimistic that the forced changes and revised stocking policy would speed the progress of Snowberrys development to a premier fishery.
The lake has now returned to normal with water levels reinstated. The lily-pads have re-emerged and on a fine evening, good carp can still be seen jumping and rolling out by the Island. Indeed, this summer the first twenty pound carp was caught since the re-stocking.
It is hope that this brief update on progress at the fishery in the last eight years will be of interest and that this enigmatic and challenging lake will thrive and give us and others to come as much pleasure and good fishing as it has for those like Fred J Taylor and Richard Walker.