The story behind Jones Pit
Formed from two excavated sandpits, Jones Pit is one of Britain’s oldest and most prized catfish venues. Tucked into countryside just south of Dunstable in Bedfordshire, its two lakes offer rich pickings when it comes to fast-growing catfish, carp, pike and more.
The two lakes at Jones Pit began life as disused sand quarries probably the course of the 1950s. This part of Bedfordshire is geologically rich in sand, and extraction of this coveted mineral has taken place in the area for centuries. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, this activity reached its height as bigger sand extractors moved in and became major employers of the local workforce. As a consequence, a legion of sandpits suddenly popped up around Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard, with sand extracted ‘dobbers’, who dug by hand until they began to be replaced by mechanical diggers in the 1930s.
The sandpits at Jones Pit were both quarried by Jones Sand Limited during the years after World War II. Once the sand had been removed, the pits were then left to naturally fill with water, creating in time, the two lakes of today.
The Two Lakes
The larger of the lakes measures over nine acres and was stocked in the early 1960s with fish from nearby lakes, whose waters had originally been stocked by fish from the nearby Woburn Abbey Estate and Claydon House in Buckinghamshire. The original Woburn fish came from an illustrious line – having descended from the 70 Wels catfish introduced to the estate’s famous Shoulder of Mutton Lake in 1880 by the Duke of Bedford.
Since the 1970s, the catfish population in Jones Pit’s main lake has grown healthily, with numbers and sizes increasing at a healthy pace. Recent catches provide proof of this upward curve, with several catches spinning the scales at 62lb, 63lb and 66lb between 2009 and 2011. Most famous of all the lake’s residents is ‘The White One’ – a large specimen believed to be an albino catfish. At least 50 years old, this instantly recognisable monster was caught at a weight of 29lb 13oz in 2009.
As well as catfish, which breed well and produce young every summer, the main lake also houses carp, which have been restocked and continue to grow. Impressive captures include a venue record mirror of 41lb 12oz and a common weighing 38lb 8oz in 2014. The lake also boasts a thriving colony of pike, including around 30 fish that top the much-vaunted 20lb mark – probably boosted by the vast numbers of silver fish in the water. Other species here also include tench, bream, roach and perch – all perfect targets for leisure anglers.
Just a short stroll from the main lake is Jones Pit’s second, smaller lake. Measuring just three acres in size, it contains good numbers of large bream and roach, as well as a good head of catfish, although a recent flooding may have resulted in some going over into the main lake. Nevertheless, the catfish include some fine specimens in the mid-20s and possibly even above – some anglers report seeing fish they estimated to weigh over 30lbs.
With thriving catfish, carp and pike populations and a recent rise in larger-weight catfish captures, Jones Pit holds out the prospects of lots of new lake records waiting to happen. Add the roach, bream and perch and it’s one venue with something for everyone – big game-hunters and pleasure anglers alike