Spain is the big unknown one of Europe , not only for strangers but also for the Spanish people. It is a country of big dimensions with more than thousand of lakes, almost all of them to explore. Worth to mention are also a few pools which exist since ever. We have giant lakes, many of them with more than five hundred kilometres of shore, where carp never have seen a Carpangler and where fish do not know what a boilie is. There are landscapes where for many days you do not meet a human being except a rancher or a hiker. Apart these big lakes there are hundreds of smaller and medium lakes which are virgins. Carpfishing in Spain is already in its beginnings comparing it with other European countries. In our next articles we will make a beautiful journey all over the Iberian peninsula , to get to know something about the legendary lakes. This article helps us as an introduction to get a general view about Spain. In 1996 when we started this kind of angling in Spain there were surely not more than thirty Carpanglers and actually the number of amateurs with a medium level does not pass 700 anglers. The not official Spanish record is 34 kg , the carp was caught in the lake of Santillana ( Madrid ), but there is not documented anything like photographical proofs. The biggest carp which has actually been caught is about 30 kg and these are very exceptional cases, almost all of these have not been caught by sport anglers and then have been sacrificed, but we will talk later about this argument. During our first years of Carpfishing we got to the conclusion/we observed/we noticed that these unique specimens, of which you catch one or two pieces a year in a determined lake which is Orellana, in the rest of Spain carp to not reach such sizes. We got to that conclusion for different reasons. First of all we thought that it was because of our little angling experience an because the region where we live and where we go angling the lakes were no good. In Spain there were only a few professional anglers living very distant from us, though that we could not get in touch with them.The one who were on our level made the same mistakes as we did and the one who caught big carp were no sportive anglers. They caught the big carp by coincidence. In addition to all these reasons on which our theory was based there were still the bad genetic quality of the carp, the drought, the overpopulation of tiny fish and that many of the bigger carp have been killed. Many years have passed and our opinion has completely changed. Of course there are many negative factors like in other European countries, but there are also a lot of positive ones. Thanks to our own and to some angler friends' experiences, and since we practice Carpfishing with more selective and modern systems the number of big carp we have caught has increased continuously. We have got to the conclusion that Spain can be as good or even better than other European countries.
HISTORY OF CARP IN SPAIN
We come back to what we are interested in, carp in Spain . In our country nobody has ever even thought to employ genetic manipulation, but they were simply introduced by the Romans in its original form, that's what we nowadays call wild carp. During many centuries, maybe with human help or maybe with the floods they have populated all the peninsula. Until the beginnings of the last century we did not officially care about repopulate. Then in the years 1920-30 not official repopulation have been made but we do not know anything about her origin and their genetic. Between the years 1953-1963 the National Authority of angling and hunting did massive repopulations of royal carp along the whole Iberian peninsula . The carp used for this repopulation came from a fish factory at Aranjuez which imported the specimens from Germany and the Netherlands. Since than until today the have continued doing that. In some of the Spanish lakes you can still find today a big amount of these populations of carp or at least hybrids which maintain the genetic characteristics and you can easily distinguish them from the carp we catch nowadays.
Nowadays in almost all the peninsular waters are living carp. Spain is an original genetic mix and only in very few places you can find pure example of one or the other specimen. In Europe it is not unusual to catch carp of 25 kg and there are many lakes where carp from 20 to 30 kg are caught with a certain regularity. In Spain this does not happen so often, it is quite rare to catch such a big carp. What we can be proud of is that there are abundant of carp between 5 and 15 kg , in one and the same lake we have angled in only one day more than 20 fishes. Most of the lakes and rivers are populated by commune carp which do not reach more than 13 kg . But as we just mentioned before these lakes and rivers are very little angled and we would not wonder if this average soon will rise, if the anglers get to a higher level. In a view lakes where the supposed limit were 17 kg , actually anglers with more level are catching pieces with 23 kg . This shows that there is still a lot of work to do. But as women say, not always is size the most important thing, hi, hi, hi
This is not just our opinion but also the one of many foreign anglers who were angling in our waters. They said joking that these carp are really fierce. Very experienced angler who have angled all over the world agree in that the Spanish carp are one of the strongest they have ever caught in their live. We can confirm it, of course not in all the lakes it is like that, but in almost all of them. I was present at the moment other anglers had captured what they thought would be their carp of the live, which at the end were carp of 12 13 kg . That happens mostly with carp of 8 9 kg , that at the beginning of bite, until you can break it and bring it to the shore, sometimes you think that it is a piece between 15 20 kg . We normally find these conditions in lakes with clean and rich of oxygen water. This kind of lake also exists abroad so that we conclude that carp's force maybe comes from his half wild status. We found that carp from Orellana and Peñarroya are specially strong. The ones from Ebro too, but they also use the stream of the river. The reason why there are not such a lot of giant specimen is due to genetic. But all these not sportive anglers are in part guilty, because they take the fish home to their village to show it around like a trophy. Since a few years ago there were many fish killers, but thanks good, the mentality is changing and every time there are more sportive anglers who are satisfied with a good photo and than they give the fish back to the water, with the hope to catch it again in the future with a few kilos more.
The best lakes
Respecting our angler companions, it seem logic that we cannot talk about the little and medium lakes where they are actually catching good carp. The big lakes are of course more difficult because of it's size, but they are always good for a surprise to catch a giant fish. That will not happen so easily in the little lakes, because the population is very small and all the pieces have already been caught at least once, so that the factor surprise is a minimum. Generally the best big lakes are the ones which have been built before 1970, specially the once provide by big rivers. These lakes also suffer the periods of drought, but they never dried out completely and the have a stable population of carp and barbs.
Geographic distribution by areas and varieties
Excepted a few isolated lakes, the regions which offer the best conditions and where more big carp of the different varieties have been caught are:
The centric area
In the autonomic community of Madrid and Castilla la Mancha there is prevalently the common carp, most of all in the basin of the rivers Guadiana and Tajo . Some lakes have a little population of mirror carp and only in a few you can find a big mirror carp population.
In the South
In the province of Andalucía , the predominant variety is the common one, most of al in the big lakes and rivers. The mixed lakes are much more frequent in the central zone of Andalucía. You can find big populations of mirror carp just in the medium and small lakes.
Extremadura is the province for excellence where you can angle big cyprinids. In the big lakes of the basin of the rivers Tajo and Guadiana predominate common carp, the population of mirror carp is less than 10%, but the few pieces which have been caught are big. In some of the medium lakes in the big ones its completely the opposite the population of mirror carp reaches 90%. In the little lakes you can find everything and most important big carp. In Extremadura exist thousands of puddle, lakes, pools and river arms, in all of them you can find big carp. You can find the highest concentration of big pieces in the area between the two big rivers.
The Ebro basin
All the Ebro basin, from the delta until further than Zaragoza are good areas to angle big carp. The whole population of the river is exclusively common excepted a few isolated specimens. Almost all the lakes of the area are of common carp, but there are a few ones where the population is mixed.
The North and the Duero basin
All the northern zone and the cantabric cordillera are generally not good. The province of Castilla-León and the rest of the northern centre are quite weak. Northern than Castilla la Mancha and Madrid you cannot really find good lakes, excepted a few isolated lakes in the basin of the river Duero .
The Mediterranean area
The same happens in the Mediterranean stripe, Cataluña (excepted the river Ebro ) and Valencia are areas where you do not catch a big one. At the contrary they are famous for the angling of small sizes (there are also world championships of cup and English style). It is worst there for angling big carp, excepted a very few lakes. There are two or three lakes where there are big carp but the overpopulation of little fish and crab make their angling impossible.
Just for your information, this is the pyramid of expectations in order to the size of an angler with a medium high level who knows the waters.
2 to 4 kg: thousands of pieces, in many provinces indeed they make carpfishing impossible. It is impossible to apart the smaller fish, even if you use double boilie or bigger baits.
8 to 11 kg: there are many pieces, in a normal lake they are supposed to be up to 30% of the total population.
11 to 13 kg: if you know the lake well you can easily catch a few pieces a day.
13 to 15 kg .: you have to look for a good lake and dedicate many days to find them.
15 to 18 kg: a good lake, many angling days and good knowledge of the waters.
18 to 22 kg: difficult, difficult, difficult. A very good lake, in infinity of days to dedicate and much of good luck.
22 to 25 kg: only for a few privileged ones, in a very few lakes. Sometimes you have to dedicate one or two years of intensive angling at one and the same lake.
More than 25 kg: there is mostly a factor of good luck than of technique and knowledge. Angling at a first class lake you can catch a carp of this size at any time, because we are sure that there are some in water also reaching about 30 kg , but normally it is not us to catch them.
The wild carp
For many anglers, over all for the ones who only valuate the weight, they are not interesting. But well for these anglers knowing more about this theme, and knowing that today it is difficult to find carp in this wild status. Very long carp, with an aerodynamic leather, a enormous fin caudal and dark colours. With big and hard lips. Generally they do not pass 15 kg and there have been caught some at about 18 kg . These carp do not have anything in common with the common ones and even less with other varieties. These fish have an incredible force and fighting spirit. If we mentioned before, that Spanish carp are strong, the wild carp are authentic torpedo. With the continuing repopulations their number has considerably decreased. But still you can find them quite frequently, especially in little rivers or isolated lakes. A wild carp weighing 10 kg has much more force than a mirror carp with 15 kg .
Positive and negative factors
The most important factor is the warm temperature. The warmer it is, the warmer gets the water temperature and the activity of carp increases. Carp are cold blooded and the need warmth to stay active.The most positive factor in Spain is that we have high temperatures during almost the whole year, also in the centre of the peninsula. At the beginning of march the lakes of the centre reach about 10ºC . From certain researches we know that at about this temperature carp start to be active. Of course there are exceptions, we have caught carp with temperatures of 6ºC and some with even lower temperatures. But these are really very few and difficult cases. The progressive rising of temperature accelerates the process of feeding and digestion until you reach temperatures near 25ºC .From this point, the more temperature rises, the less will be the activity. For carp high temperatures lead to a state of inactivity. Due to the fact that the high energetic consume is more than the quantity of calories they can obtain from feeding. In this situation, especially in the months of July and August carps stay inactive for many hours a day. The negative consequences of these high temperatures is that carp reproduce many times a year. This leads to a very high density of fish. For so many fish the food becomes less and this influences negatively the growing. The other big enemy are the droughts which make the water level so low and the quality so bad that fish die because of asphyxia, or the lake dries completely out. The introduction of foreign specimen is often, but not always, big problem for the native specimen. I'll not open this controversy and we give you just four short examples: To favour the growing of predator specimen, little specimens of fishes have been introduced, like the Bleak or the Sun Bass. The predator ones and the other specimen like also carp grow, but these new specimen reproduce so quickly that they become a plague and take away the egg-laying of the native specimen. The Catfish ( Ictalurus melas) is specially hated because it is a plague and it eats all the baiting place. It is no use as food for the others and not even a sportive fish. We would like to know who had the great idea to introduce this specimen in our waters. Later we will talk about the European Catfish ( Silurus glanis), when we'll talk about the Ebro . The red American crab is the greatest plague. It makes angling so difficult because it ends up quickly with the baiting and the bait. But on the other hand it is the favourite food of carp and thanks to it the become big and fat. From all the crank they eat they become lightly pink. There are a few pieces where the normally white belly has become intensively pink.
At the coast and in the rivers you angle the whole year through.
When we think about Spain we always remember sun and warm temperatures. But this is right only for the area of the Mediterranean where the minimum night temperatures in the coldest months of January and February do not fall under 4ºC and temperatures during the day are about 16ºC . These very good weather conditions allow us to angle the whole year through. The winter activity in the rivers is quite high. In the big rivers of the centre, Duero , Guadiana and Tajo the activity of carp decreases considerably. The positive is that it is the ideal time of year to angle a giant barbel. In the big rivers of the south like in the Guadalquivir the activity stays quite high. The rivers of the Mediterranean like the Júcar, Túria, etc. and above all the Ebro have an excellent activity. Thanks to the cold temperatures the little carp decrease their activity and we can catch the bigger pieces.
It is very important to be well equipped. In the months March, April, October and November the weather can change very often, especially in the centre of Spain . You can have abrupt temperature changes like during one day more than 25ºC and the next day you might have only 10ºC . At this time of the year there are very often strong storms with very heavy rain, so that you must not forget your rain cloth. Specially in the months July, August and September temperature often rise to more than 40ºC in the shadow. You always need a lot of drinking water, sunhat, look for some shadow and protect your skin with suntan lotion. Don't forget that in the centre of Spain there is continental climate, with very strong and cold winter where the night temperatures often fall to minus 10ºC and during the day do not pass 4ºC . So take very warm cloth with you. This conditions make angling more difficult but not impossible and fortunately winter does not last more than two month, January and February.
Laws and other important information
Spanish fishing law from 1942 is completely obsolete. It is important to know that night angling is not permitted, you may angle only one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset. There are only a few exceptions along a few zones of the Ebro where you may even angle 24 hours. Baiting is allowed all over Spain excepted Trout waters and in Castilla-La Mancha. The number of authorized rods is two per person, only in Extremadura there are three allowed. Free camping and campfires are strictly forbidden.Conservation of environment is controlled by Guardia Civil or Seprona (Spanish Guard of nature). It is very unusual that they come to control you, because they do not have enough employees. If your camp is in good conditions they use to be quite tolerant and many times all ends up in just a verbal warning.One thing: if they apply the law there can be a fine between 20€ and 12.000€, normally the highest amendments do not pass 150€. The bigger problem is, that apart from the amendment they will retire all the objects which are in conflict with the law. So if they find you angling during the night the can retire your entire angling and camping equipment. If you should ever meet them we give you the advise to keep calm, well educated and have a constructive conversation with them.
You will be able to find more information in the International Carper Nº10 Aug. 2004.