From a tiny handful of sites in the sixties - most of them not available for fishing - we have reached the point today where there are upwards of seventy venues in Scotland in which anglers can pursue carp.
A brief history
It's likely that carp first arrived in Scotland soon after they were brought to Britain around the fifteenth century to be reared as a food source for monasteries and manor houses. There are no populations left that can be traced back to that era, but tantalising evidence exists in the form of dried-out stewponds in the grounds of certain ruined abbeys and a few documentary records describing, for instance, the inclusion of carp on the menu at ceremonial events.
The next time carp appeared here was in the nineteenth century, this time as an ornamental species. As the fashion for landscaping on a grand scale spread northwards, carp were among the species stocked into newly-created ponds in the grounds of some large country houses. A handful of these 'wild' strain populations have survived, and small numbers remain in places such as Culcreuch House Pond and Danskine Loch.
The great majority of Scottish carp populations, however, have only been established in the last thirty years or so. In a few places they were introduced as barometer species to monitor water quality, or in the mistaken belief that they will control rampant weed growth; but most have been stocked - sometimes along with other coarse fish - to create sporting fisheries.
Local authorities were instrumental in this development. Lanark Loch, for instance, was stocked by the council with carp and tench in the early seventies, and this was followed over the next few years by waters like Hogganfield Loch in Glasgow, the Monkland Canal at Coatbridge, Broadwood Loch near Cumbernauld, Eglinton Country Park at Kilwinning and Eliburn Reservoir in Livingston.
Carp fishing today
A few hotels and guest houses have also stocked carp with the aim of attracting anglers to their facilities. These are chiefly in Dumfries & Galloway and account for the populations in places like Cowan's Farm ponds, Barend Loch, the Torwood Hotel lochs, and several waters around Newton Stewart.
Alongside that, angling clubs and syndicates have played an important part by leasing and stocking their own waters or enhancing the stocks in waters available to the public. The Scottish Carp Group has been the most prominent.
All these developments have served to fuel further expansion in the sport. Anglers who were introduced to carp through the facilities that have grown up in the last few years are creating a demand for more and even better fishing. Membership of the Scottish Carp Group - the only 'open' club in Scotland focussed on the species - has nearly trebled since 2000, for instance, and we have now started to see the emergence of carp fishing as a commercial product. Ponds are being turned over to carp and coarse fishing in multi-use commercial fisheries like Springwater in Ayrshire or New Mills near Lanark; and of course carp form a large proportion of the stock at Magiscroft near Cumbernauld, Scotland's first 'pure' commercial coarse fishery. While we are unlikely to reach the point, as in England, where carp are the single most popular species, it's clear that carp fishing will form an increasingly important aspect of the Scottish angling scene in future.