My boredom and curiosity was the reason for finding this seemingly untapped fishery. I decided to look at some tributaries that went off of the Merrimack wanting to find herring and possibly some early bass chasing them in a couple of weeks. So I got on Google Earth (a very valuable tool) and started writing down towns and street names. Then I was off, hiking around and having a blast just looking at new areas. I figured since these bass get all the way into Lawrence then why not these feeder creeks and other spots even closer. While hiking along this very high bank overlooking a tributary, I see like 10 HUGE FREAKING FISH!!!!!!
I just about fell down the hill and hopped in a tree to get a better look. They all look to be about twenty pounds each!!! But they are not bass.....and a bunch have their tails in the air? I watch as they closer and closer...carp??? I WANT TO CATCH UM!!!! So I watch until the water settles down and they are gone. Then I run home and fire up the computer. I read all day and night trying to figure out how to catch them. I remember fishing at my local pond and seeing these beasts not hit anything that anyone offered, so I knew it would be hard, but man oh man I knew I had to catch one!!!
I head out the next day, same place, same time everything perfect…
....but no carp? Walking on a bar in-between two rivers to get to another flat something catches my eye. Carp two feet away right at my feet. It’s facing away so I watch it for a second. He has no idea I’m here! He’s just sitting there in a foot of water… I cast the bait maybe twenty feet in front of the fish and try slowly reeling it into his sight picture. While reeling slowly the fish jets out!!! I think he sees the bait and is going to crush it. I set the hook and bam….fish on!!!! He takes drag for a couple of seconds and goes belly up!!! I get him in and find the hook right in his pectoral fin??? I must have hit him with the line, being behind him and he jetted forward triggering my cat like reflexes to set the hook like a crazed Bill Dance.
I couldn’t find any more carp that day and left somewhat pleased that I at least got to hold one even if it was maybe seven pounds. I couldn’t figure out where those carp went. They were all at least fifteen pounds and I know the bunch of them were over twenty. Back to the computer I go, trying to find out everything about these animals. I referred mostly to European carp forums and other sites focusing on these golden ghosts. These fish are creatures of habit and have daily and seasonal routines. Scouting is key and knowing these patterns will put very, very large fish in your mitts.
Keep it simple stupid. This is something to live by and that’s how I keep it while carping. I like a 7ft med-light action rod with a 15# mono main line and a 20-30# braid leader about a foot long separated by a fairly good size barrel swivel that will stop a tear drop style sinker ranging from 1/8 to 1 ½ ounces in some extreme cases, and I will top it off with a #6 bronze bait holder. These fish have very soft mouths so the light action and mono should give you some stretch so you don’t rip the hook out of the fishes mouth. The area I fish has a lot of trees and I need the abrasion resistance, so mono was the way to go. And I didn’t want a huge sinker crashing down scaring my lovely ugly. Now every person I tell about the braid leader looks at me funny. Its works very, very well. These fish are sensory feeders and braid is soft. What’s easier to feel mono or braid? The areas they frequent are trashed so your leader won’t look out of place. Just make sure you use a small hook that is covered completely or they will feel the hook. I will thread my bait on an inch past the hook onto the leader in some cases if I’m getting a lot of dropped baits.
Corn is really the only bait I use being easy to get and cheap. The baits used for these fish all over the world could not only get very complicated but are also just plain overkill. The fish I’m chasing don’t have any pressure, unlike their cousins across the big pond in Europe. Although boilies and all the other baits used would work very well they are too much work and to be honest corn hasn’t been refused once by these fish. Maybe the fish around you have more pressure or just don’t enjoy corn so try something different. If you Google carp recipes you’ll get a million hits or more. But I haven’t had a problem and will continue to use corn until I stop seeing results. I have found that frozen corn although cheaper is not the way to go for bait. It’s great for chum but becomes mushy and hard to put on the hook. I like canned whole kernel corn. You’ll get better cans than others it’s not brands trust me. Some cans have huge full kernel and some have soft small ones, it’s just luck of the draw.
I like to see my fish, cast to it, watch the take and see the fish rip drag off my reel. It’s exciting and better than just sitting there watching your rod tip. This is why I like shallow water stalking, and this is one hell of a fish to hook up with. Locating carp is very simple and getting the right angle is “key” to fast scouting. The higher up or the greater the angle to the surface of the water you are, and the greater you’ll see. Same concept with flats style boats and there high poling platforms. Since I don’t have anything like that I simply climb trees; it’s a stealthy approach and enables you to see a lot better. When I find a new flat that looks promising I scout it often. I will hop in a tree and just observe. I’m looking for fish sunbathing, cruising, and feeding. The feeders will be the easiest to spot since they will have the whole area mucked up like a pack of wild pigs. If there is a current in the body of water you’ll see the dirty water from a distance and should be able to home right in to where they are rooting. If there is no current and just a huge muddied up area observe a little more. Don’t cast into the muck you could hit a fish and spook it. You spook one you usually spook them ALL! Keep that in mind while stalking the fish as well. The picture above is depicting a scene I see very often in one of my favorite rivers. This is a fairly shallow flat section of a river that is flowing from the bottom to the top. Notice the teardrop shape that forms around the fish. Then it continues downstream petering out as it goes. This is important when figuring the amount of fish in this mud storm underwater. Even in extremely murky situations you should be able to find the source by watching for the puffs of new sediment or the occasional fin that can either break the surface or just protrude through the mud cloud.
Setting up on these fish correctly will up the odds immensely. Carp have many nicknames, but “Golden Ghost” is probably the best fitting. These fish when spooked will haul outta there faster than you can say, “crap”. The other fish around will follow a fleeing member even if the threat isn’t seen by any other fish. They almost stampede like a herd of cows. I have almost decided on wearing camo, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Wearing a white tee-shirt is definitely a no no. I will pick a drab color like olive or brown. Learning to use cover effectively should keep the fish from spooking.
If you have access to a pair of waders or a kayak these fish will never be safe. Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages. Waders are great for fishing smaller rivers and streams. I will slip on my breathables and walk the bank until I find a pod of fish. Then I just slip into the water and use trees, rocks or anything else in the water that will hide me. If the river is wide or it’s a larger pond then I will deploy the yak to pick up the speed. If I don’t have access to waders or a kayak, I will set up downstream of a staging or feeding area and fish corn on the bottom in a deep cut trying to head them off in between areas. It’s a lot like deer hunting in a sense. Set up your tree stand in between a bedding and feeding area.
Whether it be from the kayak or in a pair of waders I will always have a handful of corn to throw at the fish before I put my bait in front of them. In the picture above it shows the fish, the kayak, and my cover (which is the fallen tree underwater). As long as I keep a low profile the fish shouldn’t see my kayak. Being as spooky as they are make sure you don’t just toss the small handful of corn right on top of the fish. They will spook and you probably won’t get another shot. Lead them about five yards or so. Then cast you bait another five yards further, sometimes you’ll have to overcast the target and reel to the spot you want the bait to be sitting, but that’s if the fish seem very spooky. Another piece of advice would be to not anchor; you will be pulled hopefully away from the tree. Now if you’re using waders it’s the same deal, just use the cover and move slow to get close to them. Then just figure the direction of fish or current, and toss just a small handful of corn to them. It’s a switch and bait technique just like a shark fisherman using a chunk with a hook in it amongst the chum. Make sure you really cover that hook with a lot of corn or they WILL feel it and spit it faster than you can set the hook, trust me!
Carp are the world’s most sought after game fish and there’s a good reason why. Give them a shot; they don’t fight like a tire and when you hook up you’ll see why they are my favorite fish to chase. Good luck!