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The Compleat Angler
Or the Contemplative Man's Recreation

by Izaak Walton

Of Fish-ponds, and how to order them.

Doctor Lebault the learned French man, in his large discourse of Mason Rustique, gives this direction for making of Fish-ponds. I shall refer you to him to read it at large, but I think I shall contract it, and yet make it as useful.

He adviseth, that when you have dreined the ground, and made the earth firm where the head of the Pond must be, that you must then in that place drive in two or three rows of Oak or Elme Piles, which should be scorcht in the fire, or half burnt before they be driven into the earth (for being thus used preserves them much longer from rotting) and having done so, lay Fagots or Bavins of smaller wood betwixt them, and then earth betwixt and above them, and then having first very well rammed them and the earth, another pile used in like manner as the first were: and note that the second pile is to be of or about the height that you intend to make your Sluce or Flood-gate, or the vent that you intend shall convey the overflowings of your Pond in any flood that shall endanger the breaking of the Pond dam.

Then he advises that you plant Willows or Owlers about it, or cast in Bavins in some places not far from the side, and in the most sandy places for Fish both to spawn upon, and to defend them and the young Frie from the many Fish, and also from Vermin that lie at watch to destroy them, especially the spawn of the Carp and Tench. He and Dubravius and all others advise, that you make choice of such a place for your Pond, that it may be refresht with a little rill, or with rain water running or falling into it; by which Fish are more inclined both to breed, and are also refresht and fed the better, and do prove to be of a much sweeter and more pleasant taste.

To which end it is observed, that such Pools as be large and have most gravel, and shallows where fish may sport themselves, do afford Fish of the purest taste. And note, that in all Pools it is best for fish to have some retiring place, as namely hollow banks, or shelves, or roots of trees to keep them from danger; and when they think fit from the extream heat of Summer, as also from the extremity of cold in Winter. And note, that if many trees be growing about your Pond, the leaves thereof falling into the water, make it nausious to the Fish, and the Fish to be so to the eater of it.

’Tis noted that the Tench and Eele love mud, and the Carp loves gravelly ground, and in the hot moneths to feed on grasse: You are to cleanse your Pond if you intend either profit or pleasure, once every three or four Years (especially some Ponds) and then let them lie drie six or twelve moneths, both to kill the waterweeds, as Water-lilies, Candocks, Reate, and Bull-rushes, that breed there; and also that as these die for want of water, so grasse may grow on the Ponds bottom, which Carps will eat greedily in all the hot moneths. The letting your Pond dry and sowing Oats in the bottom is also good, for the fish feed the faster: and being sometime let dry you may observe what kind of Fish either increases or thrives best in that water; for they differ much both in their breeding and feeding.

Lebault also advises, that if your Ponds be not very large and roomy, that you often feed your fish by throwing into them chippings of Bread, Curds, Grains, or the entrails of Chickens, or of any fowl or beast that you kill to feed your selves; for these afford Fish a great relief. He sayes that Frogs and Ducks do much harm, and devour both the Spawn and the young Frie of all Fish, especially of the Carp. And I have besides experience, many testimonies of it. But Lebault allows Water-frogs to be good meat, especially in some moneths, if they be fat: But you are to note, that he is a Frenchman, and we English will hardly believe him, though we know frogs are usually eaten in his Country: however he advises to destroy them and Kingfishers out of your ponds; and he advises, not to suffer much shooting at wild fowle, for that (he saies) alfrightens, and harms, and destroyes the Fish.

Note, that Carps and Tench thrive and breed best when no other Fish is put with them into the same Pond; for all other Fish devour their spawn, or at least the greatest part of it. And note, that clods of grass thrown into any Pond feed any Carps in Summer; and that garden earth and parsley thrown into a Pond, recovers and refreshes the sick fish. And note, that when you store your pond, you are to put into it two or three Melters for one Spawner, if you put them into a breeding Pond: but if into a nurse-pond, or feeding pond, in which they will not breed, then no care is to be taken, whether there be most Male or Female Carps.

It is observed, that the best ponds to breed Carps are those that be stonie or sandy, and are warm, and free from wind, and that are not deep, but have willow trees and grass on their sides, over which the water does sometimes flow: and note, that Carps do more usually breed in marle pits, or pits that have clean clay bottoms, or in new ponds, or ponds that lie dry a winter season, than in old ponds, that be full of mud and weeds.

Well Scholar, I have told you the substance of all that either observation, or discourse, or a diligent Survey of Dubravius and Lebault hath told me. Not that they in their long discourses have not said more, but the most of the rest are so common observations, as if a man should tell a good Arithmetician, that twice two is four. I will therefore end this discourse, and we will here sit down and rest us.

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