Carp Fishing in North America
by Elmer Mudguaard
Carp fishing in North America is a fairly recent pass time. Carp have only been here since the German, Julius A Poppe brought 5 survivors to a pond in California in 1872. Originally they were stocked across the continent to feed the growing number of immigrants coming from Europe. Stocks of American native fish species were being decimated, and the carp was chosen to replace the disappearing fish because of it's good taste and prolific breeding ability. As time wore on, man polluted the waters and in many places only the carp survived. This gave the carp a reputation of habitat destroyers and soon it was classified as a nuisance fish. Many efforts were made to eradicate the carp, but their ability to survive under many conditions soon turned it into a futile effort.
Today carp are found from Canada in the north, to Mexico in the south. They can be found in great numbers in rivers, and bodies of water ranging from a few acres to the waters of the Great Lakes and St Lawrence Seaway. I have seen them in a foot of water and caught them in 50 feet of water. Every major river has carp in it. Climate doesn't seem to affect the fishes ability to grow as 40-50 pound fish can be found throughout it's range. In recent years larger fish are being caught on a regular basis. Carp Anglers Group member, Mario Kok of Mexico caught a new record fish, and Mike Dragone of Connecticut hauled a 42 plus fish out of a Massachusetts lake famous for it's mirror carp. These fish pale in size to the ones caught across Europe and Asia, but as more people are getting involved with carp fishing, more large carp are being caught.
From Mexico to New England and Canada 40 - 50 pound carp are being caught on a regular basis.
One reason for not seeing quantities of big fish in many waters, is the sport of bow hunting for carp. "Shoots" are organized across the county side with many participants. Hundreds and even thousands of fish are shot and dumped into big pits to be buried. But these events bring much needed revenue to the places they are held and changing the way people think can be very difficult. Attitudes over here haven't caught up the the European's attitude regarding carp. Also the government has classified the carp as a nuisance fish, leaving little in the way of protection for the species. Last spring the rivers were flooding in a US Wildlife sanctuary, hundreds of carp were left high and dry in some large vernal pools unable to get back to the river. The government wouldn't even consider a rescue effort, even with volunteers. Instead they spent time and money hauling the fish out when they were dead. Go figure.
Recent years have shown a rise in the number fishermen in organizations that promote catch and release carp fishing. Carp Anglers Group, American Carp Society, Carp America and even many small not for profit fishermen's websites across the continent sponsor catch and release carp fishing tournaments. These groups also try to educate the federal, state and local governments about carp fishing and it's positive economic impact to their communities. Attempts are being made to change the carps designation from trash fish to game fish. Progress is slow as it always is with change, but every year the status improves. One way the message gets out is the major tournaments that are held all across the country. Prize money purses are getting larger every year and the increased business it brings to the local economy does not go unnoticed. One of the highlights of the tourney season is the Junior Tournament held in the towns of Ogdensburg, Waddington, and Messina, New York along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Harry Potter actor, Tom Felton, started this tournament along with his brother some 5 years ago and it gets bigger every year. Here the residents bend over backward to make you feel, welcome as they know what the added revenue means to the survival their town's economy.
Tom Felton graciously poses with Mar-e, VP of www.bitemebaitco.com
Carp fishing equipment varies over here. From the "pros" who use some of the best gear from the UK and Europe, to the small town fisherman that use the most rudimentary fishing equipment bought in the local department store. All can work for those that know where the fish are. The fisherman in the know will have a good 12 ft pole with some sort of bait runner spinning reel. I use Willow rods with 3.5lb curve with Shimano 6500 bait runner reels. I use mono for the most part and power pro for my hair rigs. For weights I prefer in line grippers, as we fish some fast rivers and they seem to hold well. My wife prefers a shorter rod and likes 7 foot Ugly Stix and Okuma bait runners with braided line. She needs a smaller rig due to an old injury and these suit her well. Hair rigs are very popular, bolt rigs work to perfection, and even free lining a plain hook with a dough ball or a boilie can bring a big lump to the net. Bite alarms are a must and carp fishing "toys" get better every year. On line shopping brings the world of carp gear to your home and many friends I know order "stuff" from back in the "old country". My wife, Mar-e" just shakes her head at all the gear, then adds, "Just make sure you don't take my gear. And leave my rigs alone." Laughing Mar-e goes on. "Carp fishing has allowed us more time together. We of course are rivals, when it comes to the fish, but we work together to help the other land the fish. I still have the biggest mirror carp though."
How I got hooked! A 20 pound fish my first time out. Grandmother Mar-e holds her 25 pound 9 ounce mirror
Carp fishermen and women in North America cross all racial, ethnic, and social lines. From the poorest locals who catch them to feed their families, to millionaires and top professional people who spend thousands of dollars pursuing their pass time, the "lowly carp" in not so lowly. The ages of the fishermen also cuts across all lines. From six to one hundred and six, they will be on the bank. Many women also share the excitement of carp fishing . From young single women, to mothers with children, to grandmothers carping is a part of life. Many of our best carp waters can be found in the rivers that run through the major cities across the country. Most if not all have parks along these rivers and it permits families and friends to gather in large groups to fish. These "fishins" are more like parties, with hot food on the "barbie", drinks, and even places for the pre-fisherman to play. We rarely get to fish by ourselves when we travel from place to place. There is always someone who will join you whether it be night or day. To many of us, this is a big part of why we fish. Carp fishing and bank fishing in general tends to bring families and friends together and this can be a good thing.
Carp Anglers Group, New England Yankee Challenge held annually brings many different people together for a great day.
We have some great carp venues here. Every country, state and province has their fair share. There are pay lakes too and they offer some good opportunities for those willing to seek them out. I prefer to chase the "wild carp" especially in the bigger bodies of water and the rivers. You almost never know what you will pull out of the water here. Commons, mirrors, koi, goldfish of every description, buffalo carp, grass carp and then some. That's what makes it interesting. Two by catches of carp fishing, a sturgeon and a snapping turtle.