Fish welfare whilst on the bank should be at the top of every anglers list when targeting fish of all species. The handling of fish on the bank is a skill that is taken for granted by many anglers, but get it wrong and this will lead to permanent injury or in the worst case scenario, the death of a fish. One of the most critical pieces of equipment to aid the care and the safe return of the fish when it is on the bank is your unhooking mat. It should be big enough to comfortably retain the species of fish you are targeting and offer all round protection, eliminating any risk of damage to the fish no matter how hard it thrashes about whilst out of the water.
One company that have taken carp care to a whole new level are Cotswold Aquarius. The Midlands based firm have enlisted the skills and experience of Luke Moffatt from big fish Mecca Les Graviers in France to assist in the development of a matt that can make the time the fish spends in the anglers company as comfortable as possible. These unhooking mats are definitely not for the angler on a tight budget. The basic idea behind the Les Graviers Mats is based around a no expense spared development, if it was needed then the mat must have was the mentality from both parties and the finished product illustrates this.
Width – 42.2″ (1070mm)
Depth – 22″ (560mm)
Height – 10″ (255mm)
Weight – 6lbs 8oz (2.72155 kg)
(The above weight is based on the mat being totally dry)
The Les Graviers Mat’s exterior walls and base are manufactured from the same tried and tested hard wearing green material used in the construction of all existing Cotswold Aquarius luggage. To give the mat its rigid structure, two walls are built using a 30mm thick by 255mm high soft foam inner and Plastazote outer to give rigidity to the walls. The inside of the mat is lined with Cotswolds’ fish friendly rubberised material. The internal base incorporates 50 mm of soft foam with a Plastazote backing to further enhance the protection properties of the Mat. Four Velcro fastenings hold the base mattress securely in place to make the mat totally buoyant when on the waters surface.
At either end of the mat the walls are held together by three webbed straps that are machined to the ends of the two walls and a fourth strip of webbing is stitched across these vertically to hold them in position and act as an Velcro point to secure the mats top. These vents serve two purposes, firstly they to allow water to enter the mat at all times when handling fish over the water meaning the fish can remain wet through out the handling process, eliminating un-necessary stress and discomfort to the fish. Secondly they make it possible to submerge the mat and fill it with water when reviving the fish and returning it to the water.
The Les Graviers Mat also has a top cover that when the five 90mm by 50mm Velcro fastenings along the mats front face and the two 25mm by 90mm fastenings on the webbed vents are secured in place, this totally encapsulates the fish eliminating any chance of the fish escaping whilst you prepare it for photography or any treatments required after unhooking. In the centre of the mats lid you have a large black meshed area that measures 665mm by 255mm in size. This makes it possible for you to pour water over an aggressive fish whilst it is fully restrained enabling you to full calm the fish before handling for photo’s etc.
Transportation of the mat is a very simple affair. You have two carry handle that are attached to either side of the mat by two 50mm wide hard wearing, webbed straps. These straps are machined to both side panels from top to bottom and give ultimate strength and durability. The carry handle also has a Velcro fastening with a fully padded hand grip attached, this can be wrapped around both carry straps to secure and make carrying of the mat very comfortable. We have also discovered that the mat can also transport virtually any bait boat currently sold in the United Kingdom and full protect it from damage whilst in transit.
Jamie and the team Cotswold Aquarius have really come up trumps with this versatile and incredibly practical unhooking mat. The experience and knowledge that Luke Moffatt has brought to the table has made every feature and component of this mat serve a purpose that can make you day to day fish handling a much easier and safer task. There is more than ample room inside this huge mat to accommodate even the biggest of carp known to swims in British waters both safely and most importantly correctly.
All UKMA can really say about this is that it is definitely not a mat for the angler on a tight budget as it will cost you from £119.99 but if you truly care about fish welfare then prioritise, forget about the new indicators or shiny stainless, spend your hard earned money on one of these as you’ll truly struggle to find an unhooking mat to match this ones all round build quality and performance anywhere.
Foot Note – UKMA have notice how patriotic all the Forum based anglers have become, so for those who love to fly the flag, the Les Graviers Mat is 100% British born and bred, what more can ask for!!