Every angler understands that fish care is one of the primary aspects of fishing. Without adequate fish care, fish can end up injured and cannot swim and feed as freely as they would like. This means that fish don’t live as long as they could and don’t grow to the size they could. This poses serious problems for anglers. We want to catch big, healthy fish, which in turn increase the fish population by producing big, healthy, offspring. To do so, we need to ensure that we take the utmost care of our captures on the bank – returning them to the water in as healthy a condition as we removed them. Angling Direct looks to aid anglers in their fish care by providing access to the highest quality fish care products on the market.
Fish care is vital at each stage of your angling session. First things first, you need to ensure that you’re choosing the best terminal tackle for the job. To help you out with this, you can check out our terminal tackle page to find the perfect tools for the job. Secondly, you need to make sure that you’re using an appropriate landing net for the type of fish you’re targeting. We stock a huge range of landing nets on our site and in our stores, all of which have dedicated fish friendly meshes. It is only by investing in the appropriate gear that you’re going to be able to ensure the safety of your catch as you remove it from its watery home. Finally, you need to think about fish care on the bank, and this is where this section of our online store really comes in handy. In this section of our site you can find a range of equipment which ensures that your fish will have the least stressful time on the bank possible – thus ensuring that when you return it to its home it will be able to thrive and flourish.
We’ve got a huge range of fish care products on our site, so we thought we’d take a moment to unpack what role each of them plays on the bank and to explain exactly why they are so integral to your angling success.
Unhooking mats make up the largest portion of our online store – and with good reason too! As the name suggests, this is the mat that you place your capture on whilst you unhook them. Unhooking a fish isn’t always as simple as it sounds, particularly if you’re faced with a sharp-toothed predator on the end of your line, and it is important to have a firm and safe surface on which to rest your fish whilst you negotiate the hook from its mouth. There are two main types of unhooking mats available, although there is some cross over between the two, and we stock a selection of both to ensure that you’re always able to have access to the type of mat which suits your needs.
The first unhooking mat option is the basic mat. Usually padded, this is a flat mat which you place on the ground, ready for your capture. Some of the mats we stock will come with extra-padding around the perimeter of the mat, which not only serves to hold any water in the mat but it also gives your capture a little additional protection. Some of our mats will also be equipped with pegging points. This is especially useful if you’re on the bank in windy conditions and you want to have your mat set out before you’ve had a take. By pegging the mat down, you can ensure that it is exactly where you need it, when you need it. Many of these flat unhooking mats are able to be folded or rolled, allowing for their easy transportation in, or strapped onto, your luggage.
The second mat option is the ‘carp cradle’. This has the same padded base as the classic unhooking mat but it also has the added benefit of high rise padded sides. If you’re someone who regularly finds themselves having to battel with particularly hard fighting or aggressive captures on the bank, this is the perfect option for you. Not only does it trap the fish, meaning that if they do begin to fight back they aren’t going anywhere, but it also calms the fish. This is also why you’ll find that some unhooking mats have attached covers, designed for laying over the fish to keep them in the dark whilst you set up your weighing equipment. Many of our cradle options also have long handles. This is ideal if you’re set up some way away from your swim, as it allows you to unhook your capture near to the water’s edge and then carry it up the bank to where your photographic and weighing equipment is already set up.
Both options of mat can sometimes come fitted with an additional padded side flap. This is for you to kneel on whilst you unhook your fish, protecting your knees from the lumps and bumps of the ground in the same way that you’re protecting your carp. If you are someone with bad knees or you simply prefer a more comfortable option, this might be the deciding factor that pushes one mat ahead of another when you’re picking between two high quality options.
This might all sound well and good, but you might be wondering why you need a mat for this at all – surely the bank is as good a surface as any for unhooking your fish? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Fish are used to swimming through water and, as such, they are not designed to be pressed against a firm surface. By placing your fish directly on the bank, you seriously risk damaging its scales. Not only is the bank hard but it is also rarely smooth. Twigs, stones, and other bankside debris can be dangerously damaging for your capture. This is why all the unhooking mats in our range are padded. This padding protects them from the lumps and bumps of the bankside terrain – ensuring that you can return the fish to the water in the exact same condition in which you removed it. In the water the carp (or other fish) is somewhat protected from the feeling of its own weight, as it is partially supported by the water. Padding on your unhooking mat ensures that it does not cause itself so much damage.
Another important thing to remember when using your unhooking mat is that you need to keep it wet – preferably with cold water directly from the lake. This is because a dry mat will strip the protective mucus layer from the fish, placing the fish at risk to diseases and damage. Whilst your fish is on the mat, you should pour more water over it. This not only helps to keep the fish cool, which is vital on a hot day, but it also keeps the mat lubricated. When you’re looking to invest in an unhooking mat, it is important to purchase one which is big enough for your target fish. You don’t want your fish shuffling off your flat mat and you certainly don’t want to be forcing your fish into a too-small cradle. If you’re uncertain, we would recommend erring on the side of caution, as it is almost always better to have a matt which is slightly too big, as opposed to a mat which is too small.
Our unhooking mats start at as little as £10, so practising good carp fishing care need not cost a fortune. If you do want to invest in a slightly larger or more padded option, then top end carp cradles can be as much as £150. There are plenty of options in between these two figures, though, so whatever budget you are on and whatever requirements you have, you’ll be able to purchase the ideal unhooking mat for you.
The second largest type of product that we stock in our fish care category is weigh slings. Like unhooking mats, the name of this product is fairly self-explanatory. It is literally a sling that you place your capture in, which hooks around your scales in order to accurately weigh your fish. For many anglers, knowing the weight of their capture is one of the most important aspects of angling. Ask any carp angler you meet about their favourite catch and chances are they will start by telling you the weight of the fish. It’s therefore not only important to invest in an accurate pair of scales, in order to ensure that you’re able to precisely record your captures, but it is also important to hold the fish safely and securely whilst you weigh it. Our collection of weighing slings have all been designed in a shape that complements the natural shape of the fish, and have been made with fish friendly materials to look after their delicate scales.
Many of the weigh slings that we stock on our online site can also double up retention or flotation slings. This means that they not only give you somewhere safe to hold your fish but they also provide a safe place for your fish to recover in the water, before you release it back to its home. Giving your fish adequate time to recover is just as important of any other aspect of fish care. Being out of the water is not only stressful for the fish but it is also tiring, so giving it the chance to ‘get its breath back’ before it has to swim off again is incredibly important and can make a huge difference to the ultimate growth and survival of your fish. After all, the 20lb carp you catch today could be the future UK record, so giving it the best chance to grow and thrive is ultimately going to benefit your fishing in future years.
The weigh slings we stock range from simple netted slings to fully covered combination bags. These range in price from around £50 to under £10, once again ensuring that there is always the perfect weigh sling for both your budget and your needs.
With both our weigh slings and our unhooking mats, there are a range of brands to look out for. These include the likes of Trakker, Aqua, and fish-care fanatics Chub. Because we’re passionate anglers ourselves, we’ve also created our own-brand range of fish care products. Our Advanta range provides excellent value for money products that we’re proud to call our own.
Fish Care Accessories
Unhooking mats and weigh slings aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to fish care, however. We also stock a range of carp care kits, from leading carp fishing brands such as Korda and Nash. These are medical kits which allow you to repair any damage you or other anglers may have accidentally caused. Placing a bit of medical serum into the mouth of the carp where it was hooked can help the hook wound to heal. Similarly, you should take the time to examine your capture on the bank before weighing it, as these gels and serums help can also be applied to other wounds on the body where other anglers haven’t been so gentle. If you want your carp to thrive and to continue to grow, these medical carp care kits are vital additions to your tackle box.
Angling Direct aims to bring you the world’s best fish care products at the lowest possible prices – as protecting your fish need not cost the earth! Our price checked sticker on the product page shows that the product you’re viewing is the best value on the market. We personally select and vet each of the products we retail in order to put our own seal of approval to every line across the board. Rugged, durable and guaranteed to withstand the punishment of even the longest of carp fishing trips, our fish care products will not let you down. Free delivery across the UK mainland is also available provided you meet the minimum spend – and you can find all the regional information and other prices on the delivery information page on our site.
Angling Direct: Serious about your fishing…