Poles catching carp for Christmas meal
Polish immigrants are catching carp from rivers in East Herts to keep in the bath and eat on Christmas Eve, it was claimed this week.
Eastern Europeans have been seen netting the fish from the River Lea in Hertford, Ware and Stanstead Abbotts. They are angling to keep a festive tradition from their homeland alive in Britain and in their bathtubs. But there is concern that some of them may not understand that their fishing techniques are illegal here.
Peter Arnold, who runs Pro-Angling in Baldock Street, Ware, said: “There are a lot of Polish people fishing in the Lea and we get quite a few coming in to buy bait. We do constantly remind them that carp are not to be taken, but it’s their Christmas tradition. Several commercial fisheries around here have to be very vigilant because they’ve had carp stolen. We have a massive problem here because a lot of Polish people live in towns along the River Lea and Stort up to Bishop’s Stortford. I’ve seen them myself carrying carp away and Polish people have offered to buy my catch. We know that it’s the traditional dish for Christmas Eve and they keep them in the bath and fatten them up for the table.”
In Poland, carp is part of the traditional Christmas Eve meal. The 12-course dinner starts with soup made from the fins and head followed by fried carp with potatoes and vegetables.
Polish chef Jack Sulkowski, who cooks at the Sow and Pigs pub in Thundridge, explained: “We have no meat on Christmas Eve, just fish and vegetables. We keep the carp in the bath after we buy it. It keeps it fresh. Then we kill it on Christmas Eve morning and put a teaspoon of sugar in its mouth before cooking.”
Monika Wodecka, who works for East Herts Council as a Polish translator, said: “Some people still do it if they live in a small flat and have nowhere else to put the carp. There’s a lot of discussion about killing it humanely. Children who make friends with the carp often hide all the knives in the house so that it’s not killed.”
It is feared that some fishermen are using huge nets or fixed-rod lines to catch large numbers of fish. The practice is illegal and can result in fines of up to £2,500. Earlier this year, Herts police arrested four immigrants seen with a spear gun near a lake in Cheshunt stocked with protected carp. An Environment Agency spokesman said: “We will always be vigilant when investigating reports of illegal fishing, and this will continue throughout the Christmas period.”