JONNY CHADWICK explains why he loves fishing the busy park lakes on Manchester.


Advanced Angle

Before fishing weeded swims Jonny likes to use his castable weed rake to clear the areas. After just a few casts he has cleared a nice area to bait.


Get fish of all sizes involved

Because the lake has a variety of sizes of carp, Jonny uses 15mm boilies. He wants as many fish as possible feeding on the area and 20mm baits are too big for some. This undoubtedly leads to more bream and tench captures but he can put up with them as long as he catches carp.


Keep Your Head Down

In light of keeping out of the way of park goers, Jonny sets up right next to his rods and uses bankside shrubbery as cover to break up the outline of his brolly at night. This way he can sleep easier knowing that there is less chance of being seen.



Having lived in Manchester all my life, the lure of park lakes has always been there. Although you hear countless horror stories, some of which are true, there is an undoubted buzz fishing in the thick of the urban sprawl. I call it council carping on account of the local authority that controls the lakes. They cost about £30 a year too, which is great for me with a mortgage and a young child. I don’t want to be too far away and I want to be able to fish lakes that don’t cost the earth. Many anglers I know venture down to Oxford to fish. While this is great, I simply can’t afford to do it regularly. Okay, so there aren’t 10 forties in the lake, but the fish are just as old and scaly and more than worth fishing for.

I have always fished the park lakes in the local area, but I decided to get serious with it in the last couple of years. There are a few fish in there that are over 40 years old. They won’t last forever, so I was keen to catch them before they were gone.

council carping 1
At 40 years old this fish has seen it all, a true park lake survivor

Fishing these sorts of waters demands a different outlook. The only time the banks are quiet is at night. Dog walkers knowingly throw balls and sticks right into the area that you are fishing. It soon becomes apparent that you need to keep your head down. I will always set up right next to my rods so that I can keep a close eye. This way anybody can go between you and your rods without you noticing. I try and stay as inconspicuous as possible, with my brolly low and up against some form of cover, like a tree or bush. This will help break up the outline in the dark and keep any night skulking characters away.

The bird life is nothing short of a nightmare. With regular feeding by members of the public they will actively eat any bait that you fish in shallow water. To combat that I like to use single hook baits in these shallow areas. If there are a few carp about the fish will find it.


It can also work in your favour. The fish have become habituated to picking off pieces of floating bread. They are used to seeing stray bits floating into the windward bank and can often be well catchable using this method.

Location can be different too. Often the fish are found right in the thick of it, where the birds are being fed, taking advantage of the free bounty. On really busy hot days in summer the fish can be in the quiet little corners seeking refuge. I spend a lot of time walking the banks and checking every little nook and cranny.

Once I have found the fish they can get caught on minimal bait. I like to prebait areas that I see a lot of fish when watching in the early morning. No matter where you fish, prebaiting is a huge advantage. I normally look for the quiet bays and secluded corners to do this, normally areas where the fish head when the park is busy. I use boilies exclusively; it helps deter the nuisance species like bream. However, I will still use 15mm baits. This is because some of the fish have small mouths and I don’t want the rig to discriminate the smaller carp.

With a clear game plan to try and catch the bigger fish, I set about getting some nights in. I mostly fished overnighters and nights over the weekend in the hope that I could get a few areas going and catch from them. After nine nights I managed 11 fish fishing a couple of areas. They included the second biggest fish in the lake, along with an opportunist capture of the biggest fish on a piece of floating bread.

With it being only 10 minutes from my house on the Manchester ring road, I decided to stay on. There were still good fish to be caught.

In light of my impending feature with Advanced Carp Fishing, I dropped into an unfished swim in a corner of the lake. It was choked with weed, so I got to work with the weed rake and cleared a small area and began baiting it in the week leading up to my session. As normal, my 5mm Krill baits were put out on two outings before the session itself.

council carping 2Jonny clears the weed from the net before hoisting the fish ashore!



I turned up on the Wednesday evening to a vacant swim and got the rods out on the spots. The activity over the spots was impressive and the fish were fizzing in the early morning. I managed to land a small common that evening but put it back knowing that there were more fish to be had.

Max Hendry arrived at 6am to a silent park lake. The fish had been fizzing all morning and the sun had got up and was beaming in the little bay. It looked great. As the dog walkers began to descend, my right-hand rod let out a series of bleeps and the locked-up rod took on a curve as it sat in the rod rest. I pulled into the fish and it weeded me instantly. After getting it moving again it thrashed away as I scooped it up in the net. I quickly peered in and rolled it onto the side and noticed it was a fish called Big Mac, the biggest in the lake. At 31lb 8oz it looked solid, a true park lake giant and a big fish for the north. We walked her up to the flat path and set her down for photos. For the brief time it was on the bank it became a bit of a tourist attraction as park goers asked all those typical questions they do when they see a big fish. “Do you put them back” and “What type of fish is that” were commonplace, but I was in my element, loving every second. Max got some great stills and some film footage before I let her channel her way through the weed and swim off.

council carping 3


My first feature in the magazine couldn’t have gone any better and I reflected on the fish. It’s cost me £30 to fish this lake all year and given me many a happy memory. Fishing is about enjoyment; they don’t have to be 40-pounders to make your season.